Part of That World
It was early morning. I entered the small living room, reluctantly, and sat on the floor. I could hear the tires crunch the gravel as my mom pulled out of the driveway, and the chatter of the younger children in the next room. I glanced back at the window and wished that I could have just stayed in the car, perhaps stowed away in the trunk; at least my car was familiar. I knew that even if I stayed at that house for eternity it would never be that kind of familiar. I squinted my eyes to see the clock in the kitchen. It was 8:00, and my mother would not be back until 3:00. Until that time came I could do nothing about it. I could not hop in a car and drive myself away, I could not go live with a friend, I could not go home, but I could pretend.
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I pulled out The Little Mermaid from the shelf and asked if I could watch it. Suddenly I was no longer a homesick eight year old stuck in an unfamiliar environment; I was a little mermaid living a fantastic adventure on land. For a few hours I could be somewhere other than where I was, and that made all the difference in the world.
Needless to say, Disney movies were large part of my childhood, and I believe I have Alan Menken to thank for that. In the 1980s Disney was beginning to decline in popularity until The Little Mermaid was released, to which Alan Menken wrote the score. Alan Menken gave Disney a whole new dimension by adding the Broadway musical aspect that it is known for today, which inspired a multitude of other animated works produced in the 1990s, the works that would surround and inspire millions of people like myself. Through music he was able to touch my life and so many others. Through entertainment, he had the power to make time go faster, and slow down. He had the power to take an eight year old girl and transform them into a little mermaid.
I was often afraid to admit to people what I wanted to be when I grow up. Coming from a family of nurses, electricians, and carpenters, the idea of being a composer seemed incredibly impractical. To avoid the questions and looks of shock, I often told people that I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. To my surprise, I discovered that Alan Menken had come from a long line of dentists and had been in a similar boat. He wanted to be a serious composer, but it seemed unrealistic. He figured it was fate that he too would become dentist like his father, and his father’s father. For a while I was in denial, as he was, that I could actually make a living out of writing musicals. I think, in my heart, I have known my whole life that it was something I was meant to do, but it took a good fourteen years to convince my head.
I am thankful that Alan Menken followed his dreams and became a composer. I will never be completely certain where the composer or lyricist in me came from specifically, whether it was from being read nursery rhymes every night as a child, or my father’s constant correction of my grammar and pronunciation, or his love for anything musical, but I know that had I not been exposed to the inspiring and extraordinary entertainment that I had growing up, I would not be the same.
I want to be part of that world and give back to the industry that gave me so much. Everyone could use an escape, a chance to live a life other than their own, if only for a couple hours. That is what entertainment is to me, and I am driven to be able to bring that to other people.