Walt Disney Records has released in full "A Whole New World," the Aladdin love ballad performed by stars Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott.
Reinterpreted by returning composer Alan Menken, who brings a contemporary update to the Oscar-winning score he provided for the 1992 animated film, the classic song was reimagined to better suit its translation to live-action. This meant a more minimal approach for Aladdin and Jasmine's moonlit magic carpet ride, and "textual" changes throughout for the score.
"In animation, you're drawing on a much more melodically driven score, and certainly back in 1992 I was still doing quite a bit of what we called 'Mickey Mouse-ing,' which is using music almost as sound effect. That was part of the tradition that goes all the way back to the earliest days of Walt," Menken says in a new interview via The Walt Disney Company.
The action-driven score is tailored to suit the kinetic energy of director Guy Ritchie, reflecting Ritchie's high-energy look and style. "I want to pull as much as possible toward the 'Musical' — with a capital M — and a Guy Ritchie action-adventure, romantic movie," Menken said.
Menken also has praise for star Will Smith, who served as "architect" on the Smith-influenced new takes on "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali," Genie's pair of big performances.
"He brought such new light to the songs. He brought his personality and his style to them the same way Robin Williams did," Menken said.
Oscar and Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman, La La Land) partnered again for "Speechless," the self-empowerment anthem performed by Scott's Jasmine as the Agrabah princess fights to find her voice.
"She's a flesh-and-blood three-dimensional young woman who wants to be heard and wants to be respected, and the song needs to reflect that," said.
Menken and Pasek and Paul aimed to craft a song that could fit within the world of Aladdin as well as pierce the pop music world.
"They came back with a staggeringly beautiful lyric," Menken said of the hit song. "It definitely raised the bar for the entire movie in a big way and from that point forward, it was a matter of making sure that the movie supported the emotion in that song — that the storyline laid the right pipe so that we were ready for it."
The eight-time Oscar winner, who also revisited the music of Beauty and the Beast in its own live-action film in 2017, will next return under the sea for Disney's live-action spin on 1989's The Little Mermaid. That his music continues to reach a whole new generation of moviegoers makes Menken a proud parent.
"These songs are living their lives," he said. "I'm sort of there to help guide them along and the fact that I get the privilege of reinventing them a number of times is a new phenomenon. It's a thrill."
Aladdin is now playing.