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Home Entertainment Arts Disney+'s 'Howard' reflects on legacy of one of Disney's greatest minds

Disney+’s ‘Howard’ reflects on legacy of one of Disney’s greatest minds

Document Analysis NLP IA


Reading Time

Reading Time


not certain if it's an affirmation


Key Concepts (and relevance score)

Summary (IA Generated)

The first movies I fell in love with were Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

All the songs, from ‘Be Our Guest‘ to ‘Part of Your World,’ have a larger-than-life quality to them that could have only been made by a person with a larger-than-life imagination.

And that person is Howard Ashman, the lyricist at the center of Disney‘s newest documentary, Howard.

All those songs had a larger-than-life quality to them that could have only been made by a person with a larger-than-life imagination.

The film, directed by Beauty and the Beast producer Don Han, claims to tell the ‘untold story‘ of Ashman, though to be honest, I’ve heard at least most of it before.

The first half of Howard takes viewers on a journey through Ashman’s pre-Disney life.

Eventually, the documentary breaks into his success as the director, lyricist, and librettist of the Little Shop of Horrors stage musical in 1982 as well as his continued renown for screenwriting the 1986 movie adaption.

Howard continues to explore Ashman’s personal life in the second half, juxtaposing the magic of his work at Disney with the tragedy of his declining health due to an AIDS diagnosis.

It’s even suggested that he wrestled with the cultural unrest around AIDS by subconsciously writing his pain into songs like The Little Mermaid’s ‘Part of Your World’ and Beauty and the Beast’s ‘The Mob Song.

While the documentary’s content stays within Disney’s PG-13 parameters, Ashman’s struggle with AIDS is tackled head-on — and, let’s be real — sexually transmitted diseases aren’t exactly kid-friendly.

Even though some of the details of Ashman’s life were likely cleaned-up for a Disney+ release, the reality of Ashman’s impending death hangs heavy, as does the fact that he had to struggle in secret for so long.

It’s thrilling to watch Howard give voice actors specific instructions on how to perform a now well-known song.

Because Ashman’s rhymes have a definably tongue-in-cheek quality, this feature helps audiences visualize the density of Howard’s writing and proves his wit in the process.

Speaking of his cleverness, creators — including the people who currently work at Disney — can still learn a lot from Ashman’s creative process.

Ashman stresses the importance of movies not pausing for songs but instead using musical numbers only when the emotion gets too intense and it becomes necessary to move the plot forward.

Advice like this had me thinking back to more modern Disney films — especially the live-action remakes — and questioning whether they would have passed Ashman’s song test.

That makes it kind of curious when the documentary gets into how Ashman’s work paved the way for the (largely unnecessary) live-action remakes of Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast that — while commercially successful — did not live up to the magic of the animated classics or follow his advice.

And while Disney played a big part in Ashman’s later life, Howard feels as if it was created more to honor its subject than to flatter the company he worked at.

Whether you’re Disney-obsessed or not, you can get a lot out of Howard.

Howard is now streaming on Disney+.