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Interview with Don Hahn, Director of “Howard” Documentary

Interview with Don Hahn, Director of “Howard” Documentary

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Last week, Susan and I were invited to participate in an exclusive intimate press conference with Director, Don Hahn, of the much anticipated “Howard” documentary releasing on Disney+ at the end of this week. Read all about the interview here!

Back in the middle of June, I had written an article on what a prominent Disney Legend Howard Ashman is in the world of theater and especially Disney films and music.

You can read more about the documentary and the trailer here.

Who is Don Hahn?

We can not begin sharing our experience of the press conference without providing a biography on who Don Han is and his relationship with the Disney Company.

Even if you do not know the name Don Hahn, you would be pleasantly surprised at how much of his works you are vastly familiar with!

Photo courtesy of Don Hahn Facebook page

It all started when Don became Assistant Director on The Fox and the Hound film that was coincidentally enough released the year I was born in 1981.

He later became producer and/or executive producer to films such as Emperor’s New Groove, The Haunted Mansion, The Little Mermaid, the live action for Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent and a plethora of other Disney office box hits!

If you are a fan of documentaries, you will be happy to know that Hahn directed and narrated Waking Sleeping Beauty, a documentary which can currently be viewed on Disney+.

If you enjoy documentaries, this is one to not miss!

Therefore, receiving an invitation to spend time on a Zoom call with this wonderful Disney producer was such an honor for us here at Kenny the Pirate as well being in the company of other Disney journalists.

Who was Howard Ashman?

Howard Ashman was an American playwright and lyricist. Have you ever heard of Little Shop of Horrors? Yup, he wrote and directed this Broadway hit!

If you grew up in the 1990’s maybe you can recall the name Alan Menken?… Oh yes, these two men (Alan and Howard) were quite the “dynamic duo” of Disney animated films alongside the Sherman Brothers of course.

Howard is widely known to have worked on several projects with Alan on Disney animated favorites such as: The Little MermaidBeauty and the Beast, and after his death some of his songs were included in the animated film, Aladdin.

Alan composed the music and Howard wrote the lyrics. Amazing, right?

Songs such as “Part of Your World,” “Be our Guest,” “Tale as Old as Time,” and many others can be credited to him!

The Interview

Susan and I were very excited to participate in asking Don questions relating to his latest proudest documentary project “Howard.”

Here a few excerpts from the press conference:

Question: What did you learn from the documentary?

Don: I love documentaries, especially those that shine light on artistic heroes.  Everyone struggles with insecurities.  Howard was afraid of being humiliated.  This humanizes his story.  If Howard can go through these struggles, so can we.  Howard lived life with joy.  He worked long hours.  It includes nostalgia of music and animation.

Question: Why did you create the documentary “Howard?”

Don: I was afraid his story wouldn’t get told.

Howard purchased a theater when he moved to New York. He held a Master’s Degree in Theater so it is not surprise how he was interested in music and theater. It was mentioned that had Disney not worked out for Howard, he would have pursued children’s theater instead.

We also learned through the various questions that were asked that Don himself financed the documentary independently knowing it would be sold to a streaming service.

Originally, Disney+ did not exist so he had thought maybe it would go to Netflix. However, upon speaking with Bob Iger, he was provided the green light that the documentary would join other great works of art in the realm of documentaries on Disney+.

When asked who he believed was the write person to write Howard’s life story, Don replied that he felt like he was the best person to create the documentary because of his access to the Disney archives and his access to relationships with Howard’s sister, Alan Menken, Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel), and Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle).

KtP Interview Questions

I will not lie, but I was quite nervous when it was my time to ask a question. After all, not only am I a fan of Howard’s works of art such as Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, but I too am such a fan of Don’s work.

I could not help but tell him how much my two younger daughter’s appreciate and watch The Emperor’s New Groove at least once a week in our household!

The question that I asked Don was: “what was one thing that he learned for the first time or was pleasantly surprised to learn about that he did not know about Howard prior to making the documentary?”

His response was one that I was not expecting at all!

Don responded that Howard had quite the affinity for food. Especially eating food. Therefore, if you will notice each Disney musical score he incorporates a song about food!

The Little Mermaid: “Les Poissons

Beauty and the Beast: “Be Our Guest

Crazy, right? My mind was blown… makes sense to write about something you enjoy and love!

Why Now?

According to the press notes that we received for the press conference it indicates that “The prime of Howard’s creative achievements was in the 1980’s and early 1990’s— almost 30 years ago.

With the passage of time, it’s clear that Howard’s work was not just a fleeting fad, but rather a lasting body of work which continues to stand even today. Stage productions and remakes of the films with which he graced with his lyrics are now coming back to be retold and reimagined for new generations.”

Final Comments Regarding the Press Conference

Susan: It was amazing being part of the press conference where we gained insights into not only how Don Hahn created this incredibly transparent documentary, but also discovering more about Howard’s Ashton’s incredible skills and humanity.

Marisol: I was very thankful and quite the happy camper for several hours after attending the press conference as I did not imagine it to be such an intimate setting for not only being a journalist but also a fan of Don’s and Howard’s work. It was a Disney fan’s dream.

Howard will begin streaming on Disney+ on August 7, 2020.

Are you looking forward to watching Howard on Disney+? Let us know on Kenny the Pirate’s Facebook Page, or join our crew and continue the discussion!

-Marisol White

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