This year’s season of podcasts was shortened due to COVID, but we did manage to do six, many of them remotely (thanks to the wonderful engineers and staff at the legendary Village recording studios in West L.A.): David Newman and Matt Sullivan for their work on West Side Story; Natalie Holt on both Loki and Obi-Wan Kenobi; Laura Karpman on Ms. Marvel; Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard on Pinocchio; and Alan Menken on Disenchanted. This is a Disney Music Group production (available wherever you get your podcasts) and you can find our updated list at https://forscores.com/.
This year Disney and Pixar have been on a roll, revisiting classics and asking their original composers to return with new music, or refreshed versions of their award-winning music from the past. Music is so critical to our appreciation of these fantastic worlds, and in each case Variety asked me to interview the Oscar-winning musical architects. First, Alan Menken talked about revisiting the songs and score of Aladdin for the live-action remake, and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul discussed writing new lyrics for it. Then Randy Newman discussed returning to the world of Woody & Buzz for the wildly popular Toy Story 4. And finally Hans Zimmer talked at length about returning to the African setting of The Lion King, now redone in an incredibly realistic computer-imagery version, and how diversity in music-making fueled his decisions.
Upon hearing that Disney was creating a live-action version of its animated Beauty and the Beast musical, my first thought was: What will composer Alan Menken do differently than he has already done in the now-classic 1991 original (which won him Oscars for song and score) or the 1994 Broadway stage version (which earned Tony nominations for best musical and score)? For this story in the current issue of Variety, I interviewed Menken, Disney music executive Mitchell Leib, and music supervisor Matt Sullivan for a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s new songs and the somewhat darker, more emotional dramatic score.
In early December, I visited a fun scoring session with songwriters Alan Menken and Glenn Slater for the new comedy musical series Galavant. This piece goes behind the scenes to explain how difficult it is, and all the work that goes into producing a weekly musical for TV. I love delving into the history of these things, so I mentioned ABC’s landmark That’s Life and Cop Rock series right up front.