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Re: Zimmer, team, and alums rundown Pt 4 - MV 2003-04: Pirates Gets The Booty (4b)
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• Posted by: AhN   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Thursday, April 14, 2022, at 11:23 a.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: Zimmer, team, and alums rundown Pt 4 - MV 2003... (JBlough)

> This is part of a series. Part 4a can be found here:

> Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) -
> ***½
> Themes and “overproduction” by Zimmer; lead composer Klaus Badelt;
> add’l music by Geoff Zanelli,
> Jim Dooley, Nick Glennie-Smith, Blake Neely, James McKee Smith, Ramin
> Djawadi & Steve Jablonsky;
> music design by Mel Wesson; technical music production by Trevor Morris;
> conducted by Blake Neely;
> orchestrations by B Fowler/Moriarty/McIntosh, Liz Finch, Conrad Pope,
> Robert Elhai, Bill Listen & Brad Warnaar;
> featured cello Martin Tillman; “music production services” by Jay
> Rifkin

What a mix of names.

> Geoff Zanelli: “Even making a pirate movie that year was irreverent.
> But then I remember seeing the teaser trailer and thinking ‘I wanna see
> that movie RIGHT NOW.’ And then a couple weeks later I [got] a call from
> Hans. ‘I think it’s up your alley.’”

> We arrive at this, the breaking point for some people who loved Zimmer’s
> early output and tolerated the Media Ventures years, but also the gateway
> drug that got a lot of people more interested in listening to film music
> (even if only occasionally).


> The film, an adaptation of a longstanding Disney theme park ride, had a
> challenging development history, with multiple script rewrites and some
> resistance from then-chairman and CEO Michael Eisner to spending another
> $100m or more on a live action film as he had with Bruckheimer’s Pearl
> Harbor
a few years earlier. Star Johnny Depp wasn’t seen as a
> commercial commodity at the time, and Disney executives were uncomfortable
> with his performance as pirate captain Jack Sparrow during filming; one
> asked if he was playing the role as gay, while Depp claimed Eisner thought
> he was “ruining the film.” Zimmer, learning of the film years
> before it was released, thought it was the worst idea he had ever heard.

I was going to share a great Lindsay Ellis video about the production of POTC but it seems to have vanished from youtube.

> Yet the movie - a funny, exciting, unpretentious good time enhanced by
> creative use of then-innovative digital effects - completely snuck up on
> audiences and even film critics. It entrenched Depp and Orlando Bloom as
> stars, gave Keira Knightley her big break,

Is Bend it Like Beckham a joke to you people??

Actually that's fair.

> even got Depp an Oscar
> nomination for Best Actor,

*Best Supporting Actor

> and became a license for Disney to print money,
> which it would happily do by producing four lucrative but less enchanting
> sequels.

> Back to the Future and Predator composer Alan Silvestri had
> provided the music for director Gore Verbinski’s first two films, though
> music for Gore’s 2002 supernatural horror remake The Ring was by
> Zimmer & team. Silvestri was originally on board for this swashbuckler
> and had ideas (likely in the demo stage) for the score, but had his work
> halted fairly early when Commodore Bruckheimer didn’t like what he was
> hearing. “Gore was new to Jerry’s world at that time. Jerry Bruckheimer
> is a huge force in his films, and he should be. He’s had tremendous
> success. I never got past [the first few scenes]. It wasn’t like I scored
> the film and it was rejected. [Jerry was] much more comfortable working in
> a way that he had worked historically, with people he had worked with
> historically. I didn’t find it strange. It just wasn't the right chemistry
> in the end. We had a really lovely chat after all of that, and there's no
> harm, no foul there.”
Silvestri would be fine in the long term; he
> would continue to score major movies, including multiple hit films in the
> Marvel Cinematic Universe, and also enjoy running a winery on the side.

What doesn't make sense to me is how Silvestri didn't get very far before departing but also Badelt and crew didn't have much time to write everything.

> Klaus Badelt would claim the temp track had a lot of film music by Jerry
> Goldsmith and Michael Kamen in it, and said Bruckheimer felt what he was
> hearing was “too close to the pirate genre - triplets and horn
> fanfares.”
As with The Rock, Jerry asked Hans to come salvage
> things. Hans would remember getting “a phone call from Gore on a Sunday
> going, ‘Come over. Look at this thing.’ He showed me a movie I couldn’t
> possibly have imagined, and I loved how wrong I was. The old pirate thing
> has been done very well by old people who are all dead by now. Johnny Depp
> doesn’t play in the style of Errol Flynn. Pirates, they are like rock n’
> rollers, but rock n’ roll would be inappropriate. So I was thinking
> [about] what existed at that time that had that sort of spirit. Irish
> jigs, there’s bravery and boldness and a heroic quality to [them].”

> It’s worth noting that Zimmer also claimed to seek inspiration from Irish
> jigs for the prior year’s Spirit.

> Hans was deep into work on The Last Samurai and was (perhaps due to
> his contract) unable to step away even part-time. In the early days of his
> career he might’ve said no (think back to him stepping away from The
> Client
because he was too busy and Howard Shore filling in). Instead,
> with a large support team he could fall back on, he took the night to demo
> his ideas before handing those off to the Media Ventures gang. “I went
> home and started writing ideas at 7:30 in the evening. The playing gets
> worse and worse - my fingers aren’t moving properly, now it’s 5 in the
> morning.”
One of his later tracks on the demo is clearly recycled from
> his music for the mid-90s parachuting action film Drop Zone.
> Another hammering idea is yanked from The Rock by way of Black
> Hawk Down

How about that bit stemming from Gladiator's The Battle?

> Klaus Badelt was the point person for the score and was optimistic - “I
> thought we could do something cool”
- but it was still a gargantuan
> ask to request basically the same amount of replacement score that was
> done for Face/Off but in much less time (no more than 23 days to
> write and record, per Zanelli). This kind of “create some demos/suites,
> then do the score” approach had been intentionally done with large-scale
> productions by the MV crew (and alum Mark Mancina) and on scores with
> incredibly short turnaround times, but never with both scenarios at the
> same time. And they would even lose a collaborator when Steve Jablonsky
> got pulled into the similarly hectic work on the Bad Boys sequel
> score, though you can hear his contributions in a few places including
> Jack’s escape from the British, a early sword fight, and the villain
> Barbossa’s dinner with Keira Knightly’s character.

Absolutely wild that I immediately heard every one of these cues as you listed them.

> The production was so
> rushed that its four different sessions to record the music had to take
> place in three different studios. All this work would add $2 million to
> the film’s budget. Even the track names for the album packaging were
> selected before any of the music had been recorded.

LOL well that explains some of it.

> It seemed like the first time this had ever happened, but students of
> history (or really more like a very small subset of film obsessives, or an
> even smaller subset of people who bought a particular album released in
> 2003) knew better. Another film had used almost exactly the same methods
> Zimmer and his Pirates crew had done to get the music written on a
> tight deadline - over 60 years earlier! It is time to talk about The
> Blue Bird

Unexpected twists!

> —------------

> The seabed of Hollywood is littered with the wreckage of imitator films
> that were made to cash in on trends started by a recent hit and instead
> sank ignominiously. Think of all the films that had their characters in
> black leather outfits after The Matrix. Or the mafia films chasing
> after the success of The Godfather.

Or the mafia films chasing after the success of Goodfellas, or the mafia films chasing after the success of The Sopranos, or...

> Fantasy films that assumed
> audiences who liked The Lord of the Rings trilogy would pay for
> anything else fantastical on screen are big offenders here - think the
> dead-on-arrival reception to Eragon and the misbegotten Percy
> Jackson
films that have been disowned by the author of the source
> novels. Better yet, don’t think of them.

> The Blue Bird, an attempt by 20th Century Fox head Daryl F. Zanuck
> to mount a big, magical movie not too dissimilar to The Wizard of
> Oz
, doesn’t seem to be one of those at first glance. Oz was
> actually a huge flop when it came out, losing money for its studio and
> only becoming a beloved film through years of re-releases and critical
> reappraisals, and Zanuck had started work on Bird in 1939 before
> Oz was even released. But the screenplay for Bird - an
> episodic one about a little girl who gets swept away to a wondrous land,
> is followed around by animal companions, and is occasionally assisted in
> her journey by a white-clad fairy - is awfully close to the Oz
> adventures of Dorothy. More damning is that Zanuck, shortly before the
> release, demanded that the opening Austrian scenes of Bird be
> switched to black & white, just like the Kansas scenes in Oz.

> Bird would largely fall flat with audiences, and there are so many
> things about it beyond its similarities to Oz, some of them deeply
> weird, that explain its failure. It threw child star Shirley Temple (still
> the #1 box office draw in the country at the time, but known for more
> realistic comedies and dramas as well as musicals like The Littlest
> Rebel
) into a fantasy environment audiences clearly didn’t accept her
> in. Nearly every character has a very quirky name; even for a 1940s
> audience, it was probably patently ridiculous to have everyone called
> things like Mytyl or Crabapple or (best of all) Mr. Luxury. And its
> climactic sequence involves Father Time suddenly appearing and putting a
> bunch of fantasyland children (or maybe their souls?) on a boat so they
> can be shipped down to Earth to be born, including a kid who appears to be
> the soul of Abraham Lincoln. Temple would much later in life call the film
> an ill-conceived thing “halfway between vaudeville and ponderous
> spirituality.”

Please tell me that, in your obsessive side-hobby not-a-job binge of the entire frickin' history of Hans Zimmer and Media Ventures and Remote Control, you tracked down and watched a 1940s fantasy studio flop that happened to have similar score writing and recording conditions as Curse of the Black Pearl.

> Composer Alfred Newman (now best-known for the 20th Century Fox Fanfare
> that introduced the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as a number
> of classic scores from Hollywood’s Golden Age) signed his contract to head
> up the studio’s music department before the film went into production, and
> it was one of the first things he worked on. Newman, like Zimmer with his
> commitment to do The Last Samurai, had ongoing assignments on at
> least five films at other studios when he took the job. Newman would jot
> down ideas for themes for Bird, sometimes fairly late into the
> night, before handing them off to his colleagues to develop, orchestrate,
> and/or arrange them for full orchestra (similar to how Zanelli described
> getting work on Pirates). David Raksin, one of at least five
> composers who supported Newman with the rush job, said he “lived at the
> studio and worked like a demon on that thing.”
And, just as Zimmer
> would recycle ideas he’d used previously in The Rock and Drop
> Zone
, Newman would reprise one of his ideas from an earlier film,
> though this rehash may be a tad more forgivable since it was from a film
> about a young Abe Lincoln.

I'm just imagining a Filmtracks review blasting this flighty Shirley Temple fantasy film's score for sounding like a weighty John Ford biopic.

> Heck, in this case the production schedule was
> tighter - Newman and team apparently wrote the whole thing in 10 days,
> which was over a week less than the Media Ventures crowd had in 2003.

> I doubt Zimmer or Badelt or anyone involved with the production of
> Pirates knew anything about these similarities. The music for
> The Blue Bird (which is actually quite good) wasn’t even released
> on CD until four months after Pirates came out in theaters. It’s
> obscure, even by the standards of older film music, as is the film it came
> from. But it is at least amusing to think that, for all of Zimmer’s talk
> of reinvention and experimentation and not doing the expected, he was
> basically running his company like an old Hollywood studio department
> under duress.

Rebirth of the studio system, but no longer under contract to one studio?

> But enough history. Back to Pirates.

> —------------

> Klaus did write or sketch out a good portion of the score based on
> Zimmer’s demo, but was also very much a team leader like Zimmer had been
> on many of his prior efforts. “There’s over a hundred minutes of music;
> the only way to do this was to have seven or eight co-writers. At the end
> I was playing things out on a piano and handing it to orchestrators with a
> string patch and describing what I wanted out of it for the final version
> - I was managing more than writing. Hans was very good at calming Jerry
> down. He knew Gore from The Ring so he was a good liaison. His producer
> title is very accurate.”
Hilariously, as Badelt was the credited
> composer in the film and on the front of the album cover, Zimmer was asked
> at a Q&A session in 2014 what it was like to adapt Klaus Badelt’s themes
> for the sequels.

And? What did he say? The public (and the lawyers) demand an answer!

> Zanelli estimates he had a hand in about 25% of the score, a good chunk of
> which ended up on the 44-minute album release. “I worked up a different
> arrangement of [a theme from the demo] - it ended up on the album as
> ‘Barbossa Is Hungry’, the sort of big butch one with the rock drum fills.
> I guess that solidified my position on the project. I did the ‘Moonlight
> Serenade’ - which Hans had very roughly mapped out. That was the first
> movie ever where I felt like my voice was being heard; that was really
> exciting.”
He would be the only composer to work across the entire
> franchise, with contributions on the next three sequels and a lead role on
> the 2017 entry.

It made perfect sense to me that Zanelli nailed 5 because of that continuity.

> According to Hans, this is when Ramin Djawadi put on his big boy pants and
> got to work. “If you don’t get the sword fight with the donkey right,
> you might as well bury the movie. Very quietly, the guy who was making the
> coffee, who I didn’t think played a musical instrument, said, ‘When you go
> home tonight, do you mind if I have a go at it?’”

I both love and hate this quote.

> Not only would this
> be similar to how Steve Jablonsky started getting work after The
> Fan
, it also suggests an alternate universe where Djawadi doesn’t show
> such initiative and maybe doesn’t score Game of Thrones nearly
> eight years later, thus proving true what recent Super Bowl-winning coach
> Bruce Arians once said: “no risk it, no biscuit.”

No suing the Dolphins for discrimination, no inadvertently blowing up Tom Brady's plans to unretire to Miami!


> I appreciated some things more this time.

> First off, yes, this work is clearly derivative, but the Media Ventures
> scores from the nineties and the aughts that this is inspired by (if not
> outright stealing from) never had this sense of playfulness about
> themselves. An exuberance is here in ways that obviously weren’t in The
> Peacemaker
; the sprightly cello solo that kicks off this score’s album
> doesn’t have anything to do with that earlier score (though it is
> suspiciously similar to Edward Shearmur’s music from an earlier adaptation
> of The Count of Monte Cristo). Like Spirit, it’s maybe not
> the most appropriate fit for the genre, but that doesn’t make it
> ill-fitting for the film, or inherently terrible as something standalone.

> Second, sure, it’s not the most sophisticated music. Like The Rock,
> everything on here is very direct. Countermelodies, counterpoint,
> anything that would usually get a soundtrack reviewer to say something
> like “it’s fully orchestral” - those are largely absent. There are a lot
> of unison hits by the performing group. Drum pads seem present. Even if
> they’d had more time, they probably couldn’t have produced a score more
> tailor-made to Bruckheimer’s preferences.

> And yet that directness may be part of this work’s charm. Like The
> Rock
, those main themes are very effective, and often quite catchy.
> It’s a trend I can trace all the way back to the Vegas cue in Rain
> Man
- “I should hate this, but dang it, I don’t.”


> Third, it’s coherent. Even with Badelt farming out a good chunk of the
> work, all the material “fits” in the same sonic universe. There’s
> momentum, and there are ideas that develop over multiple minutes. It
> doesn’t feel like the work of (checks notes) eleven or so composers
> stitched together (at least with regards to the composition; the recording
> is a different matter), something you can’t say for some of the other past
> and future scores that featured this many participants.

Isn't part of Clem's central thesis that yes, it does sound like it was 11 different people writing it?

> Fourth, it’s fun! I know I have, like, dozens of Mahler symphony
> recordings, and right now I even feel like conductor Michael Tilson Thomas
> is looking at me through one of those album covers and judging me. But you
> like what you like.

Hahahahha suck it Mahler!

> On the other hand, a lot of complaints I had years ago remain, and I even
> found some new ones this time around.

> First, even accounting for the limited time they had, it’s a really
> synth-heavy sound for a film that could’ve used something more refined.
> Sure, cheap has intruded on the genre before, and I’d rather have this
> than, say, the swordfight music from The Princess Bride (something
> so painful it detracts from its otherwise wonderful scene). But it’s one
> thing to have an occasionally abrasive sound in something like Drop
> Zone
, which was the first time they were writing with their new sample
> library, and another thing entirely to get that abrasive eight years later
> with a bigger budget. The score brings back a lot of issues some people
> had with these scores in the 1990s, when MV composers would start using
> larger and larger orchestras but write for them and/or record them in a
> way that made you question why they bothered using one in the first case
> (or bragging about how big it was).

> It feels like there are synths layered on top of everything - and,
> amazingly, they might have been according to Badelt. “There’s lots of
> sword fighting and cannons and ocean, and the sound mix is strong. They
> said, ‘Just write first and then we’ll take it out!’ What I did mostly to
> make the music cut through is that everything you hear, strings and bass,
> is doubled by analog synths - you’d notice if you turned them off. Jerry
> doesn’t like it if you hear the bow on the strings; he thinks that sound
> is old-fashioned.”

YUP. This is probably the thing that most keeps me from revisiting it nowadays.

> Second, there’s a jarring inconsistency to the instrumental mix at times,
> a function perhaps of so many people working on it and also how many
> different recording groups were used. Some parts sound like fully
> electronic material that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Beast
> Wars: Transformers
episode, while other parts give you clarity enough
> to hear something like the horn solo in the album track Swords
> Crossed
(right before it goes into the rockin’ music yanked from
> (sorry) The Rock). Others have already brought up the distortion
> that seems to be in a few tracks.

> Third, I’m now much more well-versed in the pan pipe sounds that
> supersaturated Zimmer’s work in the 80s and 90s, so their regular use in
> this score almost came off as self-parody. I had to stifle a few chuckles
> (“oh, THESE again?”).

Wait, when are the panpipes?

> It’s great. It’s terrible. It’s everything in between. I had it as a
> high-end **½ work before, which seems to suggest I was just as much of a
> snob as that jazz critic was when he covered the Ghent concert.

Wait what's that story? Man I need to go back and read your other posts.

> It ends up
> sandwiched right between Muppet Treasure Island and The Rock
> on my rankings of Zimmer scores, which was not intended by me at all
> before I started listening to the album this time but feels very fitting
> given everything I just wrote.

> Despite the chaos, many of the participants have fond memories of the
> whole experience. Blake Neely perhaps put it best. ”In [2040], if I’m
> still alive, I’ll still look back on that as one of the funnest three
> weeks of my career. We had an absolute ball. It’s always been funny to me
> - people have no problem with there being 15 people doing costumes and 30
> people doing sets, but when it comes to music they get really upset if
> it’s not one person by himself. I think the collaboration is helpful.”

> It would be paradise compared to the other project going on at the
> factory.


> Bad Boys II (2003) - *
> Trevor Rabin & Paul Linford; add’l music by HGW & Toby Chu;
> other add’l score by Steve Jablonsky, Mark Mancina, Heitor Pereira, Trevor
> Morris, Clay Duncan & Mel Wesson;
> but wait…there’s more add’l music by Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Tony Dofat;
> Heitor Pereira & Martin Tillman as musicians

> Discovery #35 - I considered skipping this one, but the great quotes about
> its production made listening to it once too intriguing to pass up.

> Bad Boys II, the long-awaited sequel to the 1995 hit from Michael
> Bay & Jerry Bruckheimer, was hated by most film critics but was an
> over-the-top smash success with audiences. It almost instantaneously
> became an influential action movie touchstone, with Edgar Wright’s
> somewhat parodic movie Hot Fuzz treating it with almost hallowed
> reverence four years later.

"You ain't ever seen Bad Boys 2??"

No, I still haven't.

> Most of the marketing focus for its music was
> on the many rap songs produced by Diddy’s new Bad Boy Records company such
> as Nelly’s Shake Ya Tailfeather. No media attention was paid to the
> score. Heck, it didn’t even get an album release. You could infer that
> it’s because the studio saw no point in putting out a product that might
> compete with a song soundtrack CD it was trying to get big sales from -
> and did, with over a million units sold within two months. But the
> behind-the-scenes mess likely played just as much of a role.

> Mark Mancina originally came back to reprise his music from the first
> film, even though he didn’t seem like he had the greatest time working
> with Bay & Bruckheimer eights years earlier. It went about as well as
> expected. “I should have been fired off Bad Boys 2. I didn’t want to
> rewrite the same thing. They didn’t want anything else. I involved Trevor
> [Rabin], and then it was best if he took over; Michael Bay didn’t like
> what I was doing.”
Rabin, who after co-composing for Armageddon
> claimed working with Michael Bay was “amazing”, would say he ended
> up working 16 hours a day on this. Steve Jablonsky, having impressed Bay
> on Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, would be pulled off of
> Pirates to contribute. Harry Gregson-Williams and his assistant
> helped, as did four other Media Ventures composers. Weirdly, some of
> Mancina’s material ended up in the final cut of the film. Even the fansite
> Hans-Zimmer dot com, usually a fairly good reference point in
> understanding where each composer contributed additional music, has yet to
> reconcile the question of who did what on this composer-palooza; the only
> reason we know the opening track Xtreme Machine is by Rabin team
> member Paul Linford is because it’s noted in the end credits.

> Bay’s hyperactive editing style often doesn’t lend itself to scenes with
> music tied to the specific movements or activities of the characters;
> often little more than a minute or two of electronic coolness was required
> (that The Rock was not just this suggests Bruckheimer had less
> influence on the music this go-round). And, given the sheer amount of
> songs in the movie, you could assume this was another Forces of
> Nature
or Gone In 60 Seconds case of needing to write music
> that just fit with the aesthetic without calling too much attention to
> itself. However, there’s a difference between a filler score that’s 30
> minutes long and has its moments and a filler score that’s almost 90
> minutes long plus almost another hour of alternates. For those who have
> managed to hear the score standalone, it can seem endless. Hilariously, it
> is almost the polar opposite of Zimmer’s score for Bay’s prior film
> Pearl Harbor - nothing is pretty, there’s no orchestra, and there’s
> no big theme.

> It’s almost like Bay listened to just the first 15 seconds of the intro to
> Trevor Rabin’s classic NBA on TNT

Wait, Rabin wrote which theme?? All my brain can think of are the current TNT one and the classic Roundball Rock for NBC.

> theme song and hired Rabin on the
> basis of having nothing more distinctive than that. The music doesn’t
> detract from its film, but it does nothing to enhance it. It has no
> discernable personality save for its lack of personality. Forget the fact
> that the music could have come from anyone (though, given the amount of
> composers involved, that arguably did happen). The music could have come
> from any other film. Mancina’s Bad Boys wasn’t exactly a classic of
> modern action scoring, but it did at least make some effort to root you in
> a specific time and place. With the exception of maybe the first half of a
> mortuary track and a section where Martin Tillman’s electric cello is
> prominent, you get none of that, and even that latter section seems to
> root you in Somalia during Black Hawk Down rather than Miami or
> Cuba.

Will Smith: "'Welcome,' said Somalis."

> And it has none of the coherence of Pirates, possibly because the
> Bad Boys II music production process seemed to be an “every man for
> themself” effort rather than the coordinated rush job spearheaded by Klaus
> Badelt (ironic given Bay’s frequent focus on macho brotherhood in his
> films). Some parts feel recycled from other Media Ventures films. Others
> suggest the blander portions of Bay’s later Transformers (some of
> the electronic pulses in the freeway chase, for example). Maybe Jablonsky
> did those. Who knows? Who cares??? There are a few moments of redemption,
> but on average these don’t last much longer than 30 seconds. Heck, no mood
> really lasts much more than 30 seconds here. You basically just have to
> chalk it up to what Bay tended to prefer in his movies going forward and
> move on - even if it’s the nadir of this rundown so far.

> It’s probably a ** score in context and a * star listen outside the film
> due to completely abandoning any and all ideas from its predecessor and
> replacing them with indifference. I resent the process that led to this
> music more than the music itself, but I still picked the lower rating.

> Unlike with Pirates, I doubt any symphonic pops ensembles or high
> school orchestras requested sheet music of this score so they could play
> it live.

I could totally see a high school band playing Mancina's og theme though.

> Fun fact #1: there appear to be no credited orchestrators or conductors.
> Fun fact #2: I have shown an alarming tendency to request Shake Ya
> Tailfeather
at weddings.

I haven't even heard this song and I'm shaking my head at how on brand it is.

> ———————-

> Next time - the music gods look down upon the masses and say “fine, HERE’S
> your pirate score.”

Harry Gregson-Williams looks up and says "It's Harry Gregson-Williams time."

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