Time enough, I thought, to bring back my exceedingly intermittent “Monday Top Ten” series, and since my head is still very Disney’d, at least the next couple will be thus themed to various ways of ranking one Disney picture against another.
Or in this case, one Disney song against another. If there’s one thing that I was glad to be reminded of despite needing no reminder, it’s that Howard Ashman was a staggeringly great lyricist, whose premature death was one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Disney animation. Despite working on a scant four Disney movies – Oliver & Company, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin – Ashman did more than anyone to define the new personality of Disney animation during its renaissance in the 1990s. In tribute, then, may I present my list of
The Ten Best Lyrics Written by Howard Ashman for a Disney Musical
(only one passage per song)
10. From “Beauty and the Beast”, Beauty and the Beast
“Bittersweet and strange,
Finding you can change,
Learning you were wrong.”
For being the most nobly tender-hearted lines in a tremendously sincere ballad.
9. From “Under the Sea”, The Little Mermaid
“When the sardine
Begin the beguine
It’s music to me.”
For being the most charming, silliest bit of wordplay in a song full of goofy puns and rhymes.
8. From “Les Poissons”, The Little Mermaid
“Now I’ll stuff you with bread!
It won’t hurt, ’cause you’re dead,
And you’re certainly lucky you are.
‘Cause it’s gonna be hot in my big silver pot,
Toodle-oo, mon poisson, au revoir!
For reasons that I hope are plain. “It won’t hurt, ’cause you’re dead” – among the funniest lines in a Disney movie.
7. From “Be Our Guest”, Beauty and the Beast
Pie and pudding en flambé!
We’ll prepare and serve with flair
A culinary cabaret!”
For using the names of dishes as lyrical elements in a tremendously natural and unforced way, and for the exquisite consonance of “culinary cabaret”.
6. From “Prince Ali”, Aladdin
“There’s no question this Ali’s alluring,
Never ordinary, never boring,
Everything about the man just plain impresses!
He’s a winner, he’s a whiz, a wonder,
He’s about to pull my heart asunder,
And I absolutely love the way he dresses!
For its crazy use of alliteration, peculiar but effective rhymes, its general silliness, and above all the final, marvelous punchline.
5. From “Part of Your World”, The Little Mermaid
“And ready to know what the people know!
Ask ’em my questions, and get some answers.
What’s a fire, and why does it – what’s the word? – burn?”
For presenting Ariel’s yearning as so intense that even as she loses track of words, she remains locked into the rhythms of her deeply emotive song.
4. From “The Mob Song”, Beauty and the Beast
“We don’t like
What we don’t
Understand, in fact it scares us,
And this monster is mysterious at least.”
For being insightful, funny, and having just the darnedest meter.
3. From “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, The Little Mermaid
“If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet,
You’ve got to pay the toll.
Take a gulp, and take a breath,
And go ahead and sign the scroll!
(Flotsam, Jetsam, now I’ve got her boys,
The boss is on a roll!)
This poor unfortunate soul!:
For the conversational nature of the words, particularly the aside; and for the line “And go ahead and sign the scroll”, which uses alliteration and consonance to hypnotic effect.
2. From “Belle”, Beauty and the Beast
“You call this bacon?”
“What lovely grapes!”
“I’ll get the knife.”
“Please let me through!”
“Well, maybe so.”
“There must be more than this provincial life!”
“Just watch, I’m going to make Belle my wife!”
For creating an urgently rhythmic vision of the daily routines of rural life, lines that skim one into the other so that even though each one is perfectly clear, the whole edifice is a cacophony, through which Belle’s urgent “There must be more than this provincial life!” cuts like a chainsaw.
1. From “Gaston”, Beauty and the Beast
“No one’s been, like Gaston,
A kingpin like Gaston.
No one’s got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston!”
“As a specimen, yes, I’m in-
“My, what a guy, that Gaston!”
For rhyming “specimen” with “yes I’m in”.