John Powell: Toon tunesmith

Eye on the Oscars: Music

The Lorax” marks John Powell’s 18th animated feature score, and he has well established himself as an authority on the genre. He reunited with producer Christopher Meledandri, having first explored the world of Dr. Seuss together with “Horton Hears a Who.”

For “Lorax,” a colorful morality tale about environmental responsibility, Powell wrote seven original songs — beginning work 2½ years before the film opened — and used those melodies to seed his orchestral score.

A prominent musical character is the film’s humming fish — chipmunk-voiced creatures that serenade the story with well-known and original tunes.

On each animated project Powell gives directors their choice of what he calls a “Stalling number” (referring to “Looney Tunes” composer Carl Stalling) to determine how manic and obsessively synchronized the music will be. “The Lorax” lands in the middle of the spectrum, narrating the film with more straight fluidity.

Powell has recently taken to scoring animated films almost exclusively. “They give me a chance to write more spirited and joyful music,” he says, adding that he avoids live-action projects that are “indiscriminately violent, or whose purpose is only to entertain the warrior-lust within 15-year-olds.” “The Lorax” was an exceptional fit because, he says, “the morality within Seuss stories is where I fit as well.”

Eye on the Oscars: Music
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