Sunday, August 18, 2013

Two Legends, One Concert: "The Disney Songbook" at the D23 Expo 2013

What week for the Disney fandom, huh?

As I'm sure most of you know, the D23 Expo was hosted in Anaheim last weekend… and what a weekend it was! From imagineers to beloved characters, it seems that Disney folk of every kind came out of the cracks to celebrate the Mouse House. While I was unfortunately not able to attend the Expo (California isn't exactly a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from South Florida), the twitterverse and blogosphere didn't miss a beat when it came to covering every detail of the highly-anticipated event. 

The interesting thing about experiencing the Expo through the reports of others is that amidst the barrage of information flooding out of the Anaheim Convention Center, those following along at home also got a good idea of how Expo-goers felt about the releases. Some were disappointed in the lack of big Parks-related announcements, many were pleasantly surprised by the Animation display, and the Disney Legends ceremony left nary a dry eye in the house. However, the true star of D23 was the iconic Disney music we all know and love. I'm referring, of course, to the "The Disney Songbook" concert given by the incomparable Richard Sherman and Alan Menken. 

The two legendary songwriters truly need no introduction, but I love them too much not to gush just a little bit. The work of Richard Sherman and his late brother Robert can be heard just about anywhere in the Disney universe. The two are responsible for the scores of some of the most beloved Disney films of all time, including Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and the Winnie the Pooh series. Their compositions, however, are not limited to just Disney's movie magic; in fact, some of their most well-known pieces are heard by thousands every day in Disney Parks. The music for a number of classic Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions is attributed to Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman… so next time "It's a Small World" or "One Little Spark" is stubbornly stuck in your head, you know who to thank! 

Alan Menken's music is nearly synonymous with the Disney Renaissance of the 1990's, having composed the scores for the Disney films of my own generation: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, and so on. Menken's involvement with Disney began in 1989 (with Mermaid) and has most recently continued with his work on the 2010 hit, Tangled. As one who grew up on Alan Menken's brilliant scores, his work is extremely dear to me- his music spurred my love for both Disney and musical theatre from a young age, and continues to evoke inspiration and awe with every listen. 

With two such iconic and talented men exhibiting their own masterpieces, how could it have been anything other than utterly and completely magical? There is something so awesome about watching a composer perform his precious work. Suddenly, the song is no longer just a song; it is a labor of love. The spectacle falls away and the listener is able to hear the piece in its truest form, as if it were still little more than a twinkle in its creator's eye. That purity of performance was markedly present throughout the concert, and that, I believe, is what made it so incredibly special. Choosing a favorite moment from that memorable evening wouldn't do justice to the work that Menken and Sherman so generously shared with the Disney fan community, but I would be remiss not to highlight some of the moments that touched my heart and brought a smile to my face.

1) "The Ugly Bug Ball" from Summer Magic, Richard Sherman

via youtube
Summer Magic is one of those movies that doesn't get a whole lot of attention in the Disney community. However, my mother is a massive Hayley Mills fan and I was thus treated to a childhood full of her bright, bubbly performances in the live-action Disney films of the 1960s. Because I don't normally hear much about this childhood favorite, getting to hear both the song itself and the anecdote about Walt was an unexpected treat!
2.  Medley from The Little Mermaid, Alan Menken 

via youtube
 When I was in the seventh grade, I bought the Platinum Edition of The Little Mermaid on DVD, which included an extensive featurette on the film's journey from studio to screen. That behind-the-scenes tour is what took a nostalgic love for Disney and took it to new heights. The Little Mermaid was the catalyst for an entire era of Disney films after Walt Disney's death, and it truly would not have been the movie that it was without the work of Menken and lyricist (/produce/genius) Howard Ashman. The music ushered in a new age of great stories, majestic scores, and a spirit of imagination that would make Walt proud.  
(Also, any day that I get to hear Alan Menken sing "Les Poissons" is a good day.) 
3. "In the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room" from Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, Richard Sherman

via youtube
Richard Sherman is a living piece of Disney history. His close working relationship with Walt brought with it a host of sweet and touching stories (like the one in this clip) that fans will be able to cherish after both men are long gone. The Sherman Brothers' signature is found woven into countless attractions in Disney parks, with the Enchanted Tiki Room being among the oldest and most beloved, and every time I am transported into that Polynesian palace to sing like the birdies sing, I thank the Lord for their incredible work.
4.  Medley from Hercules, Alan Menken

via youtube
Alan Menken as the muses? Yes, please. I love that this concert gave songs like "The Gospel Truth" and "Zero to Hero" a chance to be performed alongside the old standbys... because everyone needs a little sassy Menken every now and then. 
5.  "It's a Small World", Richard Sherman and Alan Menken

via youtube
Two legends sharing one iconic song. What more could a person ask for?
I can't convey just how difficult it was to pick out only five songs from these two amazing sets. If you'd like to watch the concert in full (and believe me, you do) it can be found on YouTube here (Sherman) and here (Menken), thanks to Inside the Magic!

What were your highlights from the concert? I seriously would have just posted the entire show if I could... so amazing! Let me know in the comments below and, as always, have a magical day!

-Becca :)

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