Walt Disney Records:
Biography of Alan Menken
Alan Menken is one of the most admired and prolific musical talents working today, and he has further enhanced that reputation with his inspired songs and score for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This project reteams him with lyricist Stephen Schwartz, with whom Menken won a Best Song Oscar® earlier this year for "Colors of the Wind," from Pocahontas. Menken's score for that film also earned him his eighth Academy Award®. His contributions to Pocahontas were further acknowledged with a Golden Globe Award® and an additional Grammy Award®. Using a diversity of influences, ranging from French and Gypsy themes to church liturgies and choral arrangements, Menken composed some of his most impressive, sophisticated, and entertaining music to date.
Among his many musical accomplishments, Menken composed the score for the Broadway production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, for which he received Tony Award® and Drama Desk Award nominations. He also composed the score and songs for the enormously successful Disney animated film Aladdin (with lyricists Howard Ashman and Tim Rice). He received two Academy Awards® and two Golden Globe Awards® for Best Original Score and Best Song (with Tim Rice) for that film's "A Whole New World," as well as four Grammy Awards® including Song of the Year.
He composed the songs (with lyrics by Howard Ashman) and score for the Disney animated film Beauty and the Beast, for which he received two Academy Awards®, as well as two Golden Globe Awards®, for Best Original Score and Best Song for the title tune, "Beauty and the Beast," plus three Grammy Awards®. For The Little Mermaid, Menken received two Academy Awards® and two Golden Globe Awards® for Best Score and Best Song ("Under the Sea") and two Grammy Awards®. With lyricist Jack Feldman, he wrote "My Christmas Tree" for Home Alone 2 and the songs for the musical feature Newsies.
The composer's score for Life with Mikey featured two songs, "Cold Enough To Snow," with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and a title song with lyrics by Jack Feldman. Additional credits include the score for the 1992 ABC miniseries "Lincoln," and the music and lyrics for the Rocky V theme song, "The Measure of a Man," recorded by Elton John.
With Howard Ashman, Menken received the New York Drama Critics Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the London Evening Standard Award for Best Musical for Little Shop of Horrors and an Oscar® nomination for Best Song ("Mean Green Mother From Outer Space") from the film version of Little Shop of Horrors.
In 1983, the composer received the BMI Career Achievement Award for a body of work for the musical theater. His includes Little Shop of Horrors, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Real Life Funnies, Atina: Evil Queen of the Galaxy (produced in workshop as "Battle of the Giants"), "Patch, Patch, Patch," and contributions to numerous revues including Personals and Diamonds. In 1987, a musical adaptation of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, with lyrics by David Spencer, was produced in Philadelphia. In 1992, the WPA Theatre in New York produced Menken's Weird Romance, lyrics also by Spencer.
In December 1994, Menken debuted a brand-new stage musical based on the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and book by Mike Ockrent, at Madison Square Garden's Paramount Theater. The show proved to be an instant classic and is well on its way to becoming a perennial New York holiday event. Future projects for the busy composer include the musical King David, with libretto by Tim Rice, and Kicks: The Showgirl Musical, with libretto by Tom Eyen. On Hercules, Disney's 35th full-length animated feature, the composer is collaborating with lyricist David Zippel.
Menken grew up in New Rochelle, New York, and developed an interest in music at an early age. He studied piano and violin through his high school years, but it wasn't until after his graduation from New York University, with a liberal arts degree (and a brief dalliance with pre-med), that he decided to focus on a career in music. While attending the Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop at BMI, he developed a passion for musical theater. This experience led to an intense personal learning and growth period for him as a musician and eventually resulted in his meeting Howard Ashman.
At that time, Menken was working primarily as a songwriter. He performed frequently in local clubs and had an active career writing and singing commercial jingles. Several shows he had written for had been successfully showcased, but had not been produced. His first collaboration with Ashman was in 1979, on the WPA production of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, which went on to be well-received in its Off-Broadway debut.
Menken and his wife, Janis, a former professional ballet dancer, reside in upstate New York with their two young children.