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Oz the Great and Powerful
Composed and Produced by:
Danny Elfman

Conducted by:
Pete Anthony
Marc Mann

Orchestrated by:
Steve Bartek
Edgardo Simone
David Slonaker

Additional Arrangements by:
T.J. Lindgren

Walt Disney Records/
Intrada Records

Release Date:
March 5th, 2013

Also See:
Alice in Wonderland
Dark Shadows
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Corpse Bride

Audio Clips:
1. Main Titles (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

6. Fireside Dance (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

21. Bedtime/The Preparation Montage (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

26. Time For Gifts (0:32):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

The download (Disney) and CD (Disney/Intrada Records) contents are identical, the latter initially selling for $20.


Oz the Great and Powerful
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Sales Rank: 112247

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Buy it... if Danny Elfman can do no wrong for you in the fantasy genre, especially when he firmly roots his scores in the comfort zone of his robust orchestral and choral traditions.

Avoid it... if you expect this work to compete favorably with Elfman's truly remarkable Alice in Wonderland, his themes and narrative flow not as solid in this stylistically related venture.

Oz the Great and Powerful: (Danny Elfman) From the very beginning, Walt Disney Studios was interested in adapting L. Frank Baum's "Oz" novels of the early 1900's into movies, but MGM bought the rights to The Wizard of Oz before Disney could do so in the 1930's. Many decades later, Disney did eventually follow its initial interest in the Baum stories, but none of their efforts was as successful as their 2013 endeavor, Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel set twenty years prior to the events of The Wizard of Oz. The titular Oz is Oscar Diggs, a stage magician of dubious character in America's Midwest who is transported via tornado to the mythical land of Oz and is confronted by fantastic creatures and wicked witches. He becomes involved in the internal power struggles of the land, eventually using his magic and wit to become a hero who can restore justice and, of course, claim the best of the witches for himself. The Sam Raimi film was not met with a tremendous amount of acclaim, critics ambivalent about the project due to concerns about casting, pacing, and cohesion. Nevertheless, Oz the Great and Powerful followed its artistic predecessor, 2010's Alice in Wonderland, in wooing audiences out of hundreds of millions of dollars, easily recouping its budget in excess of $200 million within just a couple of weeks. The 2013 visual spectacle shared several production aspects with Alice in Wonderland, including a wondrous score from Danny Elfman that once again returns to the composer's early fantasy realm. The attachment of Elfman to Oz the Great and Powerful came as something of a surprise for enthusiasts of the composer. After the extraordinarily frustrating experiences the composer shared about working with Raimi on Spider-Man 2, despite an amicable relationship prior, Elfman claimed he would never work with the director again. "To see such a profound negative change in a human being was almost enough to make me feel like I didn't want to make films anymore," he said in 2005. "It was really disheartening and sad to see the way it ended up. The end of Spider-Man 2 was a self-induced hysteria." Eight years and some healing later, Elfman rebutted that the reason he was attracted to Oz the Great and Powerful was due primarily to the involvement of Raimi, completely brushing aside his prior complaints about the director's apparently one-time hysteria.

The assignment of Oz the Great and Powerful for Elfman was, unlike Spider-Man 2, a remarkably easy and positive experience. Ever since Alice in Wonderland reasserted the broad fantasy element in the composer's career, he has seemed very comfortable with it, the results in subsequent related works ranging from average to excellent and always raising memories of the music that initially launched Elfman into the spotlight of film scoring. He was asked by Raimi to write a music box waltz for the witches in pre-production, the director eventually requesting fully orchestrated versions of that theme for other source usage necessary while shooting the picture. Eventually, once Elfman started writing the full score, only six rather effortless weeks proved necessary to complete the project. He further erased any bad blood with Raimi through his many proclamations that the process on Oz the Great and Powerful was "fast" and "natural" for him, because he was allowed to follow a comfortable narrative pattern of writing that fits snugly with the "old school, but not self-consciously old-fashioned" style of melodrama that he prefers. As he reaffirms, "I can tell a story in the music" in this type of environment, an allowance that propelled Alice in Wonderland to such great success. Elfman wrote roughly 75 minutes of music featured in the 2013 picture, and most of that material was translated into a long, generous album presentation. The fully orchestral work is devoid of obvious synthetic accompaniment, instead utilizing the more familiar choral tones typical to any Elfman fantasy music. The tone of the writing, as well as the accompanying orchestrations, are absolutely pure Elfman tradition in their execution, nothing about the recording likely to surprise the learned collector of the composer's albums. The music box, organ, stomping tuba rhythms, melancholy violin performances, brass that answers back and forth within the section, prominent bassoons in the mix, cimbalom or mandolin for a touch of wickedness, marching snares for determination, bass string ostinatos for preparation, chimes for resolution, and other instrumental applications are all easily recognizable within Elfman's palette. Underutilized are some puffed woodwinds in "A Strange World" and others that are not expanded upon satisfactorily. The tone of the music box is well handled, Elfman's obsession with its sound yielding effective narrative implications here without becoming a stereotypical nuisance.

From the whimsy of lightly dramatic strings to the force of brass and percussion rhythms in a tizzy, few typical techniques for the composer are absent in Oz the Great and Powerful, the most notable among them being the pleasing use of cooing choir for sentimentality. The singers' contribution to Oz the Great and Powerful isn't as creative as what listeners enjoyed in Alice in Wonderland, however. Only one source-like "song" of sorts is obvious in the work, Elfman's "The Munchkin's Welcome Song" an upbeat little piece that the composer performed himself in a manner befitting Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Outside of this one diversion, the score is one lengthy homage to Elfman's other works, pieces of several of his scores making obvious entrances at various times. The lack of new stylistic exploration may bother some listeners, but for those seeking an extension of personality from Alice in Wonderland, it will entertain sufficiently. The narrative flow that Elfman talks so much about in his perception of success with Oz the Great and Powerful isn't anywhere as near as cohesive when compared to the powerful 2010 work, and it's possible that the composer's handling of this Oz-related topic in a "stream of consciousness" flow of writing, with fewer explicit themes, contributed to a feeling that much of the later score, while certainly serviceable, lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor. The limited number of themes in Oz the Great and Powerful may be a significant factor in this seemingly reduced narrative cohesion, despite the composer's frequent references to those ideas. Only two primary themes and a secondary one grace the score, and two of those have significant referential problems. The standout theme is the one Elfman composed initially for Raimi, representing the witches with all the devious waltz-induced character one would expect from Elfman. Opening the score and expanded upon in "Foreside Dance," this theme is eventually afforded battle-worthy depth in the late cues of confrontation. The integration of this theme and its various secondary phrases into the score is quite admirable, the progressions used in various guises as necessary to suggest both the "sweet" and "bitter" aspects of all three witches, as the composer would term it. Many of the portions of the underscore that are on the surface devoid of any major thematic reference are in fact turbulent explorations of this theme in such disguises. The same astute manipulation of melody also applies to Elfman's other main theme for the film.

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More obvious in portions of the Oz the Great and Powerful score is the fanfare-like theme for the main character and, by association, the Emerald City. Heard briefly at the outset, this idea builds appropriate steam as the protagonists regain control of their land. It's somewhat generic in its expected, static movements, and for some listeners, the theme will be an obnoxious distraction due to the fact that it prominently exhibits the first three notes of "O Canada," the Canadian national anthem. How Elfman and his crew could miss this blatant association is a bit curious, because it really could bother a fair number of listeners. The third theme is sparingly referenced (a nice rendition comes at 5:03 into "The Preparation Montage"), representing the sentimental element of the various creatures of the land with an alternately workman-like rhythm and flowing melodic identity that is best recognized by its resemblance of James Horner's famous lullaby from Casper. All three themes are presented in easy succession in "End Credits From Oz," the Horner-like idea serving both of its two stylistic halves at the 0:31 mark. The main anthem comes before and the witches occupy everything after in that cue. The specific references to previous Elfman scores are not quite as glaring, but they do exist. The most strident of these references is the "cut and paste" job the composer seems to have done in "What Army?," a remarkably intact portion of Dark Shadows making the transition. More subtle is the sense of adversity that carries over from Real Steel into portions of "The Preparation Montage." More generally, expect to hear pieces of Charlotte's Web, Corpse Bride, Men in Black, and Alice in Wonderland at regular intervals. When you put all of these elements together, you get a score that will be highly entertaining for the avid Elfman collector. But it will have difficulty eliciting the same emotional response that still comes from Alice in Wonderland, partly due to the inherent referential weaknesses of the themes but also because the narrative just doesn't seem as tightly woven this time around. The lengthy album (released in physical form by Intrada Records) is a fantastic tool with which to hear what Elfman was attempting in this score, and the composer reaffirms his clear enthusiasm for fantasy concepts throughout the work. Ultimately, however, Oz the Great and Powerful is one of those great ambient listening experiences in the genre that doesn't stand up to focused analysis upon a closer look. For many listeners, such details won't matter, but that is what distinguishes a solid, workmanlike score from one destined to be a classic. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Danny Elfman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.2 (in 65 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.25 (in 118,836 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.34 Stars
Smart Average: 3.22 Stars*
***** 69 
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    * Smart Average only includes
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 66:22

• 1. Main Titles (2:57)
• 2. A Serious Talk (2:23)
• 3. Oz Revealed (1:58)
• 4. A Strange World (1:48)
• 5. Where Am I?/Schmooze-A-Witch (2:05)
• 6. Fireside Dance (1:19)
• 7. Meeting Finley (1:57)
• 8. The Emerald Palace (0:47)
• 9. Treasure Room/Monkey Business (2:56)
• 10. China Town (3:07)
• 11. A Con Job (1:47)
• 12. Glinda Revealed (1:43)
• 13. The Munchkin Welcome Song* (0:41)
• 14. Bad Witch (4:32)
• 15. The Bubble Voyage (2:48)
• 16. Great Expectations/The Apple (4:58)
• 17. Meeting the Troops (1:18)
• 18. What Army? (0:29)
• 19. Theodora's Entrance/A Puppet Waltz (1:51)
• 20. A Threat (2:07)
• 21. Bedtime/The Preparation Montage (7:00)
• 22. Call to Arms (2:13)
• 23. Destruction (2:38)
• 24. Oz the Great and Powerful (1:25)
• 25. Fireworks/Witch Fight (1:39)
• 26. Time For Gifts (5:54)
• 27. End Credits From Oz (1:59)

* performed by Danny Elfman

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a list of performers but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Oz the Great and Powerful are Copyright © 2013, Walt Disney Records/Intrada Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/23/13 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2013-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.