×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Seth MacFarlane’s ‘The Orville’ Gets Movie-Style Scoring From Emmy-Winning Composers

Seth MacFarlane knows his stuff. He is not just an actor-writer-director; he’s also an Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning songwriter and a Grammy-nominated big-band singer.

So for his new science-fiction comedy-drama “The Orville,” debuting Sept. 10 on Fox, he demanded a 75-piece orchestra and lined up a trio of veteran composers who, among them, have amassed 14 Emmys for their original music for television.

“For us, music is more important than in most TV shows,” MacFarlane says. “Even if an audience doesn’t know it’s hearing acoustic players, it somehow makes the show seem important — a little more legitimate. It makes it feel like a movie.”

Bruce Broughton, one of the most respected composers working in film (his movies include “Lost in Space,” and an episode of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” is among his 10 Emmy wins), supplied the heroic theme and scored the series pilot.

Joel McNeely (who scored MacFarlane’s movie “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and won an Emmy for “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”) and John Debney (whose TV record includes Emmys for such sci-fi adventures as “SeaQuest DSV” and “The Cape”) are composing the weekly episode scores.

“To me,” says MacFarlane, “casting a composer is like casting an actor. It’s got to fit. This was a swashbuckling kind of pilot; it really wanted a theme that felt

a little bit like a march, that harked back to the golden era of sci-fi.” MacFarlane insists that his composers be “serious musicians who can compose, →
orchestrate and really handle an orchestra that size.”

Broughton describes his music as “dramatic sci-fi.” “It’s got all the space chords,” he says with a laugh. “It may as well have been a movie.” McNeely echoes that sentiment: “Seth wants each show to be its own individual story, to think of it as scoring completely different movies from week to week.”

Carol Farhat, VP of music production at 20th Century Fox TV, confirmed that the “Orville” orchestras were among the largest in Fox TV history (the studio regularly contracts ensembles of 30 to 60 players for “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”). And on a recent “Orville” session at the studio, MacFarlane not only made a guest appearance but brought along two of his fellow actors, Scott Grimes and Halston Sage (the latter in full alien makeup), who watched the screens in the recording booth while Broughton’s music added a sense of adventure and drama to scenes they had shot a few weeks earlier.

Broughton and McNeely are working with MacFarlane outside “Orville” as well. Both arranged and conducted new albums with MacFarlane in his other showbiz role as interpreter of the Great American Songbook. McNeely’s will be released Sept. 15, Broughton’s sometime next year.

“Seth is so knowledgeable about film music and such a collaborator on a musical level,” McNeely says. “He can not only talk about the intent and tone of the score, but also the performance, asking for it to be lighter or softer here or there, or can the violins play with mutes? He really knows his stuff.”

More Artisans

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Why 'Missing Link's' Title Character Was One of Laika's Biggest Challenges

    Stop-motion studio Laika pushes design boundaries in every film it makes, and the lead character in “Missing Link” is no exception. “It became pretty apparent that [the character] Link was going to be the cornerstone,” says director and writer Chris Butler. “I did this rough drawing many years ago, and it was basically like a [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    New 3D-Printing Technology Was 'Missing Link' for Laika's Latest Stop-Motion Project

    For the upcoming animated comedy adventure “Missing Link,” stop-motion studio Laika set the bar very high. To execute the designs created by director and writer Chris Butler, artists would have to speed up their 3D printing of character faces — and those faces would have to be the most complex they’d ever created. “Missing Link” [...]

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

  • Us Movie

    How 'Us' Pulled Off Subtle Differences in Costumes, Design, Music for Parallel Characters

    “Us,” Jordan Peele’s second outing as a director, following his 2017 critical and box office success “Get Out,” revisits similar psychological horror-thriller territory. But this time the stakes are, well, doubled.  In the new film, to be released by Universal on March 21, Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, returns to her childhood beachside home [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content