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Pulling double duty: John Powell

Composer tackles 'Bolt' and 'Hancock'

John Powell, who has scored his share of animated features and action adventures alike, dispels the idea that composers can be painted into a box when it comes to surveying their resume.

“With ‘Bolt,’ I was not hired because of my previous work on animated films but because of the work I had done on the (Jason) Bourne films,” Powell says.

Besides “Bolt,” Powell scored the Will Smith film “Hancock,” which also required the type of “pulse” Powell loves to enable in his pieces.

“I’m always trying to find a pulse to develop, latch onto and augment for each piece as well as find a certain rhythm,” he says. “With animators, they are so precise in how they are moving the characters that this pulse becomes important, and with action films there is already a wonderful pulse. So I try to take these elements into consideration when going through the process.”

With both films, Powell utilized a balance of big, orchestrated sounds with softer, more subtle setpieces.

Even though he is dealing with films that require a very energetic drive, Powell says he always believed audiences preferred to be led rather than pushed.

“A tune on a piano is all you need sometimes,” Powell says. “You don’t need to drive things too hard or you will disrupt the rhythm of the acting.”

Besides dealing with two separate superhero tales, Powell was dealing with two different demographics.

“With the action film, the music needs to bring out the harsh realities and pain the character is going through,” he says. “You might tone that down for an animated film and make it more fun and soften it up a bit, where that action film has a little more of that raw edge to it.”

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