Disney legend Alan Menken says they could never remake 'Pocahontas' without 'offending somebody'

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Pocahontas (Credit: Disney)

The Disney legend behind the scores for movies like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast has said that the studio would likely draw the line at remaking Pocahontas, for fear of causing offence.

Alan Menken has won Oscars and Grammys for his music, which has also appeared in movies like Little Shop of Horrors and Tangled.

And now it features in the Guy Ritchie live-action remake of Aladdin, but it's the 1995 romantic adventure about a Native American girl who falls for a white settler that he reckons would prove difficult to reinterpret.

Read more: Guy Ritchie doesn’t understand Aladdin backlash

Speaking about the glut of Disney movies being remade in live-action, he said (via Digital Spy): “The Little Mermaid’s next, with Rob Marshall directing and I’m going to be having lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda – who I knew since he was a little kid!

“They’re developing Hunchback [of Notre Dame], which will be complicated because there are dark aspects to that which we’re going to have to navigate.

Alan Menken (Credit: KGC-158/STAR MAX/IPx)

“I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do Pocahontas, I think that story is going to be difficult. With modern sensibilities, it’d be hard – you’re going to offend somebody – so I don’t know.”

Menken has added a new song, Speechless, sung by Naomi Scott's Princess Jasmine, to the Guy Ritchie remake too.

“I'm happy to come back to these films and continue to add to them. Writing Speechless was a surprising benefit,” he added.

Read more: The mockery of Will Smith’s Aladdin genie is real

“It was one of those songs that wouldn't have existed otherwise.”

Menken also spoke about amending the lyrics for accuracy in the number Prince Ali, now performed by Will Smith's Genie.

Will Smith as the Genie in Aladdin (Credit: Disney)

“It is no longer 'Sunday salaam'. It's 'Friday salaam'. Things got corrected, certain things got removed. Like, we used to have [in the lyrics to Arabian Nights], 'The heat is intense / It's barbaric / But hey, it's home',” Menken said.

“But originally, what Howard [Ashman, Menken's lyricist] and I wrote actually was, 'Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face / It's barbaric / But hey, it's home'. That went fast. We thought it was funny. But I don't think Arabic people thought it was all that funny, so that got changed.

“Then the word 'barbaric' came out. It's a filter, you have to look at what's happening today. Values go upside-down in a blink. It's inevitable, you have got to take that really seriously.”

Aladdin hits screens across the UK from today.