Monday, September 07, 2009

So That's What an Orchestra Sounds Like

There was never a final episode for Animaniacs, so so put together the 99th and last episode, the producers took one leftover cartoon and asked Richard Stone, the supervising composer, to fill out the episode by composing an "Animaniacs Suite" based on the various themes he had written for the characters. (All the characters had original themes except Slappy Squirrel, whose theme was Dvořák's 7th "Humoresque.") The music was illustrated with clips from the previous 98 episodes. I don't think the cartoon has been run very often -- YTV used to have a package that consisted of the first 98 episodes, but not this elusive 99th. It's too bad, because the Suite, written for an expanded orchestra, stands as a nice tribute to Stone, who died only a few years later. I don't think it would really work as a separate orchestral piece (though I doubt Warners ever even bothered trying to market it that way), but I wouldn't mind being able to get it as a separate track or download, without the sound effects. I would also like the Goodfeathers section to be longer, since I thought the combination of cartoony music with jazzy New York movie music made for some of the show's best scores.

The question of how much you do or don't like Stone's style -- and the style of his other staff composers, but they all learned to write exactly like him -- is inseparable from the question of what you think of the shows, since he was an exact match for the style of the shows he composed for: brash, loud, and with a tendency toward obvious effects; if there was ever an opportunity for a wah-wah trombone moan, he'd take it. (Some of this, though, may not have been his personal choice; in his interview with Daniel Goldmark, he mentioned that he would have preferred to hold the music back for explosions and let the sound effects do the work, the way Stalling did, but that he was asked to put big musical stings under the explosion effects.) Also, no matter who was orchestrating for him, the obsessive use of the xylophone is a feature of nearly all Stone scores.

But I don't think any of that matters much compared to his ability to find the exact right musical style for these shows. Tiny Toons, which didn't have as much of a uniform style, had some good scores, some weak scores, and just like the show itself, we didn't always quite know what kind of style it was aiming for. Stone came up with a type of music that sounded like what Tiny Toons, Animaniacs and the rest were trying to be: like the old cartoons, but not too much like them (because any time they tried to compete head-to-head with the classic stuff, they inevitably fell short). It was like Carl Stalling music in terms of the effects and the musical jokes, but if you compared a Stone score with a Stalling score you would find that the overall sound wasn't unpleasantly similar (in part because it had just enough of a '90s sound to it to avoid sounding like a complete retro throwback). It's music that nods to the past but sidesteps unflattering direct comparisons, just like the shows were trying to do.



The upload above is in mono; there's also a YouTube clip that has only the audio of this segment, without the video, but it's in stereo, and in some ways the music comes off better without the clips.

6 comments:

Speedy Boris said...

Nicktoons aired The Scoring Session / The Animaniacs Suite. I saw it a couple times, actually.

Anonymous said...

Jaime wrote:

There was never a final episode for Animaniacs, so so put together the 99th and last episode, the producers took one leftover cartoon and asked Richard Stone, the supervising composer, to fill out the episode by composing an "Animaniacs Suite" based on the various themes he had written for the characters.

Your history on this is close, but not exactly on the money.

"The Scoring Session" and "The Animaniacs Suite" were conceived as companion pieces and were always intended to be played together as the final (99th) episode of the Animaniacs series.

Both segments were all about the music, about the composing, and about Richard Stone and the studio musicians, all of whom loved the episode.

But before this final episode could air, "Kids WB" went into the "Pokemon" business and relegated most of the Warner Bros. Animation series to the catch-all omnibus they called "The Big Cartoonie." Or, as we called, "The End Times."

The elements of this 99th episode aired in an hour-long episode of "The Big Cartoonie," along with the final episode of the PINKY AND THE BRAIN series entitled "Star Warners." This hour of new cartoon material featured the entire cast from Animaniacs in every segment.

In theory, if Warner Brothers Home Entertainment ever releases the remaining episodes of Animaniacs, the final show should have "The Scoring Session" and "The Animanaics Suite" back to back.

As for episode 100 of Animaniacs, we considered that to be "WAKKO'S WISH."

Long Live the Great Stonini!

Tom Ruegger

stevef said...

Don't forget about Freakazoid. There's some great scoring in that as well, especially the Cave Guy episodes, and the Freakadog "suite." I noticed the tribute to the musicians in the credits of the last episode. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Richard Stone was a musical genius. The industry sucks louder than a Hoover without him.

Anonymous said...

Look at the television animation industry today. cartoons no longer has a full orchestra to accompany the animation no more .
Not even Warner Bros which Stone worked with during the Silver age of Animation.
Not Even Steve and Julie Bernstien who worked with Stone followed that tradition.
He later scored some Looney Tunes related works
like "Baby Looney Tunes".
I heard the music and its not a full orchestra playing it and secondly, the style is not really impressive.
Imagine if Richard Stone lived long enough to score the modern shows of today.
it will make a huge difference compared to what were given now.

Anonymous said...

Look at the television animation industry today. cartoons no longer has a full orchestra to accompany the animation no more .
Not even Warner Bros which Stone worked with during the Silver age of Animation.
Not Even Steve and Julie Bernstien who worked with Stone followed that tradition.
He later scored some Looney Tunes related works
like "Baby Looney Tunes".
I heard the music and its not a full orchestra playing it and secondly, the style is not really impressive.
Imagine if Richard Stone lived long enough to score the modern shows of today.
it will make a huge difference compared to what were given now.