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Winner of eight Academy Awards, film composer Alan Menken has composed the songs and score for nearly all of Disney's musicals. He didn't do the Lion King only because he was busy with Pocahontas. He even composed the songs and score for Tangled, so when Disney announced another CGI animated musical, Frozen, many naturally assumed Menken would return for that project. However we ended up with songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and score composed by Christophe Beck.

Why didn't Alan Menken compose the songs and score for Frozen? Was he busy on another project or something?


To clarify, I'm not saying Menken is the only choice for Disney musicals. However, with his recent work on Enchanted and Tangled, it seemed Disney was bringing him back as their go-to composer for musicals. He was even originally slated to do The Princess and the Frog. This made it all the more surprising when he ended up not doing Frozen.

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    (As an aside, the music for Frozen is pretty darned good. Unless you have small children and have heard them about a zillion times) – Jane S Feb 4 '16 at 21:55
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    @JaneS I enjoy Beck's score, but I only like one or two songs; For The First Time in Forever and Wanna Build a Snowman. Let it Go was decent but needed a more orchestral feel and less pop feel. Also it's way overplayed. – RedCaio Feb 4 '16 at 21:59
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    The Lopez's and Beck had both done work for Disney before -- so it's not like Menken was the only choice. Menken has done a lot of films with Disney, but looking at his recent work he seems to be slowing down on the film front and in 2014 he launched a Hunchback of Notre Dam musical and took Aladdin to Broadway so he was perhaps busy prepping for that? – TZHX Feb 4 '16 at 22:02
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    He didn't do Princess and the Frog... that was a musical, was it not? Same with Brother Bear... arguably not a "musical" but certainly had a lot of pieces, which were composed by Phil Collins, who also did Tarzan... another one Menken didn't do.... And The Emperor's New Groove... you can tell me to stop any time... I don't see any reason to say that he does "all the musicals"... there are a lot he didn't do.... Mulan... – Catija Feb 4 '16 at 22:03
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    @RedCaio I agree with your assessment. Also, the in-movie version of Let it Go was superior to the one played in the closing credits. It had more... feeling to it, less "poppy". The first song (sorry, I'm terrible with names) with the male singers I liked too. – Jane S Feb 4 '16 at 22:04
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As far as I can tell, Menken was originally attached to the project in 2009 (and even went so far as composing a few test songs) but when Frozen was shelved in 2010, he went off to do other things.

When the project came back from development purgatory in 2011/2012, he was already heavily involved in the writing & production of Disney's "Newsies: The Musical" and presumably didn't have the time/effort/inclination to try to take on two major projects simultaneously.

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I question the premise that he's still Disney's go-to guy for original musical scores. He's not done as many original scores in recent times as he had been in the early to mid 90s. He did about one musical per year with Disney starting in 1989 until 1997. Most of his recent work with Disney has been adapting his past film scores for the Broadway stage.

It makes complete sense for Disney to use Menken for stage adaptations of his previous scores because it maintains his voice in the project, particularly since he got started in stage musicals. Before he ever worked for Disney, he did the stage version (and later the film version) of Little Shop of Horrors.

Additionally, Disney has a history of using him to adapt his own scores for the stage... starting with the highly acclaimed 1994 Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast.

His Wiki page lists the following projects with Disney:

  • Beauty and the Beast - 2017 (live action)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame - 2014 (Broadway)
  • Aladdin - 2014 (Broadway)
  • Newsies - 2011/12 (Broadway)
  • Tangled - 2010
  • The Little Mermaid - 2008 (Broadway)
  • Enchanted - 2007 (live action)
  • Home on the Range - 2004
  • Hercules - 1997
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame - 1996
  • Pocahontas - 1995
  • Beauty and the Beast - 1994
  • Aladdin - 1992
  • Newsies - 1992 (non-animated)
  • Beauty and the Beast - 1991
  • The Little Mermaid - 1989

Particularly starting in the late 90s, it doesn't seem like he's been working with Disney as much... here's a list of all the Disney musicals he didn't do1:

  • Frozen - 2013
  • The Princess and the Frog - 2009
  • Brother Bear - 2003
  • Tarzan - 1999
  • Mulan - 1998
  • The Lion King - 1994

In general, it seems the production of Disney musical films dropped significantly as we entered the 2000s and, despite him scoring every Disney Musical between 1989 and 1997 (except The Lion King), Disney did two films without him in a row, leaving a gap in their association between 1998 and 2004, and then he seemed to do about every other musical film between his recent work on stage adaptations, which started in 2008.


1 - I've left off a some films I feel highly music-centric but that probably don't qualify as "musicals" like Lilo and Stitch.

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    @Richard I've edited my answer and I hope that it addresses the issues you had with it in the beginning. I don't mind criticism... I want to write good answers... but I can't improve the answer if I don't understand what's "wrong" with it, which is what I wasn't getting from your comments. – Catija Feb 5 '16 at 16:22
  • These edits are spot on. Your point is very well made that he may not have fallen out of favour with Disney per se, but he's definitely not their "go to guy" for all things musical. – Valorum Feb 5 '16 at 16:23

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