Alan Menken has done it all. He recently won his first Emmy award, making him the 16th person to ever achieve the EGOT, winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award. He's also behind some of the most memorable and iconic music ever written. But never let it be said that writing those songs is easy. Case in point, Aladdin's iconic, and Oscar-winning song, "A Whole New World" Was tentatively titled "The World at My Feet" until Menken's lyracist decided that Disney lone songs shouldn't be about feet.
Alan Menken recently spoke with ReelBlend co-host Jake Hamilton about his long career in music, and he talked about the process of coming up with the music for the film. While the process of coming up with music or lyrics first can vary with the song or the songwriters, but in the case of "Whole New World," Menken found the music that he thought felt like it was perfect for flying through the sky. He then put a simple lyric to the music in order to give his lyricist, Tim Rice, an idea of what he was going for. However, Rice was not fond of Menken's title...
I sent Tim Rice a piece of music and a dummy lyric to give him a sense of where I thought the structure might be. And in my structure I actually sent him a piece of music that went ‘The World at My Feet’ Very wisely Tim felt that maybe the word ‘feet’ would be better not in the title of a Disney love song.
"The World at my Feet" honestly sounds like a perfectly reasonable title for a song, but maybe not, specifically, this kind of song. A Disney love song that repeatedly returns to the image of feet probably won't feel quite as romantic, even if it's hard to explain why it doesn't work. Tim Rice helped the song become "A Whole New World" and the rest is history.
To be fair, it seems unlikely there was ever a massive chance that Alan Menken's lyrics would have survived. If Tim Rice had truly loved them then maybe he would have decided to keep the title, but they were only really meant to give Rice an idea of what Menken thought the song would sound like.
Tim Rice was one of two lyricists that Alan Menken worked with on Aladdin. Tim Rice was brought in to finish the work started by Menken and Howard Ashman, who had started work on Aladdin but passed away during the production of Disney's previous film, Beauty & the Beast. When "A Whole New World" won the Oscar, it beat out "A Friend Like Me" one of the songs written by Menken and Ashman.