Aladdin, The Tonys and More

The Tony nominations have been announced and it really is gratifying to see Aladdin get a nod for best score.  Congratulations of course, go to all of this year’s Tony nominees.  It’s a tough business and anyone making a living in it, much less garnering award nominations, is a success indeed. Recently, Angie S posted a long and well-reasoned analysis of Arabian Nights as a response to one of my blogs that set me to thinking and also made me realize that I should maybe clarify a bit about the Aladdin you’re seeing on Broadway, which is bright and fun and employs more glitter, crystals and abs than an entire season of Dancing With The Stars.

Right around the time he had begun working on Mermaid, Howard pitched another idea, an animated version of Aladdin.  I’m not sure what made Howard think about Aladdin for animation, but I suspect that a Children’s Theater Association production we were both in when we were kids back in Baltimore had something to do with it.  In that long-lost production, Howard played Aladdin.

Howard wrote a full treatment for Aladdin and submitted it, along with songs (music by Alan Menken) to Disney.   In the treatment, Aladdin is a street rat with three pals.  There’s a cute tomboy named Abbi, who’s kind of like Anybodys in West Side Story (that’s how Howard describes her.  Also as Judy Garland to Aladdin’s Andy Rooney).   And the requisite princess, Jasmine, is a spoiled pain – which, of course, makes perfect sense of Call Me A Princess.  It’s totally different from both Aladdin the film and somewhat different from Aladdin the Broadway show, with a different plot, many different characters and a different love story (in the end, the girl Aladdin gets is Abbi).

The head of Disney animation development called it the best treatment he’d ever read, but Disney passed.   Per contract, Disney owned both the treatment and the songs Howard and Alan had written for it.

Howard then turned to work on Beauty and The Beast.

Eventually, Disney revisited Aladdin.  Howard wrote the lyrics to Prince Ali and Humiliate the Boy at that time.  Those songs were probably his last work.  Prince Ali made it into the film, of course, and Humiliate the Boy didn’t.  Disney still didn’t use Howard’s treatment but many elements of Howard’s work remained (some dialog is verbatim from the treatment) as well as two of the songs Howard and Alan had written for Howard’s original treatment.  Alan wrote new music for the movie with lyrics by Tim Rice.

And now, years later, we have Aladdin on Broadway.  Yet more elements from Howard’s original treatment have made it into the final script.  Even better, some of my favorite songs have been reinstated (Proud of Your Boy and the under-appreciated High Adventure to name two).

The theater piece also has new songs by Alan and yet another lyricist, Chad Beguelin.

Now back to that analysis of Arabian Nights.  I don’t have the answer of who wrote what.  What I do know for sure is that not every word in the songs attributed to Howard, were written by Howard.  And it’s not that tough to tell which lyrics are his and which aren’t.  Disney has the contractual right to do that.

There’s probably a master’s thesis here, but I won’t be writing it.

My purpose in this blog and on this website is always to give credit where due and to keep Howard’s legacy alive and true.  I hope this explanation helps.