Since the release of TINKER BELL back in 2008, music has played an important, and increasingly prominent role in the Tinker Bell/Disney Fairies series of films. While none can be considered a true “musical,” like the JAMES BOND series, each of the seven films has featured at least one prominent theme song, with artists such as Natasha Bedingfield, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Zendaya stepping up to contribute. For the latest film, TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST, KT Tunstall contributes not only the film’s opening theme (“Float”), but also two other songs – “Strange Sight,” and “1000 Years.” For the latter, Tunstall pairs with Bleu, whose stamp is all over NEVERBEAST in the unique position of “featured instrumentalist” throughout Joel McNeely’s well-thought cinematic score. For my final piece of in-depth coverage on the latest effort from DisneyToon Studios, I joined a group of writers for a musical workshop with Bleu and Music Supervisor Brett Swain inside a screening room at DisneyToon Studios in Glendale, California.
Filmmaker Steve Loter (interview here) is a certified “Rock Father” himself, not only basing much of the film on his own daughter, but also being a true music fan that allows his favorite artists to seep into and inform his art. In this case, he was listening to Bleu often (sometimes during his commute), so when it came time to work on the film’s score, Bleu was an easy call to make.
“This is the first film I’ve ever worked on, so this thing has been an incredibly exciting experience for me,” explained Bleu. While “Somebody Else,” a song from his 2003 album AWARE landed a spot on the soundtrack to the first Tobey Maguire SPIDER-MAN film (among other soundtrack placements), NEVERBEAST was the first hands-on gig in this capacity, and it all goes back to Loter. “One of the things that I worked on for the film was creating this unique sound palette. The director of the film, Steve Loter, is a huge music nerd.”
While viewers may not even notice at first, the sound pallette is a multi-layered bed of instrumentation crafted not entirely out of the typical tools of the trade – but with everyday objects you’d be more likely to find in the aisles of your local Home Depot. From ceramic garden planters to nickel-plated piping and galvanized steel garbage cans (sorry, Oscar), the percussive nature of the NEVERBEAST was brought to life through unconventional methods – right down to creating a new instrument that married a hammer dulcimer with a guitar.
“[The Dulcetar] was actually my favorite instrument that we came up with for the film. I actually developed this with the percussionist who worked with me on the film, Joe Seiders,” Bleu states as he and a friend break out the unique creation for a first-hand demonstration. “I knew that I wanted to use acoustic stringed instruments on the film ’cause I have a big background in that, and alternate tunings and, low strung guitars and high-strung guitars, and all these sorts of different things. But I didn’t want it to be an acoustic guitar score ’cause that has a specific connotation of folk music or country music – or the West. I didn’t want to place it in that territory, so I was looking for new ways to play acoustic instruments, and what we ended up coming up with is this idea. It actually takes two people to play it.”
With one person doing the fingerwork on the fretboard, while the other strikes the strings with dulcimer hammers, the end result is truly something to behold:
TINKER BELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE NEVERBEAST is available everywhere, but those interested in exploring the musical side of things might want to visit their local Walmart (or Walmart.com) for an exclusive version of the Blu-ray that comes packed with a bonus DVD called MAKING MUSIC WITH BLEU. The limited release goes in-depth on “creating music with everyday objects,” something that kids will really get into.
Photos: Kayvon Esmali ©Disney