YOU may not know Howard Ashman by name but, chances are, you’ve heard his work. The legendary lyricist passed away in 1991- aged just 40 - but not before he gifted the world some of cinemas most beloved tunes.

It was Ashman, in collaboration with Alan Menken, who gave song to Disney classics: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Now, almost three decades on from his death, Disney Plus delves back into Asman’s rich career and personal life with the new documentary, Howard.

Directed by fellow Disney icon Don Hahn, who worked with Ashman as producer of Beauty and the Beast, Howard made its original debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018. A limited cinematic release followed towards the end of the year but it is only with the advent of Disney streaming service that the film has found its mainstream audience. And hoorah to that. Ashman and Hahn deserve no less.

Much like Hahn’s 2009 Disney doc Waking Sleeping Beauty, Howard switches conventional talking heads in favour of a constant stream of footage and photography and occasional speech bubbles to indicate the present speaker.

A boy from Baltimore, Ashman was a creative force to be reckoned with from the first. It’s an affectionate opening that charts Howard’s early years and hints at a loving but strained relationship with his father, who struggled to come to terms with his son’s preference for Broadway over baseball. Young Howard was a poet and a playwright from the off and, in his own words, ‘used to make musicals out of anything that moved’. Even the washing machine had an encore.

For all its joy, Howard is a film unavoidably tinged with tragic undertones. For every triumph - in 1977 Ashman co-founded a deep dive ‘hole in the wall’ downtown theatre and made a success of it - there’s a relationship breakdown, failed inaugural transition to bigger stages and, latterly, diagnosis of HIV/AIDS around the corner. The film even goes so far as to infer that Ashman suppressed the story of his own illness in the name of insurance and the reputation of the Disney studio.

And yet, Howard remains a relentlessly positive feature as far as can be achieved. There’s something terribly exciting about Hahn’s presentation of a journey in motion and magic in a climax that peaks at the House of Mouse.