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Section Header
The Pagemaster
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
James Horner

Orchestrated by:
Don Davis
Thomas Pasatieri

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

Universal Voices of London

Fox Records

Release Date:
November 8th, 1994

Also See:
The Land Before Time
The Rocketeer

Audio Clips:
3. Main Title (0:31):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

4. A Stormy Ride to the Library (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

11. "Pirates!" (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

14. Swallowed Alive!/The Wonder of Books (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.

  The song "Whatever You Imagine" was nominated for a Grammy Award.

The Pagemaster
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Sales Rank: 188309

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Buy it... if there is no limit to your patience with James Horner in his tendency to regurgitate material in his children's scores of the late 1980's and early 1990's.

Avoid it... if you have already tested the waters in Horner's ventures into the animated genre and you found nothing of interest in highlights like An American Tail and The Land Before Time.

The Pagemaster: (James Horner) Despite its noble intentions, The Pagemaster proves that the only way to use a movie to help convince children to read more books is by being based on a popular series of books to begin with. The plot of the film takes a dreary and fearful Macaulay Culkin and forces him into a mysterious library run by the always magical Christopher Lloyd. Through the imaginative power of the books in this library, the boy becomes an adventurer in each of the stories. It's at this point that the production turns from live action to animation, and through his journeys in and out of each book --most of which common American standards-- he learns to overcome his timid nature and discover how wondrous reading can be. The film bombed, mostly due to the corny animated half and the force-fed moral of the story. Composer James Horner would rejoin collaborators that went back to An American Tail for a rip-roaring adventure score recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra, a group that performed many of the composer's greatest adventure scores in the prior decade and with whom Horner was working far less frequently in the 1990's as recordings in Los Angeles became a necessity. With the London performers already familiar with Horner's trademark mannerisms, they would hear very little fresh material from the composer while recording The Pagemaster. Horner has, through the years, suffered more than any other composer in his habit of regurgitating his previous ideas, and in no genre is this pesky habit as prevalent as in his children's genre scores. From An American Tail and The Land Before Time in the 1980's to Casper and Balto in 1995, Horner would rotate between easily recognizable motifs in a fashion destined to drive away fans otherwise interested in his music for more adult subject matter.

Unfortunately for The Pagemaster, Horner would reach deep into the same treasure chest of children's score sounds, lessening the importance of the score in the long run. The only overarching aspects of the score worth exploring are the incorporation of some swashbuckling material in its middle third and a handful of wilder ideas that would developed further in Casper. Other than these few perks, The Pagemaster is deserving of legitimate criticism from Horner's detractors. He uses his "Main Title" cue to introduce the score's four major themes and motifs. The first of these ideas is the rising and falling of the light choir heard at the start and end of Willow. This three-note motif is almost abused in its frequent use in The Pagemaster, though hearing the brass get involved with the motif later in "The Library... The Pagemaster" is a highlight. A noble fanfare following the choral introduction in "Main Title" is the basis of Horner's score-related song, "Whatever You Imagine." It's an adventurous theme suitable for significant adaptation to various situations in the film, but it won't win any fans by itself. The third theme is the lushly romantic idea that seems, against the logic of the remaining score's presentation, that it should be the actual title theme. Its progression mirrors the dramatically intense cue used during the preparations for the storming of Fort Wagner in Glory before flowing into a secondary stanza straight out of The Land Before Time. This theme unfortunately appears only two more times in full in the score (ending the film in "The Wonder of Books" and "New Courage"). A prancing theme for lighthearted situations concludes "Main Titles," and this dancing piece also references the playful sequences from The Land Before Time. Individual moments in the score are directly connected to other Horner works in a less thematic manner; the theme for the character of Fantasy receives some jazzy swing that would be embellished upon in Casper. The end of "Loneliness" features some flighty ruckus from The Rocketeer.

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One of the only unique parts of the score is "Towards the Open Sea..." and "Pirates!," both of which offer a Korngold-inspired spirit of swashbuckling adventure not often heard in Horner's scores. This material does suffer from some cartoonish parody movement, however, cheapening the overall experience. Among two of the more curious faults of the score is Horner's seemingly misplayed identities for the characters of Adventure, Fantasy, and Horror, the last of which seems to be badly underscored. Additionally, the involvement of the choir is integral to the first three cues, but when the film switches from live action to animation, Horner leaves the singing group behind. The score also finishes somewhat poorly, succeeding the two performances of the romantic title theme (of sorts) with one last blast of the noble fanfare before following that nasty habit of Horner's by allowing the score to simply meander off into nothingness for a few minutes. The score's highlights are the three cues ("Main Titles" and the final two) that feature the romantic theme reminiscent of Glory, as well as the opening of "A Stormy Ride to the Library," which offers a frustratingly short twelve seconds of perhaps Horner's most militaristically rambunctious snare-ripping action music ever. Later portions of this cue (and the following one) could use some trimming to place about ten solid minutes from The Pagemaster on a compilation of Horner's works; the album once again features impressively lengthy cues for an animated film and thus could use some amateur rearrangement for your own enjoyment. The two light rock songs at the outset of the album (of which Horner only co-wrote the second) are non-offensive and represent the end of Horner's days in the children's film song business. Overall, The Pagemaster is a decent score, with some remarkable highlights sprinkled throughout. Many reviewers place the score in the four-star range, but it simply makes too many references to previous Horner scores without much attempt by the composer to mask the usage. Approach it with optimistic caution. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For James Horner reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.13 (in 98 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.19 (in 187,775 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.38 Stars
Smart Average: 3.28 Stars*
***** 166 
**** 146 
*** 146 
** 79 
* 81 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Orchestrations & More Info
  N.R.Q. -- 5/27/06 (3:09 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 72:11

• 1. Dream Away - performed by Babyface and Lisa Stansfield (4:38)
• 2. Whatever You Imagine - performed by Wendy Moten (3:27)
• 3. Main Title (2:27)
• 4. A Stormy Ride to the Library (2:52)
• 5. The Library/Pagemaster (4:41)
• 6. Meeting Adventure and Fantasy (5:12)
• 7. Horror (3:20)
• 8. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (5:05)
• 9. A Narrow Escape (2:04)
• 10. Towards the Open Sea (7:01)
• 11. "Pirates!" (4:07)
• 12. Lineliness (3:41)
• 13. The Flying Dragon (3:10)
• 14. Swallowed Alive!/The Wonder of Books (7:56)
• 15. New Courage/The Magic of Imagination (4:03)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes a rambling note from the film's producer, as well as extensive credits.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Pagemaster are Copyright © 1994, Fox 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 9/24/96 and last updated 2/5/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.