The holiday season is upon us, and Disney Plus is celebrating the occasion with their “Seasons Streaming” lineup! One such addition to the holiday library is MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS, a new stop-motion animated short film that will be released on Disney+ on Monday, November 28. To celebrate the upcoming release of MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS, I sat down with the film’s songwriters, Ben Zeadman and Laura Schein, for an exclusive interview! Keep reading for our full conversation:

CORBAN: Hi Ben and Laura! Thanks for taking the time to share your story with our readers. I’m so excited to get into the holiday spirit with MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS next weekend! When did the two of you start working together, and how did you get involved with Disney and MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS?

BEN AND LAURA: We started writing together on a magical day in September 2019 on a musical series called MARRIAGE MATERIAL for Jeffrey Katzenberg at Quibi. Although that project never made it to the screen (RIP Quibi), it’s now in the works as a musical feature film. We first got the opportunity to submit a song for a Disney series in November 2019. Although we didn’t get that job, Jay Stutler at Disney was intrigued by our work and invited us to the iconic offices in Burbank to geek out together over musicals and Disney animation. He encouraged us to keep submitting our work, and over the course of the next two years, we wrote A LOT of songs and wondered when we’d get our chance to work for the mouse. And then, in January 2022, just before we folded up the Christmas tree, we got the call that we landed the job as the songwriters for MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS. I guess Christmas came very early this year!

CORBAN: That’s so amazing! If you can, walk me through the process of writing music and lyrics for MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS from start to finish. Were there any difficulties or obstacles along the way?

BEN AND LAURA: Honestly, it was a dream process and everyone at Disney was incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about our work from start to finish. Because stop-motion is a complicated process, the songs came first before the animators got to work. We had early meetings with director David H. Brooks and the Disney team, and they gave us full liberty to let our imaginations run wild. The characters are obviously iconic, so we knew exactly what voices we were writing for and what vocal ranges we were working with. It was super fun to put ourselves into the minds of Mickey and the gang, characters we grew up with and adore. We worked hard to maintain their classic quirks and work them into the lyrics and melodies. It was, however, a rapid process, and the challenge was to maintain our high standards while making the deadlines. The recording sessions were a blast, and it was a true dream come true to hear these legendary voices sing our songs. We were honestly pinching ourselves while recording Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy since 1987!

CORBAN: The characters of the “Fab Five” are so iconic among Disney fans and popular culture, so getting to writing music for characters like Mickey and Minnie probably involves a combination of pressure and excitement! You both mentioned earlier that you have extensive experience in the world of musical theatre. How is writing for a short film like MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS similar or different from writing for an onstage production? What musicals have inspired both of your careers?

BEN AND LAURA: Yup, we are both bonafide musical theatre nerds and have worked on hundreds of stage musicals. One of the main things we’ve learned while writing songs for animation is that there are so many detailed actions that need to take place during the course of a short song. You can’t write the songs in a vacuum, you have to incorporate scripted actions to tell the story, and the lyrics often support those actions. In theatre, you have more time for songs to grow and go in different directions. In animation, especially a short film like this one, the time constraints can’t be ignored. When asked to write a 1.5 min song, we couldn’t deliver a 3 min song, even if we were inspired to write one. The challenge was always to keep the energy alive and the narrative moving within the allotted screen time. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman brought Broadway to Hollywood and restructured the way animators and filmmakers envisioned musical numbers within a movie, and we hope that we’re following in their massive footsteps. We were both 90’s kids who grew up on THE LITTLE MERMAID, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and ALADDIN. So to be able to play in this playground is pretty unreal.

CORBAN: Disney has such an amazing track record of great musicians and songwriters, and I am so excited to hear your work alongside the classics! And speaking of musical theatre, I wanted to give a big congrats to Laura, who recently co-wrote the musical EMOJILAND! While the pandemic had an unfortunate impact on that production, what do you take away from a major accomplishment like that?

LAURA: Thank you for asking! Premiering EMOJILAND at The Duke on 42nd Street in 2020 was a true labor of love. My EMOJILAND co-writer and I had the idea in 2014, and over the course of the next six years, we did about eight page one rewrites and wrote over fifty songs for the show before getting it to NYC. We definitely learned how to write a musical through the process, and I’m so grateful to all the humans who were instrumental in helping bring EMOJILAND to where it is today. And although the pandemic shut down our NYC production, EMOJILAND is far from over. I just got back from London where the show played a one-night-only concert in anticipation of a full West End run. So, after eight years of nurturing this creative baby, my big takeaway is that anything is possible, and when people tell you to give it up, don’t.

CORBAN: Such great advice! And the West End?! That’s amazing! I’ve got a quick question for Ben – alongside songwriting, you also composed the music for MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS. What instrumentation did you use to capture the festive holiday atmosphere of the short film?

BEN: To capture the spirit of Christmas, I was inspired by listening to iconic soundtracks from movies like THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, HOME ALONE, and Christmas classics like Tchaikovsky’s THE NUTCRACKER. I incorporated motifs from our original songs into the score in order to highlight specific story moments. The score was recorded with live strings, brass, and woodwinds from players all over the world who were so excited to work on a Disney score. Everyone got into the holiday spirit early this year 🙂 Obviously this massive job could not have been done alone. My wonderful orchestrators Rami Osservaser and Daniel Markovich were instrumental in bringing my musical vision to life. Daniel, who also worked intensely with me on the orchestrations for the score, took such care with the details in the animatic, making sure that each note supported the story and the characters’ emotions.

CORBAN: With projects like these, it definitely takes a village! Do you both have any future projects in the works, and where can our readers connect with you?

BEN AND LAURA: We do! We’re the songwriters (and Ben also co-composed the score) for the currently streaming #1 Paramount+ feature HONOR SOCIETY starring Angourie Rice and Gaten Matarazzo, directed by MARRIAGE MATERIAL creator Oran Zegman. We have a bunch of other projects in the works, both animated and live action, and if people are eager to learn more, they can follow us on social media @zeadmanandschein for sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes.

CORBAN: I’ll be keeping an eye out for your names on even more awesome projects in the future! Thanks again for chatting today about MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS!

MICKEY SAVES CHRISTMAS will be airing on ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD on November 27 and will stream on Disney+ on Monday, November 28.

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Corban Anderson

Corban has been a lifelong fan of The Walt Disney Company. Disney music is often the soundtrack of his life, and he loves listening to a new film score. In between new episodes of The Mandalorian, you can often find him planning his next trip to the Disney Parks or rewatching classic Disney TV shows.

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