“Man or Muppet”
Music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie
Overview: Emmy-nominated “Flight of the Conchords” songwriter McKenzie penned four tunes for Disney’s Muppet comeback movie. His power ballad “Man or Muppet” puts a uniquely “Muppetational” spin on finding one’s place in life.
Oscar pedigree: First nom
Placement: A little over an hour into the movie, Gary (Jason Segel) discovers his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) has left him, and his Muppet brother Walter wrestles with talent issues as the Muppet Telethon approaches. “Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons has a funny cameo as Walter’s human counterpart.
Aesthetic: “The premise itself I find funny,” says McKenzie, “so that was easy to write. It’s probably Gary’s most sincere moment in the movie, and Jason does a really beautiful performance on screen. That’s one of those songs that really goes inside the character and you get to see how the character is feeling.”
Biggest challenge: “We knew that Gary would be looking at his reflection, and his reflection would be looking back. There were visual ideas that needed to be incorporated.”
“Real in Rio”
Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, lyrics by Siedah Garrett
Overview: Legendary Brazilian musician Mendes (of “Brazil ’66” fame) joined with Brazilian percussionist Brown and lyricist Garrett (best known for her Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”) to write a samba salute to Rio de Janeiro for the 3D animated film.
Oscar pedigree: First nom for Mendes and Brown; second for Garrett (previously nominated for a song from “Dreamgirls”).
Placement: Opens the movie with a splashy, colorful morning scene in the rainforest near Rio, as the birds sing about the town’s special qualities; song returns for the film’s happy ending.
Aesthetic: “(Director Carlos Saldanha) wanted a haunting melody that would go through the whole movie and, at the end, explode into the parade for Carnival,” says Mendes. “Immediately I went back to my childhood, you wake up, all the birds are singing, the beautiful greenery, that atmosphere. Carlinhos did a lot of the percussion.”
Biggest challenge: “Every song on the soundtrack was originally in Portuguese,” Garrett says. “They decided to do the soundtrack in English. My assignment was to create an English lyric that sounded like the Portuguese words that were going on underneath. The song needed to convey the feeling of fun, party, festivity, music and beats, just the soulfulness of Rio. Sergio has been telling me about Rio for 20 years; I’d never been.”
Score | Song