Friday, August 23, 2013

Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken - The Disney Songbook at D23 Expo

growing up disney

Do you just love the music of Mary Poppins?  Can you sing the words to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?" Or maybe like Walt Disney do you love "Feed the Birds"?

Or does your tastes in Disney songs go towards songs like The Little Mermaid's "Kiss the Girl"?  Or (forgive me for this) have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head that won't go away for sometimes days like (please feel free to sing along) "It's a Small World after all?"

These wonderful songs and many many others have been brought to you by Richard M. Sherman (along with his late brother Robert Sherman) and Alan Menken. Together they have won 10 Academy awards for their work with Disney.  They have composed music and songs for more than three dozen Disney feature films, over two dozen Disney Park attractions, and half a dozen Disney musicals on Broadway.  At Disney's recent D23 Expo (8/9/2013 to 8/11/2013) in Anaheim, California  they performed a once-in-a-lifetime concert titled: "Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook" where they performed some of their favorite songs they have written for Disney and talked about their work there.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 I had the honor of representing on a media only teleconference with Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken.  It was a question and answer session first with Alan Menken, then joined by Richard Sherman the two talked and answered questions about their work. The teleconference ended with Richard Sherman having his question and answer session.

Alan Menken said "its fun" to play for Disney fans and that it is a "pleasant ego trip" in the way that Disney fans react to his music.  When asked about the "process of writing for Disney movies" Mr. Menken said that you have to "cherish the audience" as you write the songs.  He said he is involved with the writers from the beginning as "music will drive the story".

When Richard Sherman joined Alan Menken they were asked about the song set for the D23 Expo.  Mr. Sherman, when asked of his favorite songs, described them as "which one of his children" he liked the best. And that the song set would be a "sampling" of various songs from over the years.

The two men discussed some of their songs they were surprised became a hit in their movies.  Mr. Sherman was surprised "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins became as big as it did.  Mr. Menken said the song "Part of your World" almost did not make it into "The Little Mermaid".  The songs "Kiss the Girl" and "Under the Sea" surprised him with their popularity.

When asked about working for Walt Disney, Mr. Sherman said that "Walt set high marks to work toward" in writing songs for Disney movies.  He talked about how Walt Disney would have them come in and sing "Feed the Birds" for him as it was his favorite song.  When asked what song was most challenging to write, Mr. Sherman said "anytime you have a blank page, it is challenging".  He went on to talk about writing one song for Mary Poppins.  The inspiration came from one of their children talking about taking the polio vaccine on a sugar cube, and from that simple comment came "A Spoon Full of Sugar".

Mr. Sherman described himself as "exeuberated" about the D23 performance.  In discussing his song writing he said "I have a good time" and "I never feel like I am working" as he would be happy to write "without getting money".  "I have a great time".

Mr Sherman, now at 85, sounded like he was still a little kid in describing his work at Disney and looking forward to performing with his good friend Alan Menken for the Disney fan family at D23.

I came away from the call wishing I could attend the concert.  I'm sure it was a blast to hear these two "Disney Legends" perform their songs.


Sorry for getting you stuck with "It's a Small World" in your head.  I got the idea for the beginning of this article early in the day while at work.  I dashed out the first lines so I would remember the idea.  Later in the day as I left work, I found my self whistling as I walked to my car.  What was I whistling?  "It's a Small World". :-)  Mr. Sherman's and Mr. Menken's songs have a way of sticking with you.

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