Disney+ has just released a documentary film celebrating Howard Ashman, the queer visionary behind some of Disney’s biggest musical hits.
Ashman penned iconic songs like Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl for The Little Mermaid, Belle and Be Our Guest for Beauty and the Beast and Friend Like Me for Aladdin. He won two Oscars, one posthumously, for Best Original Song, with Under the Sea and Beauty and the Beast.
As ‘Gay Times’ report, Ashman also composed The Mob Song in Beauty and the Beast, which was inspired by the way that people living with HIV/AIDS in America during the 1980s were treated by the wider public.
The documentary depicts Howard’s life through archival footage, photographs, and interviews with family and friends, from when he was obsessed with the theatre at a young age, to his early death in 1991, following a heart attack caused by complications from HIV/AIDS.
Peter Schneider, the then president of Disney, spoke about Howard’s diagnosis in the documentary, saying: “Howard said to me, ‘I didn’t want to tell you [about my HIV status] because I didn’t know how Disney would react. Here I am, a gay man, and I’m working on this movie for kids. And I didn’t want to be fired.’”
Howard is also part of Disney’s first meaningful queer content. Although recent films from Disney have contained queer characters, like LeFou in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast and Officer Specter in Onward, their queerness is mostly hidden, relegated to a small dance or a throwaway line.
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