Disney film highlights Howard Ashman - the gay man behind some of their most iconic songs

The visionary was awarded a posthumous Oscar following his untimely death at 40 due to complications from HIV/AIDS.

Howard Ashman, a young man, sits on the edge of a stage, a prop monster plant in the background

Now showing on Disney+, the new documentary, Howard, highlights Howard Ashman – the Oscar-winning genius behind some of Disney’s best loved songs from films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty And The Beast.

The emotional tribute follows the openly gay creative through his early life and inspirations before he worked with the Mouse House. And it wasn’t just Disney – Howard Ashman was also behind the legendary Little Shop Of Horrors musical.

In a heartbreaking turn of events, just as The Little Mermaid made its debut, Ashman was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He would go on to win an Oscar for his part in creating the iconic ‘Under The Sea’.

For a time, Ashman kept his health concerns a secret from his associates. In the documentary, Peter Schneider, who was the president of Disney at the time, described the worries Ashman had about how his diagnosis might affect his career with the company; “Howard said to me, ‘I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t know how Disney would react. Here I am, a gay man, and I’m working on this movie for kids. And I didn’t want to be fired.'”

Ashman would also win an Oscar for his work on Beauty And The Beast, but tragically, he wouldn’t live to see the completed film. After a rapturous first screening for the film, the animators visited him in the hospital to share the news. Ashman would pass away only four days later from heart failure caused by HIV/AIDS. He was only 40 years old.

Without Ashman, we wouldn’t have songs such as ‘Be Our Guest’, ‘Beauty And The Beast’, ‘Part Of Your World’, ‘Friend Like Me’ and many many more. As the documentary creator, Don Hahn, shares, “You may not know his name, but you sure know Howard Ashman’s music. He’s one of the greatest storytellers of the twentieth century who helped to revitalise the American musical and re-energise Disney Animation. He left us a songbook that still lives on in us today, yet his personal story has never been fully told until now.”

Beauty And The Beast is dedicated to Ashman with the following, “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.”

Howard is available to stream on Disney+.

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