March 26, 1990 – Alan Menken and Howard Ashman Win the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for The Little Mermaid.
“We were adapting Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale in the style of Disney. And so, in a sense, we were pastiching Disney. In order to pastiche Disney, we naturally brought in styles from the outside. Calypso and reggae were clearly a new style to bring in.” – Alan Menken
The 62nd Academy Awards were held in Los Angeles, California on March 26, 1990. Disney scored a great success that night with the musical team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who won the Academy Award for the score for The Little Mermaid, and the song “Under the Sea.” Their competition was The Fabulous Baker Boys by Dave Grusin, Field of Dreams by James Horner, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade by John Williams, and Born on the Fourth of July, also by John Williams. “Under the Sea” competed against “After All” from Chances Are, “I Love to See You Smile” from Parenthood, “The Girl Who Used To Be Me” from Shirley Valentine, and another Ashman/Menken song, “Kiss the Girl.”
Ashman had been brought to Jeffery Katzenberg’s attention through David Geffen, and after meeting Ashman, everyone was excited to work with him on The Little Mermaid project. Ashman brought along Alan Menken, who had worked with him on the musical Little Shop of Horrors. The collaboration between Ashman and Menken helped usher in a new era of Disney animation, bringing elements of Broadway to the animated form. As Director John Musker remarked on the partnership between Ashman and Menken, “One of the great things with Howard and Alan’s music, I think, is the wittiness of it. It isn’t dumbed down for any audience.” Jodi Benson, the voice actress for Ariel added, “They approached it like a Broadway musical. It is something totally different; the characters actually run out of words, can’t express themselves anymore, and it has to come out in song.”