Composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda alerted us via Twitter this morning that it is the birthday of Alan Menken, composer of most of your favorite Disney songs and bazillion-time Oscar nominee. Okay, we exaggerated how many times Menken has been nominated, but it is a lot. Menken has won eight Oscars and been nominated 19 times. So, in honor of his birthday, we decided to do some reminiscing about his nominations for Best Original Song.
Nominated, 1987: "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" with Howard Ashman
Menken's first nomination came for a song written for the movie version of the musical that gave him and Ashman their big breaks. Look, Little Shop is great but "Mean Green Mother" doesn't come close to "Skid Row (Downtown)," "Somewhere That's Green," or "Suddenly Seymour." Thing was, none of those numbers were original to the film, having started their lives on the stage. But it was up against "Take My Breath Away" from Top Gun, which you are already humming.
Won, 1990: "Under the Sea" with Ashman; Nominated: "Kiss the Girl" with Ashman
Menken and Ashman scored their first double nominations this year for songs from The Little Mermaid, and perhaps the biggest crime is that "Part of Your World" wasn't up for a trophy. (The other nominees? Randy Newman for his Parenthood song, Marvin Hamlisch and others for a tune from Shirley Valentine, and Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford for a song from Chances Are. Remember that one? Of course you do: Cher sang it.) The Little Mermaid revitalized the Disney animated film, thanks in no small part to the undeniably great songs Ashman and Menken. Plus, Ashman does some of lyrical wizardry on "Under the Sea." ("Nobody beat us fry us and eat us in fricassee," is a magical line.)