Alan Menken on reworking problematic songs with Lin-Manuel Miranda

(Getty Images)

Alan Menken and Lin Manuel- Miranda wrote new songs together forThe Little Mermaid while slightly revising the preexisting tracks. (Photo: Getty Images)

Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, both music greats in their own right and co-composers on the new live action version of The Little Mermaid, have 30 years in age separating them.

Yet Menken has known about Miranda for decades. Miranda attended Hunter College Elementary School in New York City with Menken’s niece, Jenny, and he was a superfan of the Oscar-winning Disney legend who scored and wrote songs for the films like The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992) and Pocahontas (1995).

“My sister would always tell me about this little boy, Lin-Manuel Miranda,” Menken tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview. “It’s not a name you forget, right? ‘Lin-Manuel Miranda loves The Little Mermaid. He wants to know, could you sign this poster?’ I finally signed the poster saying, ‘Please stop kissing Jenny’s feet.’ Because he was so insistent… he just was so passionate about [his fandom].

“And then years later, there’s Lin-Manuel Miranda coming with [his Broadway breakout] In the Heights. And then Hamilton. And so I have this feeling about him of pride in him because I knew him since he was a kid. Then we’re collaborating and that was so much fun.”

Like Menken did on recent live-action remixes of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, he and Miranda wrote new songs for The Little Mermaid while slightly revising the preexisting tracks. Watch him preview them in the video above, or read on for the scoop on what’s new (including a song that was cut from the movie but will be on the home entertainment release) — and which classic song they didn’t touch.

The returning classics

“Part of Your World”: “Well, tempo-wise, it stretches out more because of Halle [Bailey’s] performance. We have a little more breath in there than the original. And she takes some wonderful liberties vocally that make it really fresh.”

“Poor Unfortunate Souls”: “With ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ [now performed by Melissa McCarthy as Ursula] we stuck with [its] basic feel, but there were adjustments in the arrangement… Melissa McCarthy is her own Ursula and you support that with the orchestrations.”

“Kiss the Girl”: “‘Kiss the Girl’ is pretty much ‘Kiss the Girl,’ but again, having the live action visuals to go with just transforms it.”

“Under the Sea”: “You don’t mess with that.”

The new songs

“The Scuttlebutt” [performed by Awkwafina as Scuttle and Daveed Diggs as Sebastian]: “I gave [Lin] this little Caribbean tune. And above it, he rapped… It’s the most Miranda-est… It’s got that combination of that original Mermaid feel and then this rap over it. It’s the most amazing expanding of the envelope for Little Mermaid.”

“Wild Unchartered Waters” [performed by Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric]: “I certainly wanted to use the sense of the whirling sea.”

“For the First Time” [performed by Bailey as Ariel]: “For ‘The First Time,’ I gave [Lin] a variation on something that was in the original movie. [He tweaked the tempo] and that combination just gave it this incredible rhythmic rub. That was so exciting.”

The song that was cut

“Impossible Child” [performed by Javier Bardem as King Triton]: “It really was great to have that and great to work on it. And I think it would’ve worked, but it was like fitting a big piece into a smaller space. [Director Rob Marshall] had screenings with it in, and also with the scene out, and it just felt the movie moved better without the song. But people are gonna be able to hear it and I think see it with footage in the outtakes [on Blu-ray or streaming].”

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