Howard Ashman and Wolfgang Puck documentaries

Today, I attended a Disney+ presentation in Hollywood, where we learned that the upcoming streaming service will be the home of two interesting documentaries.

Don Hahn, the producer of Disney animation movies like The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and a talented director in his own right, directed a film about the life of Howard Ashman, the acclaimed lyricist behind films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, and that movie will be available next year on Disney+. And filmmaker David Gelb, who directed the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is returning to profile another famous chef in a new doc about Wolfgang Puck.

Disney+ has acquired the worldwide distribution rights for Howard, which played at some film festivals last year but doesn’t seem to have ever gotten a proper release beyond that. Don Hahn views this documentary as something of a follow-up to his 2009 documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty, which charted the rise of Walt Disney Animation into its golden age in the late ’80s and ’90s. Howard will tell the story of the whip sharp mind behind the songs of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and musicals like Little Shop of Horrors. Howard Ashman tragically died at age 40 due to complications from AIDS. The film will stream exclusively on Disney+ in 2020.

On a more upbeat note, though, did you know that Jerry Orbach, the guy who played Jennifer Grey’s dad in Dirty Dancing and who appeared in 250+ episodes of Law & Order, was the voice of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast? Because this is somehow the first I’m hearing about this, and my mind is kind of blown over here.

Wolfgang Puck David Gelb

Meanwhile, David Gelb, the guy who directed Jiro Dreams of Sushi and created the Netflix series Chef’s Table, is heading back into the world of food once again to direct a Wolfgang Puck documentary called Wolfgang. The doc is described as “an intimate portrait of the life and work of the original ‘celebrity chef,’ Wolfgang Puck.” There’s no word yet about when this project will hit the new streaming service, but this is the first new work from Gelb since his 2015 documentary A Faster Horse, which was about the Ford Mustang. (Trivia: Gelb also directed the 2015 horror movie The Lazarus Effect, which had a terrific cast and…not much else.) But assuming he puts the same amount of care and style into this new movie as his previous food docs, this one should be another treat for audiences.

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