Along with several thousand other Disney enthusiasts, I recently got the opportunity to see two living legends perform the songs that formed our childhoods. The show started at 6:30 p.m.; people started lining up at 1:30. Somewhere during my second hour of waiting, I wondered to myself, "Is this really worth it?" The answer ended up being yes—so worth it.
Let's start with Mr. Sherman. As the younger half of the famous Sherman Brothers songwriting duo, Sherman is responsible for a mindboggling number of the old Disney classics, from Mary Poppins to Winnie the Pooh. The brothers got their big break writing for Annette Funicello, so he started with a couple of her songs: "Tall Paul" and "Pineapple Princess." Here's the latter:
I think you can tell even from these brief clips, but Sherman just exudes positivity and gratitude and warmth. And "He's a really good winker," according to Jason Schwartzman, who plays the songwriter in the upcoming movie Saving Mr. Banks. Speaking of which, Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, who plays Robert Sherman, made a surprise appearance during the show to join Sherman on "A Spoonful of Sugar" from Mary Poppins:
"I Wan'na Be Like You" from The Jungle Book is one of my favorite Disney songs, so I was delighted to hear Sherman describe how they had to teach Phil Harris (Baloo) scat so he could sing the song with Louis Prima (King Louie):
One of Sherman's last songs was "Feed the Birds," the tearjerker from Mary Poppins, which happened to be Walt Disney's personal favorite, and one that he requested of the Sherman Brothers every Friday. "We were all very fond of him as a human being, aside from being a great boss," Sherman said.
After Sherman's set, Menken came out to play his hits. Basically, if you've had a Disney song stuck in your head since 1989 or so, there's a good chance Menken wrote it. He started with the movie that put him and former songwriting partner Howard Ashman on the Disney map—The Little Mermaid.
After The Little Mermaid, of course, came Beauty and the Beast.
If you're a fan of Aladdin—are there people who aren't? —you'll be excited to know that it's coming to Broadway, complete with a couple of sidekicks that were cut from the animated feature. There's a link to one of those songs at the bottom of this post, but the video below is a medley of hits from the original movie.
Although Menken described this film as "a big, fat, flop movie," Newsies has evolved to be a cult classic and is now doing great on Broadway. Menken also does a pretty respectable Jeffrey Katzenberg impression, so you'll want to check that out:
Tangled is in regular rotation at our house, but even so, it was surprising to hear Menken say that Rapunzel is now the most popular Disney princess. Menken said he heard that Rapunzel was on Walt's movie list, so he was especially excited to be the songwriter for the movie.
When Menken was done, Richard Sherman came back out so each composer could close the show with their songs about the world. "A Whole New World" from Aladdin for Menken, and "It's a Small World" for Sherman. If you've never heard Sherman's version of the song that everybody loves to hate, I encourage you to check this video out—it will change the way you think about it.
If you'd like to hear more of Sherman and Menken, links to all of the songs they performed at the D23 Expo are below.
Thanks to mrdaps, InsideTheMagic and disneylandlive, who all had much better seats than I did.
- "The Ugly Bug Ball"
- "Let's Get Together"
- "The Wonderful World of Color"
- "Winnie the Pooh"
- "Up, Down and Touch the Ground and The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers"
- "That's What Friends are For"
- "Chim-Chim Cheree"
- "The Aristocats"
- "The Age of Not Believing"
- "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room"
- "One Little Spark" from Journey Into Imagination
- "Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" from Carousel of Progress