Huge Blow To LGBTQ+ Community: Disney Removes Howard Ashman Documentary From Disney+

in Disney, Entertainment

Howard ashman with characters from the little mermaid, beauty and the beast, and aladdin

Credit: ITM/Disney

Let’s get one thing straight: Disney would not be the Disney we know today without Howard Ashman. Not by a long shot.

Like every other streaming service seems to be doing right now, Disney+ has recently decided to remove some of its content from the Disney+ app, bringing back the return of the Disney Vault.

However, one of the pieces they’ve announced that they’re planning to remove has people up in arms – especially members of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s an hour-long documentary called Howard about the tragically short life of Disney legend Howard Ashman.

If you’re unaware, Howard Ashman was one of the two musical geniuses called to work on The Little Mermaid. He and his songwriting partner Alan Menken had already produced several musicals, including the beloved Little Shop of Horrors, and they would go on to revive the entire Disney company from the animated Dark Ages.

According to Dave Lee (@daveleedwnundr):

After a near-50 years, Ashman was the first person to make an animated version of Little Mermaid WORK. Walt tried in the ’30s and failed. Idea was in the 80s, but Ron Clements & John Musker couldn’t crack it entirely until ‘Genius’ Howard came on board

Related: Review: Howard Ashman, Lyricist Behind Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty And The Beast,” Honored In New Documentary

Most avid fans know that The Little Mermaid marks the beginning of the period known as the Disney Renaissance – what they may not know is that its first three films would never have happened without the genius and vision of Howard Ashman. After he gave Ariel her voice (he was the one who insisted that “Part of Your World” remain in the movie), he was called upon to save Beauty and the Beast from development hell.

Sadly, Ashman died before Beauty and the Beast was ever released. He was only 40 years old – but like so many gay people in the 80s and 90s, he fell victim to the AIDS epidemic. Before he did, though, he left Disney with one last parting gift: the original script for Aladdin.

There would be no Disney today if it weren’t for Howard Ashman. They may still be around, but without the phenomenal success of those three films, there is no way that they could have become the powerhouse they are today – and if you’ve watched the Howard documentary, you know that he was the secret spice in all of them.

Related: VIDEO: Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach record “Be Our Guest” in clip from new film about Disney lyricist Howard Ashman

Without him, The Little Mermaid wouldn’t have been a true musical, Beauty and the Beast might never have come out, and we would never have known about Aladdin. So to remove the Disney documentary about him from the only platform where it can be legally viewed one week before the live-action Little Mermaid comes to theaters is a huge insult to his memory.

Not only that, but they’re also doing it right before pride month, in the middle of a huge battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that started over LGBTQ+ rights. Disney has sided with the community in the press – but they’re taking away one of the only real-life, representative pieces from their public library.

Some have suggested that they might pull the doc to do some kind of special theatrical release or spread in a louder show of support for the community – we can hope this is the case, but no guarantees have been made.

@cinemagamer said:

Bob Iger recently said that he’s looking into putting more effort back into releasing physical media and making it special. If he follows through with it, hopefully, this will have its day again as a Blu-Ray release. Hopefully.

Related: D23 Celebrates the Life and Music of Howard Ashman

We’re usually supposed to speak as a whole for this publication – use the royal “we” and not personal pronouns – but I need to speak as an individual, queer journalist right now:

My heart hurts. This doesn’t just feel like an insult from the company that keeps swearing they’re on my side – it feels like erasure.

Howard Ashman is my hero. His music helped raise me; he was one of the only adult LGBTQ+ influences in my life – he was one of so many who died just before I was born. His songs made me feel heard and understood in a way I wouldn’t fully comprehend until decades later. His memory is profoundly and vitally important.

Disney: Please don’t erase Howard Ashman’s legacy. Leave Howard on Disney+. You owe him that much; you are about to make so much money off of a remake of a film that you would not have without him. You at least owe him remembrance.

Do you think Howard should remain on Disney+? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

EDIT: Since the time of this article’s publication, Disney has responded to the backlash and agreed to keep Howard on Disney+

View Comments (3)