The 2016 Animated Oscar Crossword Across
1. director Madonna’s “___ the Groove” Showing a film Clamor Akeelah and the Dog breed in Joke Evil or No? __ The Secret Life of Pets Russian animated film franchise Studio that produced Jerry and Mickey, e.g. The Red Turtle Kubo and the Two Strings “I did it __ way” Frank Sinatra
From those early days in the 1920s, music and animation have always enjoyed a special relationship. But the art and business of composing for animated films and series have changed a lot over the past couple of decades thanks to technological advances, as well as the growth of new outlets for content.
“One of the positive aspects of creating music for animation these days is that the tools you need are a lot more affordable,” says Christopher Drake, a prolific composer who got his big break in the business writing music for the two animated Hellboy movies and went on to work on several DC Comics home-video movies such as Superman/ Batman: Public Enemy, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Justice League: Doom. “You can also learn everything you need to know about the business online. The challenging part is that, because everything is more accessible, the level of competition is also very high and the market is flooded with composers. So you have to be more creative about creating opportunities for yourself.”
Of course, the most common question about composing tunes for toons is: “How do you land a job like that?” The answer is as different as the myriad ways you can get your foot in the door. Drake, for example, got his first gig after meeting horror master Guillermo del Toro at a special haunted Halloween horror show in Studio City, Calif. “It was a special V.I.P. night and people like Frank Darabont, John Landis, Rob Zombie, Joe Dante and Guillermo were there,” he says. “He heard the music I had done for the horror show, and we talked about our love of monsters and genre movies, so later, he recommended me for the animated Hellboy gig.”
A similar chance encounter jumpstarted the music career of Sebastian Evans, whose many TV animation credits include Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, Transfomers: Animated, Ben 10: Omniverse and Nickelodeon’s current take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Evans made a very important toon connection when he arrived in Los Angeles, right after high school, and was waiting in line for Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace in 1999. That’s where he met and bonded with animation veteran Ciro Nieli.
“I moved to L.A. without any formal training in music, and I didn’t know anyone in the business,” says Evans. “I was very lucky to run into Ciro in line at the movie. He told me about this Warner Bros. animation pilot program, and he was instrumental in me getting my foot in the door. We both loved the same types of movies and TV shows, and I am so glad I got to work with him on many of his shows.”
Ever since he was a young boy, Evans knew that he wanted to compose music for animation and fantasy films. So he studied music and taught himself everything he needed to know about creating music all through high school. When he moved to L.A. after high school, he put together a CD with an eclectic mix of all types of music he had created himself. That kind of passion and experimentation with different genres of music is key to landing a job in the business. “You need to be as eclectic and diverse as you can possibly be,” he says. “The more styles you are familiar with, the better your chances are of impressing people.”
Composer Kevin Kliesch, whose many animation credits include the upcoming Tangled: Before Ever After series, Sofia the First, Tangled, ThunderCats and Superman: Unbound, began his career as a composer’s assistant, which led to opportunities to orchestrate other composers’ scores. “I became known around town as an orchestrator, even thought what I had really wanted to do was compose. I spent the next 14 years orchestrating for other composers, until my work on Disney’s Tangled movie led to an opportunity to score the reboot of the 1980s ThunderCats series. I auditioned for that show and got the job, which was my first true job writing the music for a network television show.”
Gravity Falls, We Bare Bears and Voltron: Legendary Defender composer Breeck met his wife, Gina, while studying music composition at CalArts. Through Gina, who was an animation major, Breeck met another animator who was working on a couple of Frederator animated shorts. After producing the music for those shorts, he got to compose the music for Frederator-produced series Fanboy & Chum Chum for Nickelodeon.
Composer Danny Jacob ( Phineas and Ferb, Milo Murphy’s Law) learned the nuts