Howard

 

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The lasting legacy of a Disney legend.

 
Howard

Howard Ashman rehearsing with Paige O'Hara for Beauty and the Beast

 

The passing of the animation titan Walt Disney in December of 1966 had an inevitable, lasting effect on the future of animation at the studio. While The Jungle Book was a massive success, it was also the last animated film to receive Walt’s personal touch during production. Without its founder, the company floundered. Although the films released in the intervening years have since become classics in their own right, the declining critical and box-office reception spelled trouble for Disney Animation. The financial failure of The Black Cauldron, now considered a cult classic, nearly ruined the studio. It was the last film completed at the original Animation building of the Burbank studio before the entire department was taken off-site and relegated to a warehouse in Glendale, California, in 1984. When The Little Mermaid surfaced in 1989, the studio entered what film historians now consider ‘The Disney Renaissance’, a fruitful ten-year period of the company’s history that resulted in some of their most iconic work. An integral element in the launch of that creative fervour was lyricist Howard Ashman.

 

Howard is a loving tribute from those who knew him best, including friends, colleagues and his partner Bill Lauch. Raised in Baltimore, Howard studied at Boston University before going on to receive his masters degree from Indiana University’s Department of Theatre and Drama in 1974. He transferred his Indiana experience to the New York stage with God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, his first collaboration with composer and writing partner Alan Menken. The two went on to great success with the Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors, before launching an Oscar-winning song-writing career at Disney with The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. One only wonders what heights the two would have tackled next, had Ashman not been tragically lost to Aids.

 

Howard writer/director Don Hahn began his career in animation assisting one of Walt’s ‘Nine Old Men’ animator Wolfgang Rietherman. Hahn went on to become a Disney legend himself, serving as producer on many of the renaissance films, working directly with Ashman on Beauty and the Beast. Hahn’s Howard is a genuine and straightforward portrait of an intensely precise and passionate storyteller. The film acts as a wonderful companion piece to Hahn’s prior acclaimed documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, a stunning account of the entire decade of the Disney renaissance. Filled with archival footage and interviews, Howard is a trove of treasures untold.

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Featuring  Howard Ashman, Sarah Gillespie, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bill Lauch, Alan Menken, Peter Schneider, Jodi Benson, Paige O'Hara.

 

Dir Don Hahn, Pro Don Hahn, Lori Korngiebel and Jonathan Polenz, Screenplay Don Hahn, Ph Remy Neymarc, Ed Stephen Yao, Music Alan Menken and Chris Bacon.

 

Stone Circle Pictures-Disney+.

92 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 7 August 2020. Available on Disney+. No Cert.