That’s among the many takeaways from an oral history of the Disney classic from Slash Film’s Josh Spiegel, published Monday. Composer Alan Menken, who handled the music for Hunchback, said he first met Jackson when he was looking for someone to take on “A Whole New World” for 1992’s Aladdin. At the time, Menken said, Jackson was a “very unique” and “interesting” individual who was “in his own world.”
Later, per Menken, Jackson’s assistant called him “out of nowhere” when Jackson was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York.
“He had to [deal with] allegations about inappropriate behavior with underage kids, and the breakup with Lisa Marie Presley,” Menken recalled. “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.’”
At the time, the focus was on three songs: “Out There,” “God Help the Outcasts,” and “Someday.” As Menken recalled, Jackson told him he was interested in producing the tracks and recording some of them.
“We got in touch with Disney,” Menken, whose catalog also includes work on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, said. “It was like somebody dropped a hot poker into a fragile bowl with explosives. ‘Uh, we’ll get back to you about that.’”
Ultimately, of course, Disney opted to turn down Jackson’s offer to be involved with the songs.
“Finally, predictably, the word came back, ‘Disney doesn’t want to do this with Michael Jackson,’” Menken said. “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. In retrospect, it was the right decision. [But] Quasimodo is a character…if you look at his relationships with his family and his father, I would think there’s a lot of identification there.”
Peep the full Hunchback oral history over at Slash Film.
In a 2012 biography, writer Randall Sullivan reported on Jackson’s appreciation for the 1939 adaptation of Hunchback. Sullivan even went so far as to claim that Jackson would regularly watch that version of the Hugo story with a screenwriter friend while discussing his desire to one day portray Quasimodo himself.
In May of this year, it was reported that a court had ruled on the value of Jackson’s image. U.S. Tax Court Judge Mark Holmes determined the worth to be $4.15 million, which will cut down on the estate taxes bill.