FOF #2893 – Howard Ashman: the Man Who Gave a Mermaid a Voice and a Beast a Soul

Sep 14, 2020 · 1985 views

Howard Ashman on the stage of Little Shop of Horrors next to the charcters who represent his most famous work: Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast and Aladdin. Photos courtesy of Disney.

It’s hard to imagine Disney without it’s iconic animated musicals, but in the 80s after several box office bombs, Disney considered never making animated musicals again.

Thankfully, after playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman’s breakthrough success with his oddball musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors, Disney asked Ashman to work with them and The Little Mermaid, a film that became so successful that it kicked off what’s now known as the Disney Renaissance.

In the new Disney+ documentary, “Howard,” we get a rare look at the amazing work and career of Howard Ashman, whose life was tragically cut short when he died from AIDS in 1991, midway through the production of Beauty and the Beast and Aladddin. Howard never saw either of these films finished and his surviving partner collected his Oscar for Best Original Song “Beauty and the Beast.”.

Today musical theater enthusiast Jake Bellisimo from the YouTube channel Dreamsounds joins us to take a look at the amazing musical legacy of Howard Ashman, queer coding in Disney films and Beauty and the Beast as an allegory for society’s betrayal of people with AIDS.

Jake Bellissimo, photo by Rocco Rinaldi-Rose.


  1. This one was of my favorite FOFs as ever. I learned a lot that I never knew about the gay undertones and HIV/AIDS subtexts of so many Disney songs. I also appreciated the editing of the songs interwoven with the interview. Thank you Fausto & Marc!

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