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The Little Mermaid's Alan Menken & Lin-Manuel Miranda Collab Was Years In The Making

The 1989 animated film "The Little Mermaid" featured a famous collaboration between lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken for the numerous songs in the film, many of which have gone on to become hits independent of the movie itself. Howard Ashman passed away in 1991, and so for the 2023 live-action remake of the film, Menken collaborated with Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known for creating the historical stage musical "Hamilton."

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Menken noted that the first time he crossed paths with Lin-Manuel Miranda was when the latter was a teenager. Miranda attended Hunter College High School, at the same time that Menken's niece was also attending. Menken remembered Miranda as a particularly big fan of "The Little Mermaid," even asking Menken to sign posters of the film. When "In The Heights" came to Menken's attention, he wondered if the writer was the same boy he knew from Hunter.

The collaboration was also driven by Miranda's respect of Menken. Responding to the interviewer's question on how the duo ended up working together, Menken said that Miranda had been open for years about his admiration of Menken's work. This led to Sean Bailey, who is the President of live-action film production at Disney, hiring Miranda to work on the live-action version of "The Little Mermaid." Menken learned he'd be working with Miranda when news reports of the latter's hiring came out, something he pointed out has happened with other projects of his as well.

The duo wrote four new songs together, three of which made it into the film

Asked about what the collaborative process was like between himself and Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alan Menken was all praise for the younger musical star.

He noted that Miranda understands theater really well, but that's not his only influence. "He's got this, as you know, stylistic brilliance that brings in hip hop and rap, and all old musical forms that help," he added, saying that although Miranda took on lyricist duties while Menken did the composition, all those influences came together to shape the final product.

After speaking to director Rob Marshall, the duo ended up writing for new songs for the film. The first song, called "Wild Uncharted Waters," was for Prince Eric, played in this film by Jonah Hauer-King. The second song is titled "For The First Time," and is set after Ariel gains her legs and loses her voice, highlighting all the things she's noticing for the first time. The third song, called "Scuttlebutt," has more of a comedic bent, written for Scuttle and Sebastian, voiced by Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs respectively, as they try to parse rumors of Prince Eric's engagement. Menken noted that the duo created a fourth song, titled "Impossible Child," for King Triton (Javier Bardem) that didn't end up making the film's final cut.

Menken concluded by saying that the collaboration was very free-flowing, with different strengths from both him and Miranda making it into the three songs.