Disney+ Walks Back On Removing Powerful Documentary About The Little Mermaid Lyricist Howard Ashman After The Internet Was Rightfully Upset

Howard documentary poster Disney+
(Image credit: Disney+)

Well, here’s a rare instance of the wrath of the internet being used for good. As the Walt Disney Company undergoes budget cuts that included thousands of Disney layoffs, a Thursday report shared that numerous Disney+ titles were on the chopping block next, including many of the streamer’s originals like Willow, Big Shot and The Mysterious Benedict Society. One title that particularly boiled Disney fans brains was the intended removal of the 2018 documentary Howard on the same day as The Little Mermaid remake is set to hit theaters. 

The late Howard Ashman was an accomplished lyricist behind the beloved songs of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, along with three big songs from Aladdin (“Arabian Nights,” “Prince Ali” and “Friend Like Me”). Ashman’s work with Disney is credited with breathing back the life to the animation studio and dawning what’s called the Disney Renaissance Era with his work for the company. Ashman, who was a queer man, got diagnosed with HIV/AIDS during the production of The Little Mermaid and died in 1991 before he could truly see the fruits of his labor for Disney. Howard tells that story. 

So when word came in that Howard would be removed from Disney+ just as the House of Mouse is set to see a huge box office opening weekend for the live-action The Little Mermaid, fans were understandably upset. CinemaBlend’s own Dirk Libbey said this on Twitter amidst the news: 

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Thankfully, following the backlash, Deadline has reported that a Disney rep walked back on the report and shared that Howard would no longer be removed from the service, and that the list of titles leaving Disney+ and Hulu next week is “still being finalized.” The report comes after another fan pointed this out: 

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It also especially angered fans to see the important documentary about an unsung hero of Disney be removed just days before Pride Month kicks off in June. As the documentary shows audiences, many of the beloved Disney songs like “Part of Your World” and “The Mob Song” actually have roots in Ashman’s perspective of feeling like an outsider as a queer man. Here’s another reaction: 

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Howard may be safe, but it isn’t the only title that is LGBTQ+-focused title that could be removed from the platform. Better Nate Than Ever, which is centered on a young queer kid following his dreams to be on Broadway, and Willow, which has multiple LGBTQ+ characters, are also among the titles on the list. As one fan pointed out: 

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Disney is officially suing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis following the Mouse House withdrawing support of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bars sexual orientation and gender identity conversations in schools until third grade. That legal battle is still pending, but for now at least it’s great the internet can take this win, watch Howard with a Disney+ subscription and celebrate the studio’s key LGBTQ+ figures. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.