UPDATE, 12:45 PM: Disney president and CEO Bob Iger has released this statement on Robert Sherman’s passing: “Today, on behalf of everyone at Disney, we mourn the loss of an extraordinary talent, Robert Sherman. One of the world’s greatest songwriters and a true Disney legend, his legacy will endure forever through the magic of his music. From ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘It’s A Small World’ to ‘Winnie The Pooh’ and ‘The Jungle Book’, Robert, along with his brother Richard, wrote many of Disney’s most memorable and beloved songs, which continue to enchant millions of people around the world to this day.”
PREVIOUS, TUESDAY AM: According to reports, songwriting legend Robert Sherman has died at the age of 86, in London. Sherman and his brother Richard penned such classic tunes from Disney films as Mary Poppins and Jungle Book, and non-Disney films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The siblings were adored by Walt Disney himself and proved a huge help to his efforts to generate quality family entertainment and theme parks (they wrote “It’s A Small World”). The brothers scored 23 gold and platinum albums, have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2008 received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush. The brothers also crafted the scores of tunes like “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine.”
Despite the happy words, they had a complicated relationship, and a glimpse of the acrimony between them was provided by Jeff and Gregg Sherman, the sons of Robert and Richard, respectively. Those cousins co-directed The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story, a 2009 documentary funded by Disney and produced by David Permut and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour. Jeff and Gregg Sherman never met when they were growing up, even though they lived seven blocks apart, because their fathers had a falling out after Disney died and didn’t speak for years. The siblings had differing life goals — WWII vet Robert wanted to write serious novels, while Richard wanted to write music — and just stopped communicating. Both were steered into songwriting by their father, Al Sherman, a Russian immigrant who was a Tin Pan Alley songwriter. The sons hit the big time with the Oscar-winning Mary Poppins, with unforgettable tunes that included “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”. Permut and Stiller had plans to turn the Sherman Brothers story into a dramatic feature, at least they did when they were prepping the documentary.