Could Michael Jackson have ended up on Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack? It definitely seems like it was a possibility. Speaking with Slash Film for an oral history in celebration of the movie’s 25th anniversary on Monday (June 21), composer Alan Menken spoke on Jackson’s interest in the 1996 film.
Menken was looking for someone to sing the Aladdin song “A Whole New World” at the time he originally connected with Jackson, who was beginning to face allegations of child sex abuse at the time.
“I get a call out of nowhere from Michael’s assistant, when Michael was at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York,” Menken recalls. “He had to [deal with] allegations about inappropriate behavior with underage kids, and the breakup with Lisa Marie Presley. He’s looking to change the subject. And he obviously loves Disney so much. So I mentioned Hunchback. He said he’d love to come to my studio, watch the movie and talk about it. So we got in touch with Disney Animation. They said, ‘Meet with him! If he likes it…well, see what he says.’”
Menken says that when they met up, Jackson told him he wanted to produce three songs for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and even sing some of them. The songs were “Out There,” “God Help the Outcasts” and “Someday.”
“Wow. Okay. What do we do now? Michael left,” Menken remembers of the moment Jackson made the offer. “We got in touch with Disney. It was like somebody dropped a hot poker into a fragile bowl with explosives. ‘Uh, we’ll get back to you about that.’”
Eventually, Menken got his response, which was one he saw coming. “Finally, predictably, the word came back, ‘Disney doesn’t want to do this with Michael Jackson.” I go, ‘OK, could someone tell him this?’ You can hear a pin drop, no response, and nobody did [tell him]. It fell to my late manager, Scott Shukat, to tell Michael or Michael’s attorney.”
Even though there isn’t an explicit reason listed for Disney’s decision not to work with Jackson, it’s implied that the controversy surrounding led them to make that call.
Although it didn’t feature any involvement from Jackson, The Hunchback of Notre Dame still did huge numbers at the box office. The film grossed over $325 million worldwide, which made it the fifth-highest grossing movie of 1996.
You can read the rest of the oral history for Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame here.