Howard (film)

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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
  • April 22, 2018 (2018-04-22) (Tribeca Film Festival)
  • December 18, 2018 (2018-12-18) (United States)
  • August 7, 2020 (2020-08-07) (Disney+)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States

Howard is a 2018 American documentary film written and directed by Don Hahn about the life of songwriter Howard Ashman.[1]


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 March 1991 of complications from AIDS 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] After having a limited theatrical run on December 18, 2018, the film was released on Disney+ on August 7, 2020.[7]


Critical response[edit]

The film has earned critical praise.[8]

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 45 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."[9] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter called it "a rich cinematic portrait"[11] while Melissa Leon of The Daily Beast stated that the film is "riddled with gems from the production of now-iconic films".[12] Common Sense Media rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating : "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".[13]


Year Award Category Recipients Result Ref.
2018 Heartland International Film Festival Documentary Feature Howard Nominated [14][15]
2020 Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Best Historical/Biographical Documentary Nominated [16][17]
2021 Annie Awards Special Achievement in Animation Don Hahn Won [18]
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Documentary Howard Nominated [19]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Low, Elaine (October 18, 2019). "Disney Plus Fleshes Out Nonfiction Slate, Including 'Howard,' 'Science Fair,' Mickey Mouse Docu". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  8. ^ Gingold, Michael (April 25, 2018). "Tribeca Review: HOWARD Honors Disney's Musical Genius". Birth. Movies. Death.
  9. ^ "Howard (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  10. ^ "Howard Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  11. ^ Sheck, Frank (April 24, 2018). "'Howard': Film Review – Tribeca 2018". The Hollywood Reporter.
  12. ^ Leon, Melissa (April 30, 2018). "How AIDS Shaped 'Beauty and the Beast': Remembering Disney Songwriting Genius Howard Ashman". The Daily Beast.
  13. ^ "Howard - Movie Review". 2020-08-02. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  14. ^ "The Heartland International Film Festival announces selections for 27th edition". Heartland Film. 2018-09-17. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  15. ^ "Heartland International Film Festival (2018)". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  16. ^ "Critics Choice Documentary Awards | Critics Choice Awards". Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  17. ^ "Critics' Choice Documentary Awards (2020)". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "The Nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards". GLAAD. January 28, 2021.

External links[edit]