It’s hard to pick the wildest moment of Sausage Party. Is it the talking food products? The blatant racial stereotyping? The drug use? The sex? When Seth Rogen makes an animated film about a group of grocery store items (including Rogen as a hot dog and Kristen Wiig as his hot dog bun girlfriend) who finally realize about what happens once they leave that grocery store, there's plenty to choose from. But in all 89 minutes of comic shock, the wholesome music that soundtracks the misadventures of this ragtag group of food (a bagel, some lavash, and a taco voiced by Salma Hayek join the pair) might be the most jarring. Especially when you consider who made it: Alan Freaking Menken, the composer behind classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.
The film opens with a grand musical number featuring the entirety of the supermarket cheerily singing about their fate beyond the fluorescent lighting of the aisles. Keeping in line with the film, the song, “The Great Beyond,” sounds like typical Disney fare on the surface, but a close listen reveals lyrics that are just as dirty as the rest of the movie.
Menken tells us that the Disney-ification of the opening was very purposeful. “Seth and company knew that they wanted a song along the lines of a Disney opening number, but twisted in a subversive way."
Of course, getting that Disney sound just right took a ton of ideas and even more time. "We discussed prototypes of songs with them and familiarized ourselves with their storyline. Then we pitched musical and lyrical ideas. Over the course of about 2 years of working with them we learned that they are of the we’ll-know-we-like-it-when-we-hear-it school of creativity.”
So just how did the man behind the majority of your favorite Disney music end up as the composer of the dirtiest movie in recent history? He was simply asked. “Glenn Slater [his frequent collaborator] and I were working on an animated musical at Dreamworks based on the Sid and Marty Krofft TV series from the 60’s titled Lidsville. One day, the director Conrad Vernon mentioned this crazy animated project that he was working on with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. They needed songs and a score. We both said we were interested. The rest is history."
It’s easy to assume that Rogen and Co. thought that Menken, with his insanely impressive resume and longtime association with Disney, would be impossible to get. In a film that features shock after shock, seeing Menken’s name in the credits was a baffling one. But he doesn’t see it as much of a departure from work that he’s done before. “At the end of the day, the song really reflects their type of humor and my type of music.”
While he was just as shocked seeing the final product as the rest of us, he rightfully notes that it’d be more surprising if a Rogen movie didn't cross the line. But Menken does think that Sausage Party highlights what animated film can do in both style and narrative. “I think it does push the envelope of what animation can express in a very big way. The music is really the straight man in this deal.” Despite all the squirming that Sausage Party invokes, Menken says that it really is much closer to the Disney classics than we might initially think. “We play it sincerely, as if this is Beauty and the Beast, and, in a sense, that’s part of the joke. But, in the end, this movie has a sweet heart. And the music and story work together to achieve that.”