In my travels through the interwebs, I discovered this very cool CD that features the demo, work-in-progress, and cut songs from Disney’s Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.
Before you get too excited, at $61.77, the CD runs a little steep. However, it got me looking into the songs featured on the fourth disc, the songs written for the Aladdin that almost were but weren’t. Which I would now like to share with you!
For those not quite as obsessed with the special features of Disney DVDs as I am, Aladdin went through a complete re-write after the first story boards were presented. Characters were reworked, cut, and story arcs were redirected. As a result, a lot of wonderful songs that were no longer relevant to the story had to be cut.
It’s great that these songs can have an afterlife. They’re real gems. Or, if you will, diamonds in the rough.
…Sorry. Had to.
What makes these songs even more compelling is that these were the very last songs Howard Ashman wrote, who passed away mid-production of Aladdin before the revisions happened.
Yes, yes, more Ashman love. Maybe when his songs stop being so brilliant I’ll stop being such a fangirl.
This song is my favorite. It’s called “High Adventure.” Apparently it started life when Ashman and Menken asked themselves, “what if, during an action scene in a movie, people burst into song?”
The result was this.
Oh, Menken. Nicely done, sir. Nicely done. Loving the harmonies. And that’s some seriously palpable adrenaline. Had this lived it could have joined the ranks of beloved pump-up songs like “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” I’m definitely adding this song to my running playlist. Doesn’t mean I’ll actually run, but I’m sure adding to my playlist counts for burning calories, right?
This take on the film was definitely more tongue-in-cheek than the actual movie turned out to be, with amusing lyrics like “my finger’s bleeding!” and “Did anybody wish for a sword?”
The song features deleted characters Omar, Babkak, and Kassim. They were Aladdin’s “entourage,” who got their own fun tune featured below.
Now that’s catchy. Very vaudeville. You get a definite sense of the very different “schticky” tone the movie almost took. You can almost see the intricately coordinated choreography this song would have inspired. At the same time, I can see how its feel is almost too “big” for the intimacy of an animated film. This, however, would feel very at home on a stage…
More on that later…
This song, called “How Quickly They Forget,” isn’t quite as strong as the others, but the harmonies are butter to the ears. It’s also humorously relatable to anyone who’s had a small, close knit group of friends. Yoko, whatcyoo doin breaking up the band!?
There were four Arabian Night reprises planned, which is a cool framing device but I feel it might have ended up being overkill. My favorite is the final reprise, although the ending was definitely better served from the grander “Whole New World” finale. But this quartet is worth listening to for the slick lyrics and mood-setting melodies.
The song below actually isn’t on the “Music Behind the Magic” CD, it’s featured on a CD called “Howard Sings Ashman.” It’s a song that was intended for Jasmine, who clearly went through some serious character changes.
“Lord it’s so taxing ruling these darn third world nations.” There’s some ingenious word smithery happening in this song. And you just gotta love how they laugh through this, along with Ashman’s impersonation of what is clearly a Jewish American Princess. This is another song that would play well in a live theater…
Which is good! Because a lot of these cut songs are set to appear in Disney’s new(ish) Broadway-hopeful stage version of Aladdin. After the kitschy flops that were the Broadway incarnations of Little Mermaid and Tarzan, I should roll my eyes at this. Except I’m thinking that if they follow this irreverent, vaudeville approach, it might really work for the stage. Little Mermaid and Tarzan just tried to pad and fluff the movies (while simultaneously forgetting the story’s through-line) without properly reinventing itself like The Lion King did. Every adaptation needs to embrace the limitations and possibilities of its new medium. Embracing Aladdin more in the vein of Little Shop of Horrors could make out to be a halfway decent show.
We’ll just have to watch and see. But I’m encouraged by this clip of Alan Menken giving us a snippet of a new song for the stage show, as well as an emotional rendition of his and Ashman’s “Proud of Your Boy.” This song was written out of Ashman’s own turbulent relationship with his mother, and I think it’s the most poignant and heartbreaking song he’s ever written. A stage show might be worth it just to give this song a second life.
It was announced in January that Aladdin will indeed be headed to Broadway, slated to open in Spring of 2014 at the New Amsterdam theater. Mary Poppin will be flying out (sadface) and Aladdin will be sliding on in (hopeful face). First they will have another out of town tryout in Toronto, Canada.