Facts about Alan Menken
Alan Menken Biography
New York’s Alan Menken is one of the most celebrated composers in modern American musical theater, thanks in large part to his music for the crop of Disney animated “classics” of the 1990s, from The Little Mermaid (1989) up through Hercules (1997). Raised in a family enamored with the Broadway tunes of the Gershwins and Rodgers and Hammerstein, Alan Menken studied music at New York University and got his degree in 1972. After a decade of writing jingles and playing in piano bars, Menken collaborated with Howard Ashman on The Little Shop of Horrors, a 1982 musical based on the 1960 Roger Corman movie. The stage production was a hit, and the 1986 film version (starring Steve Martin) earned Menken an Oscar nomination for the song “Mean Green Mother From Outerspace.” From there, he was hired by Disney to score The Little Mermaid, Menken’s first of many successes. He won two Oscars for Mermaid (one each for best original song and best original score) and then followed with two Oscar wins for Beauty and the Beast (1991), two for Aladdin (1992) and two for Pocahontas (1995). By the end of the decade, Alan Menken had eight competitive Oscar wins — more than anyone else alive. He has since been nominated for five other features: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996); Hercules (1997); Enchanted (2007); and Tangled (2010). Menken has also successfully transferred his movie songs to the Broadway stage, earning Tony nominations for Beauty and the Beast (1994), The Little Mermaid (2008) and Sister Act (2011). Alan Menken won a Tony for best original score (with lyricist Jack Feldman) for the 2012 Broadway production of Newsies; that same year there were five Menken-scored productions on Broadway — Sister Act, Leap of Faith, Newsies, Aladdin and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Alan Menken’s collaborator, Howard Ashman, died during the production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in 1991… Special effects wizard Dennis Muren has nine Oscars to Menken’s eight among living people — but his total includes three special and technical achievement Oscars along with six competitive wins.