Alan Menken was born in New York City. He enrolled at NYU as a pre-med student, but changed his major to music. He worked as an accompanist and composing jingles. In 1972, he married Janis Roswick-Menken. They have two daughters. His first professional production, on which he worked with Howard Ashman, was an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater in 1979. In 1982, their Little Shop of Horrors achieved great success.
Menken is best known for composing the music in Disney animated classics Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Home on the Range, and Tangled, as well as live-action films Newsies and Enchanted. His collaborators include Steven Schwartz, David Zippel, Tim Rice, and Glenn Slater, in addition to Howard Ashman. He won Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for The Little Mermaid (“Under The Sea”), Beauty and the Beast (“Beauty and the Beast”), Aladdin (“A Whole New World”) and Pocahontas (“Colors of the Wind”). He currently holds the record for the most Oscars won by a living person.
Menken received Tony nominations for the scores to Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Sister Act, and Aladdin. Newsies, in 2012, finally won Best Score.
Howard Ashman was born in Baltimore. After college, he spent two years in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso. He then became the artistic director of the WPA Theater in New York. He wrote plays including Cause Maggie’s Afraid of the Dark, Dreamstuff, and The Confirmation.
His first musical, with Alan Menken, was God Bless You Mr. Rosewater. In addition to his work with Menken, he collaborated with Marvin Hamlisch on Smile and with Barry Mann on “Once Upon A Time in New York City” from Oliver and Company.
In 1988,Howard Ashman was diagnosed with HIV. When working on Beauty and the Beast, Disney animators came to Ashman’s house to accommodate his deteriorating health. Shortly after finishing Beast, Ashman died as a result of complications from AIDS. He was 40 years old. His second Academy Award was awarded after his death and accepted by his partner, Bill Lauch.
Doug Wright was born in Dallas. He graduated from Yale in 1985 and got an MFA from NYU.
He serves on the boards of New York Theatre Workshop and Yaddo.
In 1995, his play Quills premiered at Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company. It went on to be produced at New York Theatre Workshop and was adapted for film in 2000.
Wright won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play for 2003’s I Am My Own Wife. In 2006, he wrote his first book for a musical, Grey Gardens. In addition to The Little Mermaid, Wright wrote the book for Hands on a Hardbody, which reached Broadway in 2013. In 2008, Wright married David Clement. Wright has also written pilots for television and film screenplays.
Glenn Slater was born in Brooklyn but raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Harvard in 1990. His first lyrics appeared Off-Broadway in Newyorkers, which was produced by Manhattan Theatre Club in 2001. His lyrics have appeared in the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus.
He began collaborating with Alan Menken for the film Home on the Range in 2004. They worked together on Sister Act the Musical as well as The Little Mermaid and Leap of Faith. Slater wrote lyrics and co-wrote the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. His work on Love Never Dies was criticized and substantially rewritten by Charles Hart.
With his wife, Wendy Leigh Wilf, Slater wrote Beatsville, which was produced at the 2008 NAMT Festival of New Musicals. Slater and Wilf have two sons. Disney’s 2010 film Tangled also features lyrics by Slater. He won a Grammy Award for “I See The Light” from Tangled in 2012.