About the Music
When approaching the music for Free Birds, the filmmakers needed a sound 16
palette that could span a small modern-day turkey farm and Plymouth Colony in
the year 1621. "It's a bizarre shift of mood when you're trying to be a science
fiction film but also have a warm holiday tone," admits Hayward. "So deciding
which way to go with the music was a big challenge. More than anything, it had
to have a sweeping orchestral score, and that's exactly what we got with Dominic
Lewis and the orchestra in London."
"Jimmy basically gave me a blank slate to work from, just saying, 'Do your thing,'"
recalls Lewis. But Lewis had to be mindful to create a score that wouldn't weigh
down the comedic moments or overpower the action scenes. He also had the
challenge of creating themes that reflected two different time periods: in the
modern day scenes, Lewis used more electronic instruments, like electric guitars
and pit bass; when the characters move to 1621, he reverted to a more
traditional orchestra. The finished score helped create seamless transitions
between the film's varied settings. Says Lewis, "It was a pleasure and an honor
to work with Jimmy: he's very articulate with his artistic vision every step of the
way. It was a real joy."
For some of the more dramatic and intense moments in the score, Hayward and
Lewis enlisted the aid of Danny Carey, the talented drummer from the Grammy
Award-winning band, Tool. Carey said, "My good friend Jimmy Hayward invited
me to participate in the film and I couldn't turn him down." A musician in his own
right, Hayward and Carey often play music together outside of work. In addition
to Carey's work on the score, he also lends his voice to the character of the
dread-locked wild turkey Danny, one of Ranger's devotees. Free Birds marks
Carey's first voice role in an animated film.
"In the film, Danny's character plays these big tribal drums. We basically
reenacted that in the studio. We had him play all sorts of drums, such as a Surdo
drum, his Toms, and various other drums we mashed together to get a tribal beat
down for when we see him on screen drumming," said Lewis. Hayward recalls, 17
"At first I was just thinking of Danny for the war drums for the battle scene at the
end of the film, but once we really got into working out the score with Dominic,
we decided to bring him in as a session drummer and use him in more
scenes." For the final film, Carey plays the "ska" tune when Reggie's at Camp
David; he plays in the big band jazz moment when Jake and Reggie are in the
time machine; and then he plays the war drums using a big Timpani set for the
end of the film. Hayward continues, "It's great having a buddy who is a world-
class musician play on the score. It was good fun for Danny, Dominic and myself,
and Danny's war-torn stuff at the end definitely made the big battle scene more
intense." Carey thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, adding, "It was a pleasure
and an honor to work with Jimmy: he's very articulate with his artistic vision every
step of the way. I also had a great experience working with Dominic. It was a real
joy to work with such a gifted composer."
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