Songs

When there were songs in a picture in addition to the musical score, they were written and recorded very early, so they could be integrated carefully into the story development. Walt was adamant about songs that stopped the flow of the story while some singer demonstrated his prowess, and he insisted that the only use for a song would be to pick up the tempo of the story and to tell it in another way, while adding to the emotional content of the sequence. A good song should make the audience feel more deeply about the situation.

Once a song had been accepted from the composer, a "demo" record was made approximating the length and structure being considered. T he vocal might be on a production track (one that could be used in the final), but it would be far belter on a temp track, with the accompaniment only a piano or small group that could be replaced later when all final decisions have been made. In the recording business, when a vocalist is recorded, the song itself and the singer's style will dictate the number of choruses and the right arrangement for that number. In a film, the structure must be dictated by the needs of the story. Bill Peet once cautioned a composer who wanted to control the presentation of his melody: "You're better off writing to the material in the picture, because your song will end up being more unique. Instead of writing what you think is good and asking for the picture to adapt to it. remember that the cartoon material has been worked over and over; it has more thought, depth, and entertainment in it than you realize. You'd better use it!" Of course. it is possible to write such special material for a song that it becomes little more than a novelty, but if it works well for the picture and progresses the story situation, it still w ill have great value.

A song that catches the exact mood of the sequence and expresses it in a fresh and memorable way will do wonders for the film, and for the composer, too. Leigh Marline and Ned Washington's lovely "When You Wish Upon a Star" served double duty, introducing us to a cricket with a gentle personality as well as setting a mood for the. whole picture to follow. The next song. "Little Wooden Head,"captured the spirit of Geppetto and gave us a chance to introduce the wooden puppet in his lifeless state. Without that song with the melody that seemed to fit an old-world music box. the sequence of introducing the puppet to the other residents of the toy shop would have been full of dialogue, contrived gags, and lengthy business. With a song that fit the situation, it was full of melody and fun. and did much to show the audience how this woodcarver lived.

Once the song was recorded, the story man could start precise work on his storyboard. adapting the general ideas to the mood and measures of the music, or suggesting changes that might help both picture and song. With only a demo track, changes could be tried and the structure of the music altered to fit the growing needs of the storyboard. In some cases, the vocal would remain, but if it has been recorded on a separate track, changes in the rest of the music would have no effect on it anyway. Now, when the board looks promising, and the length of the song feels right, the sketches can be shot and added to the story sketch reel. Once more they are changed and shifted, redrawn and reshot. until everything has the proper flow. There still will be improvements later on. as new ideas keep coming, but for the most part, they will be only touches that add spirit and character to the performance. Animating to music is difficult and expensive and it is wise to know exactly what is wanted before anyone starts.

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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