Disney Legends Q & A with Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken

As I sat on the phone listening to the Q & A conference call with Disney Legends Alan Menken and Richard M. Sherman I could feel their passion of their Disney career through the phone.  One time during the call I even shed a tear when Richard M. Sherman shared a story about Walt Disney.  While writing this post I listened to my Mary Poppins Soundtrack it was a nice accompaniment to this blog post after hearing Richard M. Sherman reference it many times during the conference today.  I created a station on Pandora that you can listen to with many Alan Menken & Sherman Brothers hits.

The call was hosted by Jeffrey Epstein, Manager of Marketing at the Walt Disney Company.  The reason for this awesome conference call was to promote the appearance of Alan & Richard for a special The Disney Songbook performance at the D23 Expo on August 10, 2013 from 6:30 – 8:30 in the D23 Arena.  For one night only, two of the world’s most celebrated songwriters and composers will take the stage. Richard Sherman and Alan Menken have won a combined 10 Academy Awards for their work with Disney, and have composed music and songs for more than three dozen Disney feature films, more than two dozen Disney Parks attractions, and half a dozen Disney musicals on Broadway.

First we were treated to 20 minutes of questions for just Alan Menken, then both of them together and then Richard M. Sherman for 20 minutes.  I pushed the buttons on my phone to placed in queue waiting my turn to ask a question but unfortunately my turn never came up.  The question that I was going to ask was for Alan Menken: “When Beauty and the Beast hit Broadway we were treated to the song Human Again which was cut from the original film version.  Can we expect to hear any new song in the new Aladdin: The New Musical?”

Here are some other great questions that were asked.

These were asked of Alan Menken

What is it like to perform in front of the fans? It is a fun and powerful experience.  They react exuberantly too.

Do you like to be known as the Disney guy? Yes, I do, I love it.

What is it like to write for Disney? Writing for Disney is a responsibility, I take it to heart.  I really care about the audience.  Disney is a classic, an all American tradition.

How do you come up with the songs? Do you read the story or the script first? The story isn’t written without us.  We work with the writers and how the story will be told.   We help decide what function the song will have with the project.  For example is it an enduring story like Pocahontas or a tongue n’ cheek story like Aladdin.

Are you involved in who the voices are? Yes, I am involved in the casting process for a film and in a Broadway show.

Which of your Disney songs are you most proud of?  The Gospel Truth I” from Hercules and “If I Never Knew You” from Pocahontas{Dawn’s Disney Nerd note – this song made me cry during the movie, I love this song}

 These questions were asked of both Alan Menken and Richard M. Sherman

What it a challenge picking the songs for The Disney Songbook performance? Alan – Yes it was challenge picking the songs because we are also going to perform some lesser known songs and it is a challenge to be able to present them to the audience. Richard – I am doing a potpourri of songs, not just a bunch of songs from one movie. Alan – We will be at the piano talking to the audience too.  We will take turns then come back together on the stage to talk about our history.

What is the surprise song that you didn’t expect to be popular but ended up being a hit? Richard“Chim-chim-cher-ee” from Mary Poppins, it’s just about chimney sweeps. Alan – I really thought that “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid but it was “Under the Sea” that was the hit and we almost lost “Part of Your World”,  Also Newsies slid off the radar for many years but now it’s a Broadway hit.

What is your favorite song that the other one has written? Alan“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. It is a great explosion of emotion. Richard – “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors and “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, but it is hard to pick just one.

 These questions were asked of just Richard M. Sherman

If your brother Robert B. Sherman were still with us, would he be enthusiastic to perform? He was on the shy side but would have joined me on stage for a few songs.

Which of your songs was the most challenging? Any time there is a blank page it’s hard! Mary Poppins posed a challenge because we had a song that was a ballad but we were told to change it into an upbeat song with a new slogan that would say something like if you have a happy attitude it will make the job easier.  Robert’s son came home from school one day and told his dad that he had to take a vaccine at school but the school nurse put the medicine on a cube of sugar and it tasted great.  That was it! We came up with the term “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” and thus “A Spoonful of Sugar” song was written.

Which movie do most people talk to you about?  Most people think that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a Disney movie, but it is not however they ask me about it a lot.  The most often Disney movie that I am asked about is Mary Poppins.  Walt even loved the movie so much and is favorite song was “Feed the Birds”.  He felt that it was a symbol that it doesn’t take much to smile and show your kids a good time.  To give something of yourself, it doesn’t take much to just smile and take the time. {Dawn’s Disney Nerd note – this made me shed a little tear during the call, it was awesome to hear first hand from someone who worked with Walt Disney and to be able to confirm what that he was such a caring man, who just believed that the simple gesture of a smile could make someone’s day and to give of your self to help others}

How do you make those attraction songs so catchy but not annoying at the same time? I come from a musical family and my dad was a musician and he wrote great melodies.  I try to write fresh and original songs that show how fun I am.

How have you kept your longevity? I love it, writing songs is my hobby, it was always fun and I have a good time doing it.  People want my opinion.  I am 85 years old, I have my health and enthusiasm.

Do you write for just the character or the actor? 90% of the songs were written for the characters in the story.  10% of the time we know a head of time who the actor will be and we would write the song with their personality in mind.  We didn’t know that Julie Andrews was going to be Marry Poppins.

Which obscure song are you proudest of and why? I will be talking about it at the D23 Expo so I am not going to give anything away, I want to keep it a surprise.

What is your main message to Disney fans through the concert? Be positive in your life, not negative.  We write songs for up beat ideas and goodwill.  There is nothing cynical about our work.  The satisfaction that I have is that people get joy from my work.

That was the end of the interview and I had a great time listening to it.

About Richard M. Sherman

Sherman Brothers with Walt Disney

Sherman Brothers with Walt Disney. Photo credit: Disney

Richard M. Sherman and his brother Robert B. Sherman composed some of the most beloved songs in the Disney canon. The Disney Legends won two Oscars® for their work on Mary Poppins, and during their decades–long association with Disney they wrote more than 200 songs for 27 films and two dozen television productions. They made unforgettable contributions to such Disney films as The Parent Trap, The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the entire Winnie the Pooh series, as well as the family classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They also penned beloved songs for Disney Parks including the theme songs for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and Carousel of Progress. Richard wrote the song “Make Way for Tomorrow Today” for the blockbuster film Iron Man 2.

About Alan Menken

Alan Menken Performs at Destination D

Alan Menken performs at Destination D: 75 Years of Animated Features. Photo credit: Disney

With eight Academy Awards, Alan Menken has received more Oscars than any living person. He has written songs and scores for some of the world’s most beloved films: Tangled, Enchanted, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast , Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Little Shop of Horrors, Home on the Range and Newsies. His song “Star Spangled Man,” was the patriotic anthem of the 2011 hit film Captain America: The First Avenger. Menken’s Broadway successes include his 2012 Tony Award® for Newsies, plus The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, and Sister Act. His other stage productions include King David, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and his latest stage production Aladdin: The New Musical, opening next year.


About Dawn

Dawn is a social influencer and has been writing about her nerdy side since 2004. She enjoys writing about Entertainment, Travel, Disney, Star Wars and life with two little girls. Her advice is to keep on dreaming, do what you love and life will lead you a path to your happiness. Dawn also writes for 5 Minutes for Mom.


  1. Great job. Someone asked my question. 😉 I too got a little choked up reading about Walt’s favorite song and the meaning behind the simple gesture of a smile. And Mr. Sherman’s message to us fans to stay positive. Thank you for sharing.

  2. This is so well written, thank you Dawn! Walt Disney is one my favorite people, not just because of Disneyland and all the magic behind it, but because of his endless devotion to making others happy. He would’ve been a joy to meet I’m certain. Thrilling to learn from some enormously talented composers and the secrets behind their work. After all, how boring would a Disney movie be if they didn’t have the music to highlight it! So many memories from all those songs…… *sigh*


  1. […] At first glance at the schedule for the D23 Expo the Sherman and Menken concert wasn’t the ‘must see event’ on my list. However, a few days prior to the concert I had the privilege of being able to listen in to a conference call with both Disney Legends talking about the upcoming concert and some great stories about their time creating these songs for Disney. Once I finished the call I was in tears because it was such a powerful call. Listening to these Disney Legends talk with such passion about their craft made me want more and I made sure I was going to attend the concert. You can read my post about the Q&A call here – http://iamamommynerd.com/disney-legends-qa-with-richard-m-sherman-and-alan-menken/ […]

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