Tag Archives: Alan Menken

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

While I would definitely consider myself a fan of musicals, Little Shop of Horrors was something completely different from the types of musicals that I am accustomed to. This, along with the fun, quirky Rick Moranis in the lead – as well as the several cameo appearances by other various comedians – provided me with a great new musical experience that I really enjoyed.

Rick Moranis as a man who buys and nurtures a killer plant seems natural after having seen him in other crazy roles such as Louis in Ghostbusters, as Wayne Szalinksi in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and as Barney Rubble in The Flintstones; his talent for appearing serious in a not-serious role is quite entertaining, as are the various kooky faces he makes in reaction to his surroundings. I was surprised at how well Moranis sung everything, but it certainly wasn’t “professional” quality. In fact, the lack of polish in the singing made the character even more enjoyable.

Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist character was actually pretty creepy – him singing “Dentist” was terrifying – but, like Moranis, Martin has a talent for playing insane characters without having the audience question it.

The most impressive part of the film, however, was the plant, Audrey II. I was amazed at how realistically the mouth moved along with the lyrics, all with puppetry. The voice of Audrey II, Levi Stubbs (the lead singer for The Four Tops), was also quite entertaining; his varying vocal range was hysterical, with him moving from speaking in a low octave to almost a screech in a higher octave. (I also think it would be appropriate to mention that the film was directed by Frank Oz, who is more famously known as the puppeteer who voiced both Yoda in the Star Wars films and Miss Piggy in The Muppets.)

I’ll admit that I didn’t care for the character of Audrey, played by Ellen Greene, mainly because of the way Greene played her, with that squeaky voice…though I’ll admit that it made me laugh a couple of times during “Suddenly, Seymour”.

Speaking of the music, it was fantastic, though I wouldn’t expect anything less from an Alan Menken/Howard Ashman collaboration. The style was fun and catchy, the lyrics were clever and often quite funny, and they were all performed very well by the cast. The use of the trio of women as a “gospel chorus” (as Wikipedia informs me it is called) is amusing as it seems to foreshadow Alan Menken’s future involvement with Disney’s Hercules, which features a similar trio of singing women.

Overall, Little Shop of Horrors is definitely something different than the typical musical production popular in America, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. With Moranis in the lead, Martin supporting, and several cameos by the likes of Bill Murray, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and James Belushi, there are plenty of laughs to go around, and the infectious music by Menken and Ashman provide a unique experience for the audience as they watch chaos unfold onscreen.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for mature thematic material including comic horror violence, substance abuse, language and sex references


Tangled (2010) – Alan Menken

Alan Menken’s score for 2010’s Tangled is like a modern update to the scores of the classic Disney films of the 1990s; who better to bring new life to the classic scores than the man who originally scored/wrote songs for The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin, PocahontasHercules, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

The best part about this score is that the styles vary so completely from track to track. The first instrumental track we hear is titled “Flynn Wanted”, and it manages to effectively capture the swashbuckling, adventurous feel that Eugene Fitzherbert tries to emulate as the thieving Flynn Rider. Two tracks later, “Horse With No Rider” introduces an eerie, anxious theme that serves as a backdrop to Mother Gothel’s realization that Rapunzel may have been found and the subsequent panicked flee back to the tower. And still something different is “Campfire”, in which we hear some subtle hints at the main theme for the musical number “I See the Light”, a play at the budding relationship between our two protagonists. The ending to “The Tear Heals” is filled with the emotion appropriate to the situation; it’s grand, heartfelt, and, to use a bit of a cliche, magical.

Of course, the real highlights of Tangled‘s soundtrack are the musical numbers, which the score only serves as backup to. In “When Will My Life Begin” and its two reprises, we see the main conflict within Rapunzel: her desire to do something with her life other than stay in the tower forever. While I’m not a particular fan of “Mother Knows Best”, it is an appropriate introduction to Mother Gothel, and, even more, a setup for an excellent reprise. “I’ve Got a Dream” is a hilarious, raucous sing-along that shows us that “our differences ain’t really that extreme”. The real standout song of this album, though, is “I See the Light”, a beautiful duet between Rapunzel and Eugene that reminds me of Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” every time I hear it…but in a good way.

Overall, while the score only features a couple of standout moments (“Kingdom Dance” is my favorite), the musical numbers are what you buy the album for. With fantastic performances by Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi, the score for Tangled is a return to the classic Disney singalong animated film; it’s fun, it’s touching, and it tells a wonderful story.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “When Will My Life Begin”   2:32
  2. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1)”   1:03
  3. “Mother Knows Best”   3:10
  4. “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 2)”   2:06
  5. “I’ve Got a Dream”   3:11
  6. “Mother Knows Best (Reprise)”   1:38
  7. “I See the Light”   3:44
  8. “Healing Incantation”   0:54
  9. “Flynn Wanted”   2:51
  10. “Prologue”   2:03
  11. “Horse With No Rider”   1:57
  12. “Escape Route”   1:57
  13. “Campfire”   3:22
  14. “Kingdom Dance”   2:20
  15. “Waiting for the Lights”   2:48
  16. “Return to Mother”   2:07
  17. “Realization and Escape”   5:51
  18. “The Tear Heals”   7:38
  19. “Kingdom Celebration”   1:51
  20. “Something That I Want”   (Grace Potter)   2:43

Total Length: app. 56 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

What is there to say about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast other than to talk about how good it is?

Featuring relatively unknown actors in the lead roles (at least, unknown to me; Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson), with Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers, and Jerry Orbach in delightful supporting roles, this film excels in humanizing its characters…even the ones who aren’t quite human anymore. We see the Beast’s change from a self-centered creature who wants nothing more than his human form back into a respectable man who loves this woman more than himself or his own wants. We also see Belle, an outcast in her village, fall in love with the Beast, an outcast in the strictest sense of the word – an unexpected match that shows that, deep down, they want the same thing: companionship and acceptance.

Richard White is a perfect blend of obnoxious and menace as the film’s villain, Gaston, a self-centered pig who aspires to do anything in his power to make Belle his wife…including arranging to have her father committed in an asylum to make her say “yes”. Songs like “Gaston” and “The Mob Song” define the character as arrogant, selfish, and violent, but, really, that’s what makes the character so much fun! He and his little friend Lefou bring lots of laughs to the screen (“Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking…”/”A dangerous pastime!”/”I know!”) while still allowing the audience to acknowledge that he is, indeed, the bad guy.

Flecked with colorful characters, brilliant artwork, and charming songs like “Be Our Guest” and “Something There”, as well as the ballad that manages to make me tear up every time I hear it, “Beauty and the Beast”, Beauty and the Beast, while not my personal favorite animated Disney movie, is still as magical now as it was when I first saw it on VHS in my living room as a child. Disney, the combined musical and lyrical genius of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, and the talented voice cast bring this story to life in a way that will be loved by viewers of all ages forever.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: G

-Chad

P.S. – Make sure to view the special edition of the film which includes the song “Human Again”!


Tangled (2010)

Tangled was a bit of a surprise for me – I LOVED it! I regret not having seen it in theaters, but I own it on Blu-Ray now and have seen it more than 10 times…probably even way more than that.

I love almost everything about this movie. The songs are catchy, Rapunzel is sweet, Flynn is sarcastic and likable, and Pascal and Maximus are both hysterical additions to the cast. From the great introductory “When Will My Life Begin?” to the amusing “I’ve Got a Dream” to the heart-warming “I See the Light”, Alan Menken does yet another fantastic job composing songs for a Disney animated film. The story is also one of my favorites by Disney; the princess not knowing that she is a princess is a nice twist on the traditional fairy tale.

It seems to me that there are a couple of nice parallels or references to earlier Disney animated films. For example, “I See the Light” makes me think of Menken’s “A Whole New World” from Aladdin every single time I hear it, and the end healing scene is reminiscent of the ending of Beauty and the Beast. Just an observation!

The only part of this movie that I didn’t like was Mother Gothel, particularly her opening song, “Mother Knows Best”. I know she’s the villain and that I’m not supposed to like her, but this was more than dislike – it was annoyance. I can’t stand “Mother Knows Best”, but I love the reprise later in the film. All in all, it’s a pretty petty complaint about a film that I enjoy immensely.

Tangled is an all-around fantastic movie, and it’s not just for girls, either; boys, if you’ll give it a chance and watch it, I’m willing to bet that you’d really enjoy it. Aside from the romantic aspects of the film, there is plenty of comedy, action, and adventure to appeal to just about everyone. Give Tangled a chance!

-Chad

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for brief mild violence

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alan Menken, here!


Hercules (1997) – Alan Menken

Hercules holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first film that I remember viewing at the movie theater; I remember sitting next to my grandmother and cheering Hercules along from my seat in the audience. Looking at the soundtrack now brings back good memories.

Let’s look at the musical numbers first. The music is composed by renowned Disney composer Alan Menken (The Little MermaidBeauty and the BeastAladdin), with lyrics by David Zippel. The musical numbers are all over the place, with styles ranging from gospel to heroic to a sort of soul/pop mix. Making the Muses a gospel trio is probably the best part of the soundtrack, with infections songs like “Zero to Hero” and “A Star is Born” dominating. “Go the Distance” is probably the most memorable song from the film, though, and rightly so; it’s an anthem for persevering and chasing your dreams. I can almost guarantee that any kid who grew up in the early 90s could sing along with at least part of this song.

Though the musical numbers are the focus, the instrumental score composed by Alan Menken is full of gems as well. The latter portion of “The Gospel Truth/Main Title” is instrumental and features the main hero theme heard in the film, a fantastic horn fanfare that rings out proud. Menken also gives us some very different stuff, such as in “The Big Olive”. This track emulates the traditional “New York” style of music without using anything heavy-sounding, making it sound like what I’d imagine an ancient urban Greek city might have sounded like. Other standout tracks include “Meg’s Garden”, a sweet song that hints at the musical number “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” with some beautiful strings and piano, and even the short “Hercules’ Villa” is fun and a bit jazzy.

What more is there to say? The soundtrack to Hercules has something to offer for everyone, from great, flashy musical numbers to a beautiful, triumphant score by Alan Menken. Though it may not be as “classic” as Beauty and the Beast or AladdinHercules gives plenty of evidence as to why Alan Menken is one of the best musical composers, as well as one of the best animated film score composers, out there. 

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “Long Ago…”   0:31
  2. “The Gospel Truth I/Main Titles”   2:26
  3. “The Gospel Truth ll”   0:59
  4. “The Gospel Truth lll”   1:06
  5. “Go The Distance”   3:14
  6. “Oh Mighty Zeus”   0:46
  7. “Go The Distance (Reprise)”   0:58
  8. “One Last Hope”   3:01
  9. “Zero To Hero”   2:21
  10. “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love)”   2:20
  11. “A Star Is Born”   2:04
  12. “Go The Distance (Single)” – Michael Bolton   4:42
  13. “The Big Olive”   1:07
  14. “The Prophecy”   0:54
  15. “Destruction Of The Agora”   2:07
  16. “Phil’s Island”   2:25
  17. “Rodeo”   0:40
  18. “Speak Of The Devil”   1:31
  19. “The Hydra Battle”   3:28
  20. “Meg’s Garden”   1:14
  21. “Hercules’ Villa”   0:37
  22. “All Time Chump”   0:38
  23. “Cutting the Thread”   3:24
  24. “A True Hero / A Star is Born”   5:34

Total Length: app. 48 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Captain America: The First Avenger (2010) – Alan Silvestri

Really, if I chose any soundtrack other than Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger for today, I don’t know if I could call myself an American.

The score to Captain America is one of my favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helped along by the fact that Alan Silvestri (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) is also one of my favorite film composers, and nothing quite says “America” like the Cap’s main theme (as far as film themes go, that is).

Most of the Captain America score is pretty excellent, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hear lots of Back to the Future and Night at the Museum throughout. For example, compare the opening seconds of “Hydra Lab” with “George to the Rescue – Pt. 1” from Back to the Future (click titles for YouTube links). Captain America’s “Farewell to Bucky” is the track that sounds especially like some bits of Night at the Museum. Sure, it’s a little disappointing, but the theme itself takes away a lot of that disappointment for me…it’s just too darned American/fun.

I really don’t have too much to say about this one; it is what it is and it does it well. Sure, it borrows freely from Silvestri’s other scores, but it still manages to be one of the better superhero soundtracks that I’ve ever heard…certainly not the best, though. But with a main theme like this and a song composed by famed Disney composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the BeastAladdinTangled), called “Star Spangled Man”, how can you go wrong?

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

1. “Captain America Main Titles”    0:56

2. “Frozen Wasteland”    1:53

3. “Schmidt’s Treasure”    3:01

4. “Farewell to Bucky”    2:50

5. “Hydra Lab”    1:54

6. “Training the Supersoldier”    1:08

7. “Schmidt’s Story”    1:59

8. “Vitarays”    4:25

9. “Captain America “We Did It””    1:59

10. “Kruger Chase”    2:55

11. “Hostage On the Pier”    2:46

12. “General’s Resign”    2:18

13. “Unauthorized Night Flight”    3:13

14. “Troop Liberation”    5:06

15. “Factory Inferno”    5:06

16. “Triumphant Return”    2:16

17. “Invader’s Montage”    2:16

18. “Hydra Train”    3:27

19. “Rain Fire Upon Them”    1:39

20. “Motorcycle Mayhem”    3:05

21. “Invasion”    5:09

22. “Fight on the Flight Deck”    3:30

23. “This is My Choice”    3:26

24. “Passage of Time”    1:35

25. “Captain America”    1:08

26. “Star Spangled Man”  2:53

27. “Captain America March”    2:36

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad