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Radio Flyer
Composed, Co-Arranged, and Co-Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Shirley Walker

Co-Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler

Solo Performances by:
Nick Glennie-Smith
Richard Harvey
Tommy Morgan
Jim Kanter

Co-Arranged by:
Jeff Rona

Co-Produced by:
Jay Rifkin

Warner/Big Screen Records

Release Date:
March 31st, 1992

Also See:
The Lion King
Muppet Treasure Island
Rain Man

Audio Clips:
1c. Lost Secrets and Fascinations (0:34):
WMA (220K)  MP3 (274K)
Real Audio (170K)

2a. Expeditioning (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

3b. Fisher's Legend (0:33):
WMA (215K)  MP3 (267K)
Real Audio (166K)

3c. The Big Idea (0:32):
WMA (206K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

Regular U.S. release, but completely out of print since the closure of the label in the mid-1990's. Used copies have long been readily available on the secondary market.


Radio Flyer

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Sales Rank: 350744

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Buy it... if you want to hear Hans Zimmer's enduringly upbeat, creative, beautiful, and dynamic children's score as a reminder of an era when the composer's music contained an intimate sense of style and a uniquely genuine spirit.

Avoid it... if the tone of the music in the context of the highly disturbing, ill-fated film has already offended you beyond your ability to appreciate the score on album.

Radio Flyer: (Hans Zimmer) If you want to study about a film that definitely should never have been made, then Radio Flyer is your target case. It's hard to imagine how director Richard Donner couldn't see the writing on the wall, but the screenplay for Radio Flyer by David Mickey Evans had been passed around Hollywood with extremely high interest, and Donner took it upon himself to bring this terrible fantasy tale of child abuse to the big screen. The director's first film being The Omen was perhaps some indication at the time, however, that he could take any film about a troubled child and shape it into a classic. Unfortunately, Radio Flyer falls into the trap of an impossible reality: a mother of two children remarries an abusive alcoholic, but she doesn't know that he is beating the younger son. Having seen another child try to fly on his Radio Flyer wagon (and being crippled by it), the two brothers decide that the only way to escape the abuse is to build their own flying wagon and attempt to have the beaten brother fly away to safety. The whole film exists in this fantasy world, balancing the horrors of his beatings with the imagination of flight that is the boys' goal. The older brother tells the story some years later, and despite the film's glossy, misleading ending (which indicates that the escape was not only possible, but the flight actually happens), the brother inevitably dies in the attempt. It's a hideous, malformed story that had millions pumped into its making, and segments of Hollywood remember it as one of the most fiscally disastrous projects of all time as of 1992. Donner had worked with A-list composers throughout his career, most notably John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith, and for Radio Flyer he chose relative newcomer Hans Zimmer, who was building his fame in giant leaps and bounds in the early 1990's. Zimmer took on the project with a sense of challenge since children's music was a new avenue for him. The problem with the film and score, however, is how the music would be approached. Would the score mirror the horrors of the abuse? Or would it exist solely in the fantasy world of the boys? Would it simply attempt to be a serious version of Goldsmith's youthful escape music for Explorers?

Zimmer and Donner argued about the music's emotional stance throughout the scoring process, debating how airy and child-like the score could actually be. "We fight like nobody's business. He can take it and I can take it," Zimmer stated during the recording sessions. "So as a composer I have to evoke childhood," Zimmer said, "but you can't do that by being childish about the music. As soon as you do that it doesn't mean anything to them. They just think you're being childish by intellectualizing it." The resulting score is consistently fluffy and positive in its atmosphere, with only occasional, rumbling sidebars in the darker moments. On the whole, Zimmer's emotional response is undeniably charming, happy, and lovable. Unfortunately, some critics dismissed the score right there as a total loss, because it got caught up in Donner's ill-fated attempt to gloss over the topic of child abuse. On its own, however, the score has considerable merits. Zimmer wasn't sure if he could be successful at writing upbeat children's music, but he managed to impress himself by his own ability to do it. The score is gracefully melodic and extremely pretty in parts, with heartwarming rhythms of excitement that could invite you to run outside and skip down the street like you are a kid again. Portions of the score even become innocently silly, reminding the listener of Jerry Goldsmith's accomplished works in the genre. Pieces of Dennis the Menace and Mom and Dad Save the World will come to mind given that Goldsmith was in a similar phase of his career during the early 1990's as well. Adventurous rhythms in Radio Flyer are more wholesome variations of similar ideas in Muppet Treasure Island. A hugely orchestral recording, Zimmer accents his orchestra with some mild electronics (mainly drum pads and bass enhancements) and soloists on harmonica, pan pipes, piano, and clarinet. The Rain Man pipes in particular will give you goose bumps with their elegance, foreshadowing (along with flute and whistle) some of the awesome beauty of The Lion King. Some cues border on the carnivalesque (with even a few Randy Newman rhythms here and there), but the constant tingling of the fantasy environment often pulls the wishy-washy parts of the score into line. If anything, the score could possibly irritate the listener with its shiny optimism, and if similarly minded Goldsmith scores above aren't your cup of tea, then be careful when approaching Radio Flyer.

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There are some darker moments in Radio Flyer that need mentioning. Zimmer does slip into near tragedy mode at times, but always maintains the cue's instrumentation from the perspective of a child. The "Lost Secrets and Fascinations" cue is of particular interest, with a beating heart underneath a music box, leading to the snare drum quickly imitating the cocking of a gun, a bass drum signaling the gunshot, and an overwhelmingly solemn solo boy's voice performing a tragic melody that would make Danny Elfman proud. A few similar moments slow the steadily optimistic progression of the score, but if you didn't know that Radio Flyer is a horrible tale of child abuse, you won't realize it based upon this score. The film's premise is so offensive to some people that the score's fluffy approach is an equally offensive part of that sour taste. If you've never heard of the film and are a Zimmer collector who stumbles upon this album, it could be an extremely wonderful listening experience. It is likely the pinnacle of Zimmer's writing in the children's and Americana genres, putting later scores like Thunderbirds and Madagascar to shame, and it came at a time when Zimmer not only wrote most of his scores by himself, but also relied more heavily on unique instrumental creativity of an organic nature. There is an intimate sense of style and genuine spirit in Radio Flyer that began draining away as Zimmer became a "producer" of film scores in the 2000's. The album went out of print in the mid-1990's (when the label ceased to exist), though it has remained relatively inexpensive on the secondary market. Like the promotion for the film in 1992, the album was produced in decent numbers, so don't overpay for it. Its presentation is arranged into three long and inconvenient suites by Zimmer, followed by an unrelated source song. Occasionally poor mixing and artifacts like the distortion at the 8:00 mark into the first track make this score a good candidate for an expanded release at some point in the future. It is tempting to rate this score very poorly as it was heard in the film, but Donner is far more to blame for that circumstance than Zimmer, who confessed to becoming very cynical about the project by its completion. For film music fans or otherwise, the movie itself cannot be recommended at any level, and it should rightfully be boycotted if you are among those who seek serious messages about child abuse. As a standalone piece of music, though, Radio Flyer on album is a surprisingly engaging, tonally diverse, and enjoyable score. It represents everything missing from Zimmer's brooding simplicity of the late 2000's and remains a fond reminder of more exciting times in the man's career. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Hans Zimmer reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 2.98 (in 89 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3 (in 266,326 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.44 Stars
Smart Average: 3.36 Stars*
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**** 96 
*** 64 
** 41 
* 49 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 33:44

• 1. Radio Flyer Part I (9:58)
      • a) Building the Flyer
      • b) On the Road to Geronimo
      • c) Lost Secrets and Fascinations

• 2. Radio Flyer Part II (7:00)
      • a) Expeditioning
      • b) Mix the Potion
      • c) Four Discoveries

• 3. Radio Flyer Part III (13:37)
      • a) Sampson and Shame
      • b) Fisher's Legend
      • c) The Big Idea

• 4. The Name Game - performed by Shirley Ellis (3:00)

(total score time: 30:43)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes information about Zimmer, Donner (and his wife), and the film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Radio Flyer are Copyright © 1992, Warner/Big Screen 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 7/17/04 and last updated 10/3/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.