Howard (film)

Howard is a 2018 American documentary film written and directed by Don Hahn about the life of songwriter Howard Ashman.[1] It received positive reviews from critics.

Howard 2018 film poster.jpg
Official release poster
Directed byDon Hahn
Written byDon Hahn
Produced byLori Korngiebel
Jonathan Polenz
Edited byStephen Yao
Music by
Stone Circle Pictures
Distributed byDisney+
Release dates
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States


The film documents the life of songwriter Howard Ashman, who wrote the lyrics for the songs in the Disney animated films The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, as well as the stage musical, Little Shop of Horrors, and who died in 1991, at the age of 40.[2]

The film uses the same interview presentation as Hahn's previous documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty, where rather than "talking heads", audio interviews are used with "speech bubbles" indicating who is speaking.[3]


Alan Menken composed the score for the film, while Chris Bacon adapted it.[2] Menken, who worked with Ashman on several projects until the latter's passing, first became involved with the project during the 2017–18 Christmas season; when Hahn showed a reel of the movie to Menken, he told Hahn that "[he has] to score this movie".[4][5] Hahn originally opposed, as the budget wouldn't allow him to pay Menken, but agreed once Menken told Hahn that he saw the project as his opportunity to create a musical homage to Ashman.[4] According to Hahn, Menken composed the score during the holiday season, and describe his score as "one of the most personal and touching scores that [he had heard] from him".[2] Menken said that he wanted to "find a motif that simply expressed [his] feelings about Howard".[4] Menken also said that the score has "a childlike quality to it, certainly, a simplicity to it. There's a certain shimmering and anticipation of a door opening and what happens just before it's revealed - this thing [Hahn has] created".[4]


Howard premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Documentary Award at the 2018 Heartland Film Festival.[6] It had a limited theatrical run beginning on December 18, 2018.[7]

Home mediaEdit

Howard was released on Disney+ on August 7, 2020.[7] On May 18, 2023, it was announced that Disney+ would be removing nearly 60 original films and series from the platform on May 26 to "cut costs," with this film being one of them.[8] The news sparked widespread backlash from both Disney fans and the LGBTQ+ community, especially with the move coming on the eve of Pride Month and the release of the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid on the same day as its intended removal. Disney+ announced the following day that the film will remain on the service.[9]


Critical responseEdit

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The critical consensus reads, "Howard serves as a bittersweet tribute to the life and legacy of a brilliant artist whose timeless songs served as the soundtrack for a generation of Disney fans."[10] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[11]

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter stated the documentary provides an insightful commentary, with a large and fascinating amount of archival footage, and called Howard a tribute to Howard Ashman, writing, "It succeeds beautifully in inducing both joy and sorrow: joy at the remarkable work Ashman produced, and sorrow that he left us so early and deprived us of the talent that still had so much to give."[12] Melissa Leon of The Daily Beast found the documentary touching, and said it manages to highlight Ashman's personal life and his work, stating, "The film is riddled with gems from the production of now-iconic films [...] and insight into the life and legacy of a man whose lyrics everyone knows, yet whose premature death fewer are familiar with."[13]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the documentary 4 out of 5 stars, found the film to be a moving tribute to Ashman, writing, "Such blunt honesty and rare introspection sets Howard apart from the usual cut-and-paste trips down memory lane."[14] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the documentary exciting and emotional, saying the film immerses its audience in the life of a creative artist, stating, "Ashman set a standard of flair, invention and Broadway-style showmanship in Disney lyrics that continues to this day."[15] Jennifer Green of Common Sense Media rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, praised the depiction of positive messages and role models, citing creativity and solidarity, saying, "Howard is a moving documentary that offers both a behind-the-scenes look at the making of some modern-classic Disney animated films and the poignant life story of an exceptionally talented man."[16]


Year Award Category Recipients Result Ref.
2018 Heartland International Film Festival Documentary Feature Howard Nominated [17][18]
2020 Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Best Historical/Biographical Documentary Nominated [19][20]
2021 Annie Awards Special Achievement in Animation Don Hahn Won [21]
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Documentary Howard Nominated [22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hahn, Don (July 11, 2017). "Howard Ashman Movie D23 Premiere Trailer" – via Vimeo.
  2. ^ a b c "Howard: Press Notes" (PDF).
  3. ^ Taylor, Drew (August 7, 2020). "Howard Director Don Hahn on Telling Howard Ashman's Story". Collider. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Grieving, Tim (August 6, 2020). "A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  5. ^ Tangcay, Jazz (August 7, 2020). "Don Hahn on Telling Lyricist Howard Ashman's 'Brilliant, Too Short' Story in New Documentary". Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  6. ^ "The Heartland International Film Festival announces selections for 27th edition - Heartland Film".
  7. ^ a b Low, Elaine (October 18, 2019). "Disney Plus Fleshes Out Nonfiction Slate, Including 'Howard,' 'Science Fair,' Mickey Mouse Docu". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Weatherbed, Jess (May 19, 2023). "Disney will remove over 50 shows from Disney Plus and Hulu this month". The Verge. Retrieved May 19, 2023.
  9. ^ Petski, Denise; Andreeva, Nellie (May 19, 2023). "'Howard' Documentary Will Remain On Disney+; List Of Disney Streaming Removals Still Being Finalized – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 19, 2023.
  10. ^ "Howard (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  11. ^ "Howard Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  12. ^ Sheck, Frank (April 24, 2018). "'Howard': Film Review – Tribeca 2018". The Hollywood Reporter.
  13. ^ Leon, Melissa (April 30, 2018). "How AIDS Shaped 'Beauty and the Beast': Remembering Disney Songwriting Genius Howard Ashman". The Daily Beast.
  14. ^ Travers, Peter (2020-08-04). "'Howard' Review: Meet the Lyricist Behind Your Favorite Disney Tunes". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-07-06.
  15. ^ "Howard review – the lyricist who made Disney's hits soar". the Guardian. 2020-08-03. Retrieved 2022-07-06.
  16. ^ "Howard - Movie Review". 2020-08-02. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  17. ^ "The Heartland International Film Festival announces selections for 27th edition". Heartland Film. 2018-09-17. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  18. ^ "Heartland International Film Festival (2018)". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  19. ^ "Critics Choice Documentary Awards | Critics Choice Awards". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  20. ^ "Critics' Choice Documentary Awards (2020)". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  21. ^ Pedersen, Erik (2021-04-17). "'Soul' Edges 'Wolfwalkers' For Most Trophies At Annie Awards; Three For TV's 'Hilda' Leads Field – Winners List". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  22. ^ "The Nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards". GLAAD. January 28, 2021.

External linksEdit