Thanks from Generation Y

It is...incredibly difficult to explain to most people why Howard Ashman meant so much to those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s. Especially those of us who were raised entirely by Disney or Disney-like films.

For one thing, Howard brought to us something that most other films never had: the ability to recognize children as intelligent individuals, rather than belittling or looking down on us. For once, animated films weren't treated as just a children's plaything, but an extremely powerful tool that can be used to shape the goodness in a person's life. It's Howard's incredible storytelling abilities that allowed most of us to grow up hopeful and optimistic about the future. From Little Shop of Horror to even Aladdin, he was a man who was able to entertain and teach at the same time.

He was a man who truly understood the arts because he was so deeply involved in it. Unlike most people (myself included), Howard was able to articulate the passion of music or filmmaking or animation. He had a certain knack with words and used the power of words to create some of the most meaningful and genuinely touching lyrics of a whole generation's childhood.

We knew absolutely nothing about the world and might have become cynical and sardonic, due to the ever-changing nature of the world, were it not for Howard. He taught us that it was okay to be a little strange once in a while, that all people (even people like the Beast or Seymour) would eventually find love. That there's nothing wrong with wishing for just a little bit more, nothing bad about the unknown. We may be a quirky generation, but we're a benevolent one.

Like Roy Disney once said, Howard really is like a second Walt Disney.

You were very lucky to have known him, Ms. Ashman. From all of us Generation Y kids, I'd just like to say that were it not for this incredible man, we would not have turned out to be such caring and compassionate people.

Thank you.


  • This is just beautiful - beautifully written and a beautiful sentiment. I'll respond more later but I did want to thank you.
  • Definitely hit the nail on the head, OP. If you look at animation in general during the early 90s, there was a higher standard of quality even in television cartoons. My belief is people were so inspired by the music, story and characters in the Disney films that Howard Ashman worked on.
  • It's no problem, Sarah. I've been trying to find a way to give thanks to the things that shaped my childhood and this seemed like the ideal place for me to be at.
  • My thoughts almost exactly, but I think credit must be given to Howard (and Alan) for structuring the films as mini-musicals, using songs to develop songs and story points. I doubt so many young people would be interested in musical theater without these films. (Myself included)

    As much credit as I give Sondheim & Prince, Kander & Ebb, Bock & Harnick and Rodgers & Hammerstein for furthering and fueling my interest in the form, I can't forget Ashman & Menken. Those films were the first musicals I saw.
  • I don't think I could have said it any better myself! The first time I was on a stage outside of school theater I was 7 and I sang "Part of your world". I messed most of it up, but I cannot begin to describe the feeling it gave and stills gives me when I or anyone else brings life to Howard's words. I'm a mom now with a little girl who was my age when Little Mermaid was released. It breaks my heart but warms it when I hear my little mermaid try to sing! Howard's art opened my eyes to theater,as well as other issues and I still tear up reading the credits to Beauty and the Beast. Because those words for me are true: I am forever grateful.
  • edited August 2011
    HI Mermaidbeauty, If you haven't seen it, you might check out Jodi Benson's interview in the blog (I think it's part 2) where she talks about introducing her children to the concept that Mommy is Mermaid. Here's the link: http://howardashman.com/blog/talking-with-jodi-benson-part-two/
  • edited August 2011
    "He taught us that it was okay to be a little strange once in a while, that all people (even people like the Beast or Seymour) would eventually find love."

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but Seymour found true love by murdering his crush's boyfriend and getting her on the rebound. Sure, he originally only planned to save her from his clutches, and things got morally out of hand, but the point still stands.

    Yeah, I'm a jerk. :-P

    Nice post, though. I don't know how much Ashman was involved with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, but I love the songs he wrote for them.
  • While he was too ill at the end of his life to put his creative touch on the reworked Aladdin, he was executive producer of Mermaid and Beast, and contributed some lines of dialog for the former.
  • Beauty and the Beast definitely feels like an Ashman project, which is why it's one of my favorite movies of all time.

    I always use Beauty and the Beast as an example when trying to convince people that Little Shop of Horrors isn't just a silly musical where even the leading lady's death should be played for laughs and adding a happy ending makes no difference.
  • Thanks for that WizardVictor. Beautifully said.
  • Yeah, Seymour's a great character, but not really a good example of "all people will eventually find love". Unless you're referring to the penultimate line of Don't Feed The Plants. :P
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