Da Doo Blog

A New Beauty, A New Beast, A Legacy Forever

I had no idea that there would be a legacy.  When Howard died, and for many years after, it really didn’t occur to me that his work, and even more so, his name would survive much beyond a few years.

In honesty, it’s not something I thought about much, and I cared about it even less.  All I really knew was the sting and emptiness of loss.  And the memories of illness and pain that overshadowed all the earlier, happier memories of my brother.

It was not the first time I had mourned, but I now know that mourning is its own planet.  Each time you are dragged into its gravitational force is a first time.  And each time you mourn, the experience is different; though some things remain constant – the sleeplessness, the obliviousness to the world around you, the pull ever downward of grief and despair.

But eventually, and for me that eventually took years, I peeked my head back into the world and noticed something.

Howard had a legacy.  Howard was not going to be forgotten.  I thought his work would live on for a generation or so and that was good.  I also thought that his name would not. That’s why we started this website in the first place, because I thought Howard’s name would be forgotten without it. But I could see that a generation or so would appreciate the work he did.

The first time it really occurred to me that Howard’s legacy might last beyond that one generation was about eight years after he died.  I was at a business conference in Orlando and, since I was there, I went to Disney World.  And the first song I heard was “Be Our Guest.”  And when I looked around I saw little girls wearing mermaid fins and yellow ball gowns.  And I honestly, maybe ridiculously, was surprised.

Howard died on March 14, 1991.  Six months after he died, Disney had a public screening of a rough cut of their new animated film, Beauty and the Beast.  Billed as a “Work in Progress” It was screened at Lincoln Center as part of the New York Film Festival and received a standing ovation.  It was the first time I saw that the animated film itself was dedicated:

To our friend Howard.  Who gave a Mermaid her voice and a Beast his soul.  We will be forever grateful

Last night, twenty-six years later and one day before the anniversary of Howard’s death, we were again at Lincoln Center.  And again, we were seeing Beauty and the Beast.  Yes, this time there were live actors on the screen but everything was ever as before and too, ever a surprise.  Beauty is ready for the next generation – and for generations to come.

That is, indeed, a legacy.


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Posted on: March 14th, 2017 by Sarah Ashman Gillespie 7 Comments

7 Responses

  1. Gerardo says:

    Thank you for your post! What an amazing man he was. I saw the film three times this weekend, loved it… agree with what others have said… his heart and soul is everywhere in it. Even after countless times I have seen the original movie, directed the stage show, and have been listening to the new soundtrack over and over, I still get chills to think how amazingly and beautifully Howard channeled all his pain and all his love into his work. A true artist and genius, thank you.

  2. Georgina Warren says:

    I am a lifelong fan of these beautiful songs Howard created for these Disney films. Like other members of my generation I grew up watching Mermaid, Beauty, and Aladdin and I’ve got the lyrics memorized by heart. The trailer for the new version of Beauty and the Beast has hit me with a wave of nostalgia and I’ve read more about his life and interviews with people who knew him best. I’m eager to see the new film and I would like to send a letter that describes the admiration I have for Howard Ashman and the way his talent has changed my life.

  3. P says:

    Thanks for posting! I watched the movie last night and with tears I was thinking of one person, Howard.

  4. Paul Gruber says:

    Howard was so talented, and now, even 26 years later, Howard’s heart and soul is all over this new 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast. I loved the movie, and as the final credits rolled, tears were streaming down my face as Howard’s name appeared on the screen. How sad that Howard did not live to see the tremendous impact he left on this world. Thank you Howard! Your legacy will forever live on. RIP.

  5. Elias says:


  6. sara milrad says:

    love this and love you! can’t wait to see it in theaters soon!!!

  7. Rosie says:

    That was lovely to read Sarah. And what a sweet picture of Howard with his cat :)

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