Many animation fans highly anticipate the release of a new documentary about visionary lyricist Howard Ashman. The late Ashman penned the words of legendary Disney soundtracks like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin to Alan Menken’s melodies before passing away in 1991.
The past few years, Don Hahn, a Disney veteran in his own right, having produced a string of Disney classics, has teased his spearheading of a documentary chronicling Howard’s life, and recently shed light on where we might be able to see it.
On Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s podcast, Maltin On Movies, Hahn noted of Ashman’s life, “That’s a story, and it’s a story I lived through, and I felt like I just had to tell it.” The documentary, titled Howard, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018, which Hahn described as “an incredibly emotional experience.”
But that was a year ago, and the documentary has yet to receive a wide release. When will be able to watch it? With the Maltins, Hahn gives us a big hint. “We’ve been working really hard with one of the major new streaming services, yet to be announced, and it’ll be out later this year. You can probably connect the dots on that one, but it’ll be a terrific international release to tell Howard’s story.”
Given the connection to Disney of the subject material and Hahn as director, it’s a safe bet to assume Howard will make its wide release debut on Disney+. The streaming service launches November 12, though it is yet to be seen if Howard will be available on launch day. (It’s worth noting that the doc’s inclusion is, as Hahn mentions, yet to be officially announced at all.)
Hahn began his career with Disney as an assistant who delivered archived artwork to animators when they requested reference material from a past film. Among Hahn’s many producing credits are Beauty and the Beast (both of them), The Lion King, and Frankenweenie. In 2009, he directed the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, which told the story of the Disney Renaissance of the ’90s. It will surely be riveting to zoom in on Ashman’s involvement of such an iconic era in animation history in a documentary all his own.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for excellent content with Ashman at its focus, the “Howard’s Lecture” bonus feature on The Little Mermaid‘s Blu-ray (both 2013 Diamond and 2019 Walt Disney Signature Collection releases) provides a wonderful look into a moment that changed animation forever, which Ashman initiated.
If Disney+ ends up being the home of Howard, the documentary will join a growing list of exclusive nonfiction content, including a documentary from Leslie Iwerks about Walt Disney Imagineering, as well as a behind-the-scenes series showcasing the making of Frozen 2.