The score for Aladdin was yet another musical triumph for Disney. Written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, the tunes from the movie would go on to win Oscars, Golden Globes, and Grammys. Not bad for a cartoon, right?
But let's rewind a little to get the big picture.
When Disney decided to reboot its animation efforts with The Little Mermaid, they went in a different direction musically from previous Disney movies as well. Specifically, a Broadway direction. Older Disney movies had lots and lots of great, hummable tunes, of course, but those weren't necessarily the kind of show-stopping musical numbers that you would see on the Great White Way. It's just a different style.
That's where Alan Menken and Howard Ashman come in. Ashman wrote lyrics, Menken composed music, and they both had success in musical theater. (You might have heard of one of their shows, Little Shop of Horrors). They thought that animation was the perfect fit for these big Broadway-style musical numbers, the kind of numbers that can both drive a story forward and reveal a character's innermost hopes and dreams.
Plus, you can put in lots and lots of animated jazz hands if you go the Broadway route.
When Menken and Ashman wrote the score for The Little Mermaid, it turned about to be a smash hit. Then they did it all over again for Beauty and the Beast. That's double success.
In fact, it was Howard Ashman who pitched the idea for Aladdin to the Disney big wigs in the first place. He and Alan Menken wrote six songs and a 40-page summary of what the story could be about. And the movie got the green light. That's how much clout these guys had.
Okay, now here's the sad part.
Even though Howard Ashman loved Aladdin and wanted to focus all his energy on the movie, he had to finish the music for Beauty and the Beast first. Plus, he was sick. Very sick. He'd been diagnosed with AIDS and had been getting progressively worse. He died on March 14, 1991, before production had really got under way on Aladdin.
As the crew worked to make Aladdin, they found that some elements of the script had to change, which meant that some of the original songs Menken and Ashman had written had to be scrapped. For example, originally, Aladdin had a mom, but she got cut, which meant her song, "Proud of Your Boy", was gone, too. You might also notice that Jafar never gets a villain song like other classic Disney baddies. Menken and Ashman initially wrote "Humiliate the Boy", for him, but that got 86-ed as well.
Now, Menken-Ashman songs "Arabian Nights," "Friend Like Me," and "Prince Ali" did stay in the film, but three songs wouldn't be enough, so Alan Menken brought Tim Rice on board to help with fleshing out the rest. The two teamed up on "One Jump Ahead," which borrowed elements from another cut song, "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim", which had to go when Aladdin's three human friends were cut in favor of one monkey friend. They also collaborated on a little tune called "A Whole New World." You may have heard it once or twice.