Richard Sherman and Alan Menken Have Fundamental-Friend-Dependability

At the upcoming D23 Expo, the official Disney fan convention held August 9-11 in Anaheim, CA, uber-Disney fans will be treated to a special concert by legendary Disney composers Richard Sherman and Alan Menken.  Between them, Sherman and Menken have 10 Oscars for their work, and written music and songs for iconic Disney Park attractions, films, and Broadway shows.  However, after a recent conference call leading up to their show, it’s clear the melodists have something even more important than accolades – a deep friendship built on admiration, respect, and positive energy.  Richard Sherman and Alan Menken perform “The Disney Songbook” at the D23 Expo on Saturday, August 10, in what promises to be a very special night for the two song-writing friends.  Continue reading for more details on the “Fundamental-Friend-Dependability” of Richard Sherman and Alan Menken.

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken

Click on the “play” button below to listen to the conference call with Alan Menken and Richard Sherman

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Both Richard Sherman and Alan Menken are “Disney Legends” – an official honor bestowed upon those who have made significant contributions to The Disney Company (a Disney Hall of Fame, if you will).  However, their connection goes beyond that of simple colleagues.

Richard Sherman and Alan Menken in concert

“I consider Richard Sherman to be a dear friend,” Alan Menken said prior to Sherman joining the call, Menken continued explaining how supportive Richard and his wife Elizabeth were throughout Menken’s career.  “People don’t really know about our friendship,” Menken elaborated, “it’s a very exclusive club – a special fraternity of two.”  Richard Sherman joined the call and was asked if he recalled when Alan Menken came to work at Disney.  Sherman replied,

I didn’t know Alan at all, but I knew him from his music and melodies.  “Suddenly, Seymour” (from Little Shop of Horrors) had such an explosion of emotion.  I thought, this man can carry on a wonderful tradition of melodists here at Disney.  I was thrilled by this young team of Menken and Ashman joining the company.

Throughout the hour-long conference call Richard Sherman and Alan Menken continually interrupted each other to lavish praise on their respective work.  When asked the favorite song the other person wrote, Alan Menken replied, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, there could not have been an Under the Sea without Super… the catchiness gets into your system.”  To which Sherman answered, “Part of Your World really gets to me.  I love that song.

Alan Menken Performs at Destination D, August 2012

Belting out "Poor Unfortunate Souls"

 

During Saturday’s concert, Sherman and Menken will each perform their well-known songs solo at the piano.  Richard Sherman promised the audience will be “blown away by the fact that Alan is playing these great songs that he’s written, and I’m playing these songs that Bob and I have wrote.”  The song-makers also promised to share with insights and stories from their long history at Disney that goes back to the Sherman Brothers working side-by-side with Walt Disney.

the boys: the sherman brothers'€™ story

(L-R) Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and Walt Disney © Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

 

“I’m in awe that you got to work with Walt Disney,” Menken said to Richard Sherman.  “I always felt honored that I was working with Walt Disney and with his company,” Sherman replied, “Walt Disney set the bar high with the songwriters that wrote Pinocchio and the musicals that came before us.”

I asked Richard Sherman the secret to his prolific song-writing longevity dating back to the 1950’s with Annette Funicello’s Tall Paul, to Mary Poppins, Make Way for Tomorrow Today for 2010’s Iron Man 2, and opening The Jungle Book this summer in Chicago.  His answer was simple.

I have a good time; I was blessed from the time early on for doing my hobby.  I love writing songs, and the challenge of writing different things; I have a good time at it.  If I didn’t, I would have retired a long time ago.  It keeps me going, I’m 85, but I don’t feel that way.

Alan Menken also touched briefly on some current projects he has in the works such as a version of Tangled for the Disney Cruise Line, and bringing Aladdin: The New Musical, to Broadway in Spring 2014.  Menken also said he dreams of bringing Hercules or Enchanted to Broadway, but was wary of dipping into the Disney film catalog too many times for his theatrical productions.

Disney'€™s Aladdin -€“ A Musical Spectacular

Disney'€™s Aladdin -€“ A Musical Spectacular on board the Disney Fantasy. photo by Matt Stroshane, courtesy Disney Cruise Line

 

There was a sincerity and deep respect for the work these composers do for Disney.  Alan Menken elaborated,

There’s a sense of responsibility and the approach to story-telling.  This is an audience that will embrace what you do and take it to heart.  You have to really care about the song; you want to poke fun, but you don’t want to poke fun in a way that is hurtful.  We’re lucky to be involved with a studio that’s involved with an uplifting, non-cynical platform.

Richard Sherman added,

There’s a wonderful thing about being positive in your life as opposed to being negative – being on the “upside” of the coin.  Alan and I have been blessed with the charge of writing uplifting music; there’s nothing cynical about our work at all.  The biggest gratification I get is that people get joy out of my work.

Disney D23 Expo

“Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook” is a one night only concert that will take place at the D23 Expo 2013 at the Anaheim Convention Center in the D23 Expo Arena on Saturday, August 10.  Admission to the concert will be on a first-come, first-served basis and is included in the price of a ticket to the D23 Expo.  In addition to the 4,000-seat D23 Expo Arena, the concert will be simulcast into a 2,000-seat overflow theater inside the Convention Center.  Click here for all the schedule highlights of the upcoming D23 Expo.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.