When songwriters Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz began work on Disney’s animated Pocahontas, they needed someone to demo the songs as part of their pitch for Disney to make the film. That someone was Broadway’s Judy Kuhn.
Kuhn had long-established herself as a voice to be reckoned with—from her Broadway debut in The Mystery of Edwin Drood to Schwartz’s Rags to Menken’s King David and, of course, as Broadway’s original Cosette in Les Misérables.
Menken and Schwartz’s score went on to win at the Academy Awards, as did their original song “Colors of the Wind.”
“‘Colors of the Wind’ is really the heart of the movie, in a way,” Kuhn tells Playbill. “Initially, Alan and Stephen had only written that song and Disney hadn’t decided that they were doing the movie yet.”
Kuhn and her fellow Disney leading ladies—Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Lillias White, and Donna Murphy—gathered to go behind the music with Menken as they filmed a bonus special “Alan Menken and His Leading Ladies” for the 30th anniversary celebration of the The Little Mermaid and the film’s release into the Walt Disney Signature Collection.
Here, Kuhn reflects on the lyrics of the torch song, her memories from the recording studio, and the enduring message of Pocahontas in the video above.
Watch our full interview with Kuhn, and be sure to catch the full bonus feature “Alan Menken and His Leading Ladies.” Available on digital, 4k Ultra HD, and Movies Anywhere February 12 and on 4k Ultra HD and Blu-ray February 26. The Little Mermaid also includes new bonus features inside the original recording sessions; a new installment of Stories From Walt’s Office, featuring “Gadgets & Gizmos” Disney kept in his office; a “#TreasuresUntold” special, revealing secrets about the original movie; DCappella’s fresh music video of “Part of Your World”; sing-along mode; and classic bonus features like deleted scenes, audio commentary from directors Ron Clements, John Musker, and Menken. Plus, only available on digital, three additional hours of bonus features and “Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective where Menken and Benson talk about finding Ariel’s voice, the peak of Disney “I Want” songs, and more.
Check out a clip from the bonus feature here: