How Lin-Manuel Miranda paid tribute to Disney lyricist Howard Ashman in his Broadway smash

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One of the many joys of seeing Hamilton — or listening to the soundtrack or reading through the #Hamiltome — is catching all the references to different musical genres and artists.

Many of those are well known by this point, like the Notorious B.I.G. homage in “My Shot” or the nod to Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years in “Say No to This,” but even die-hard fans might not know that there’s a reference to one of Disney’s most famous animated classics embedded within the musical about the Founding Father without a father.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke to EW ahead of the 25th anniversary of Beauty and the Beast, he revealed that one of the lines in the Hamilton song “Take a Break” is a tribute to the late Howard Ashman, who penned songs with composer Alan Menken for Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin.

Asked about his favorite song in Beauty, he replied, “This sounds so messed up to say, but it’s ‘The Mob Song’! It’s so intensely dramatic and insane but the melody is so good. It was so exciting, and yet, these are townspeople who we loved in the opening, whipped up into this fervor. So it’s complicated! It’s emotionally complicated to see the townspeople you loved at the beginning fighting the silverware that you hated and Gaston turns into this monster. He’s literally quoting Macbeth: ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place and we’ll not fail.’ The perils of ambition.”

And the reference? “I actually have a ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place’ quote in Hamilton and it’s a nod to both Shakespeare and Howard Ashman, because that song just wrecked my life,” he added.

In a clip from the Beauty and the Beast special anniversary edition, out now on digital HD and coming to Blu-ray later this month, Miranda highlighted another lyric from the 1991 animated classic that he loves, which comes in the movie’s groundbreaking opening number, “Belle.”

“When she sings, ‘Isn’t this amazing? It’s my favorite part because — you’ll see,’ she interrupts her own train of though to point something out. What she’s pointing out is literally the story she’s about to go through,” he said. “She’s going to meet a prince in disguise, a castle — her favorite book is actually the story she’s going to live. So there’s this crazy bit of foreshadowing that’s happening, but it’s also that interrupting your thought to say how excited you are, is the kind of sophisticated, character-revealing lyric writing that Howard Ashman was so good at.”

Miranda becomes the latest composer to carry the Disney torch with Moana, which arrives in theaters Nov. 23. He’s also on board with the studio to star alongside Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns, and teaming up with Menken for a live-action version of The Little Mermaid.

Head here for more from Miranda, Menken, Stephen Schwartz, and Frozen’s Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez on the 25th anniversary of Beauty and the Beast.

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