All those days watching from the window
All those years outside looking in
You're going to have to forgive Glenn Slater if this couplet
that he wrote from "Tangled" 's "I See The Light" kind of strikes close to home
these days. Given that this talented lyricist has worked on a number of
projects for The Walt Disney Company (EX: The Broadway version of "The Little Mermaid") which were then nominated for awards (i.e. The 2008 Tony for Best
Score) only to then have these productions fall short once "And the award goes
to ... " time rolled around.
Oh, sure. As you've undoubtedly hear dozens of times during
awards season, "It's a honor just to be nominated." But when you work with
someone like Disney Legend Alan Menken (who - over the course of his career -
has won more Oscars than anyone else alive. Eight, to be exact) ... Well, it
would be great if Glenn finally got to take one of these little golden men
Alan Menken (L) and Glenn Slater at the 83rd annual Academy Awards nominationsluncheon. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images North America. All rights reserved
But all of that may change this coming Sunday night. When
Slater first gets to stroll down the red carpet and then take a seat inside of
Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Which is where "I See The Light" will be one of the
four tunes that are up for Best Song at this year's Academy Awards.
Mind you, if this tune from "Tangled" actually does win the
Best Song Oscar, Glenn's not gonna have all that much time to savor the
sensation. Given that the Broadway version of "Sister Act: The Musical" (which once again pairs
Slater's words with Menken's music) begins previews at the Broadway Theatre on
March 24th. And beyond that, if all goes according to plan, Glenn & Alan
will have another show - "Leap of Faith" (which had its world premiere at LA's
Ahmanson Theatre in October of last year) - opening in NYC in the Fall.
And did I mention the other musical that Slater is currently
working on with Aaron Sorkin of "The Social Network
" fame? Which will attempt
to musicalize the life of Harry Houdini? Only - this time around - instead of
crafting lyrics for Menken's music, Glenn will be working with Tim Burton's
longtime musical collaborator Danny Elfman?
And given that this Houdini musical is supposed to open on
Broadway for the 2012 - 2013 season ... Hmmn ... Maybe I used the wrong couplet
from "I See The Light" to describe Slater's life these days. Maybe the more
appropriate line from this "Tangled" tune would have been ...
All those years, living in a blur ...
Well, for someone who's obviously as busy as he is, Slater
could not have been more generous with his time last year when the two of us
chatted on the phone about "Tangled." More to the point, Glenn is a very humble
guy. Quick to heap praise on his Mouse House collaborator, Mr. Menken.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"I remember seeing the animated version of 'The Little Mermaid' while I was in college, hearing 'Part of Your World' and then thinking
'Now that's how you write a ballad.' Alan and Howard (Ashman) brought such wit
and tenderness to that material," Slater remembered. "So when Disney Theatrical
asked me if I'd be interested in working with Alan to create some new songs for
the stage version of 'Mermaid' ... Well, it was just kind of mind-blowing to be
asked to write new songs for the show that initially inspired me to become a
songwriter in the first place."
Of course, what's kind of ironic about all this is that the
tune that made Glenn take notice of Alan & Howard's work was Ariel's "I
Want" song, "Part of Your World." And then - some 20 years later - here's Slater
and Menken working on Rapunzel's "I Want" song, "When Will My Life Begin."
"That was a very tricky song to nail. Initially, Alan and I
tried to do something that would then play against the audience's expectations.
Which was that Rapunzel desperately wanted to get out of that tower and begin
her life. This is why we wrote 'What More Could I Ever Need,' which talked
about the rich, busy and fulfilling life that Rapunzel was leading up there in
her tower," Glenn explained. "Which was a really funny idea for a song but then
didn't service the audience's emotional needs. They needed to care about Rapunzel
and what she was going through. Or otherwise we didn't have a movie. So after a
while we ditched 'What More Could I Ever Need' and - using basically the same
piece of music - created 'When Will My Life Begin.' Which was a much better
introduction to this character and her predicament."
Which isn't to say that Slater and Menken didn't find other musical
ways that they could upend audience's
expectations. Take - for example -
"Tangled" 's "I Have A Dream" number. Which is when all the thugs &
ruffians who hang out at the Snuggly Duckling reveal - through song -- that
they're not such bad guys after all.
"That was originally supposed to be a genuinely scary scene in
the movie. The equivalent of Rapunzel & Ryder dropping in on a biker bar.
But then Dan Fogelman (Editor's note: Fogelman is the screenwriter of
"Tangled") did some research. And he discovered that biker bars often hold
poetry slams. Where all these tough guys get to stand up and read the verses
that they'd written about what it's like to be out on the open road. And that
was such a funny story idea that the "Tangled' team just had to go with that,"
Glenn continued. "And to go from tough guys reading their poems aloud to tough
guys singing wasn't really all that big a leap. So that's where the 'I Have A
Dream' song came from."
In fact, to hear Slater tell the story, perhaps the things
that he's proudest of when it comes to "Tangled" is ... Well, you know all of
those thugs & ruffians who have unspoken desires at the Snuggly Duckling?
Tor would like to quit and be a florist.
Gunther does interior design.
Ulf is into mime, Attila's cupcakes are sublime.
Bruiser knits, Killer sews, Fang does little puppet shows.
And Vladimir collects ceramic unicorns.
When Glenn was writing the lyrics for "I Have a Dream," he
then got to name all of these rough-looking characters. Which why it was then
kind of a thrill for him that these names stuck. That this was what all of
these thugs & ruffians actually wound up being called in the finished
version of "Tangled."
So, yes. Glenn Slater is a guy who (over the next two years)
is about to have three brand-new musicals that he's written for open on
Broadway. Which is a career high point that few lyricists working today can
claim. But to hear Slater talk, it's clear that he just loves working on animated features for
Walt Disney Studios. And if another project like "Tangled" were to suddenly come
along, Glenn would sign on in a heartbeat.
"The people at Walt Disney Animation Studios are so much fun
to work with. Such great collaborators. Take - for example - the moment in
'Tangled' where 'I See The Light' occurs. They showed Alan and I a storyboard
of that sequence. Rapunzel and Ryder out on a boat in the water, looking up at
those lanterns," Slater recalled. "And so we went off and wrote that song.
Which the artists at Disney then did this amazing set of storyboards for our
song. And with each phase of production, as they added the finished animation
and then the orchestral score, that scene just got better & better.
Becoming this perfect showcase for our song. I mean, you can't ask for better
collaborators than that. People who work hard to make your work look even
Well, here's hoping that all of that extra effort by the
artists & animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios ultimately pays off on
Sunday night. Which is when Alan &
Glenn will (hopefully) each get to go home with an Oscar.
FYI: If you're looking for an additional reason to watch
ABC's coverage of the 83rd annual Academy Awards this Sunday night, please be
aware that Mandy Moore (i.e. the singing & speaking voice of Rapunzel in
"Tangled") and Zachary Levi (i.e. the singing & speaking voice of Ryder,
Rapunzel's love interest) will be appearing live onstage at the Kodak Theatre during
that broadcast. So that they can then perform Menken & Slater's Oscar-nominated
song, "I See The Light."
(L to R) John Lasseter, Mandy Moore, Alan Menken, Zachary Levi, Grace Potter & Glenn Slater at the after-party for "Tangled" 's world premiere.Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images North America. All rights reserved
The music in Tangled was the one thing I hated about the film. The characters breaking out and singing in the middle of a scene seemed very forced and interfered with the progression.
Is that actually Mandy Moore in that last photo?
That's actually Grace Potter in that photo, not Mandy Moore. Looks like their dresses were similar that night, though.
I agree with Tribunal. The songs were way forced. The film would have worked fine without them (and I love musicals!). To be honest, I wish Alan Menken would connect with Stephen Schwartz and Tim Rice more often for words. Except for the late Howard Ashman, those other two are the only ones who have inspired the best of Mr. Menken. Mr. Slater is okay, but the Menken's best collaborations have led to timeless tunes (include the recent songs for "Enchanted").
I completely agree. The strength of Menken's music seems to be tied to the strength of his lyricist, most plainly apparent with Howard Ashman. His work with Stephen Schwartz also stands out. While Slater is perfectly adequate (although I doubt Home on the Range and even Tangled will be remembered for their scores) as a lyricist, he doesn't seem to inspire the level of craftsmanship in Menken the way other lyricists have.
thanx a billion for your lyrics & fabulous songs
I Am Making Tangled 2