‘Howard’ shines light on life of late Disney composer

Joseph Ferrer, Arts & Entertainment Editor

One of the core elements of many Disney films that has allowed them to culturally resonate with people throughout the years is their music. The soundtracks of movies such as “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid” have resonated with people across all ages. The late composer Howard Ashman is the man behind the tunes that have embedded themselves within pop culture. Disney +’s “Howard takes a look into the composer’s career, creative process and the tragic story of his struggles during his last days.  


            The documentary takes viewers through the life of’ Howard, covering his childhood as a boy enamored with theater, his early days as a playwright and ultimately his work at Disney. Learning about Howard’s methodology of creating music is one of the highlights of the film. The film showcases engaging, behind the scenes discussions that helped shape the music of the films that people know and love. Seeing Howard’s dedication to his creative vision throughout the film is admirable, such as when he refused to cut “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid” despite executives fearing that the song was too slow to keep the attention of children.  


            The documentary is largely presented through audio interviews alongside photos and old footage from Ashman’s life. While this was most likely done in an effort to produce content amidst the ongoing pandemic, it doesn’t feel cheap or haphazardly done. It even uniquely helps the film feel much more personable. Seeing footage of the live production of the music was also incredibly interesting.  


            Much of the emotional weight of the documentary comes from Howard’s struggles as a gay man in the 1980s, as well as his heartbreaking battle with AIDS that ultimately cost him his life. Much of Howard’s life was lived in fear of his sexual orientation costing him his career during a harsh time period for LGBT individuals in America. Despite his failing health and living with the knowledge that he was going to pass away, Howard still displayed commendable dedication as he continued to help compose for his last films. The film powerfully highlights Howard’s will and determination to keep going despite his last days being in front of him.  


            “Howard” successfully captures the emotional journey and creativity of the life of Howard Ashman. Fans of classic Disney films will likely have newfound appreciation for the movies they love after viewing Disney+’s talented handling of Howard Ashman’s story