Review: Back To Gaya (2004)

Composer: Michael Kamen

Label: None (unreleased: complete score analysis based on film)  

Catalogue Nr.: None

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Watch out, Shrek, Nemo and all of you other Tinseltown CGI creatures! Europeans now do their own computer animation! Back To Gaya directed by German duo Holger Tappe and Lenard F. Krawinkel was the first fully computer generated film to come from Germany. Okay, a bunch of other companies from around Europe helped out as well and considering the slim budget (compared to its Hollywood equivalents) the film came out surprisingly well. Sure, the visuals may look like an overlong cut-scene from some weird video game while the story follows typical animation clichés and has some stereotypical heroes but at least the makers worked some fun ideas into the film: The adventures of Boo and Zino is a successful fantasy series for kids but an evil professor wants to destroy the colourful series. He has build a device that can transport anything from the TV world into our reality and zaps Boo, Zino, the Snurks and princess Alanta into our world where they are far away from their fluffy fantasy home Gaya. Sadly, with Dreamworks and Pixar productions already being light years ahead in terms of technology at the time, Back To Gaya tanked terribly even at European box office. Executives were changing the international title to a rather weak Boo, Zino & The Snurks, in the hope that US audiences would not recognize the title and watch the film out of pure curiosity. As always, such panic reactions do not work out as planned and the first euro-animation was as quickly forgotten as it came.

The score:

(Please NOTE: No score release of any kind exists of Back To Gaya, so this review is based on the score as heard in the film. The above cover art is entirely fan-fictional and was added for promotional purposes only!)

Directors Tappe and Krawinkel are both devoted fans of composer Michael Kamen. Thanks to their British co-producer Jeremy Thomas, they were able to contact Kamen who became interested in the project and wanted to view a work-print of the picture which was heavily temp-tracked with existing music. Kamen reportedly hated what was used but the directors changed the temp-track by using only pieces composed by Kamen who was naturally impressed with that little favour and agreed to compose the score. Disaster stroke when the composer suddenly died of a heart attack in November 2003 which put the entire project in jeopardy because he was not able to finish the score. Based on sketches that Kamen finished before his death, his orchestrators and arrangers Robert Elhai, Brad Warnaar, Julian Kershaw, Jeff Toyne, Rubert Christie, Jonathan Sacks, Blake Neely and Ian MacPhearson were called in to finish the score while Ilan Eshkeri provided additional music where necessary. Then, in January 2004, the finished music was recorded at Abbey Road Studios performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra under the baton of Andy Brown. Those involved with the music agreed that Kamen's last work was also one of his finest efforts and the music was performed live at the film's premiere in Hannover as a special tribute to the late composer who passed away way too early. Oddly, his outstanding music for Back To Gaya remains entirely unreleased to this day and date.

Even though Michael Kamen's orchestrators had to finish the score, you will not notice that at all which indicates that Kamen probably finished a good chunk of material before the tragic twist of events in November 2003. His musical voice, trademarks and craftsmanship are shining through every single note of music, from the memorable opening sky-high main theme (featured in the suite - see below) with its emphasis on horns that will bring back memories of Kamen's theme for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1994) to even the smallest bits of underscore. Words like 'rousing' and 'thrilling' can barely give a vague idea of how brilliant the action-adventure parts of this score are and this music is one of the rare occasions where a comparison to John Williams' is probably fully appropriate. Another horn-driven secondary flying-theme follows when the main characters Boo and Zino take flight to Gaya-city. This theme is just as excellent as the main theme and develops into a trhilling orchestral ride for the aerial journey with a pompous fanfare finale as Gaya-City its magic stone, the Dalamite, appears (featured in the suite - see below).

A big race in best Star Wars fashion follows in the film with a beautiful build-up to the first statement of the score's heroic theme for Zino. As the race begins and Zino takes off, Kamen thrills us into an amazing action passage that changes between dark pounding tones for the evil Snurks, tension-building frenetic strings and broad symphonic fanfares spiced with an incredible debth in orchestration. The entire race-cue alone makes this score a highlight in Kamen's career and functions as a nice summary of themes. A short statement of the romantic theme for princess Alanta is also included and the heroic theme receives a full outburst as Boo and Zino turbo boost to the pole position. A Creepy and dark motif accompanies the introduction of the evil professor N. Icely who is planning to destroy the series by stealing the Dalamite. The music rises to a dark apocalyptic scale as the professor activates his transportation device to rob the stone and menacing, pounding timpani follows our main characters as they are sucked through the dimension gate into our world.

While Boo and Zino arrive at a backyard, the Snurks arrive in a little boy's room who is having fun while hunting the bad gnomes with a baseball bat and Kamen responds to the chase with some quirky gnomish chase music. All that great musical material already comes within the first 20 minutes into the picture which shows how rich the score is. The flying-theme returns as Boo and Zino enter a house that is suddenly being demolished and both have to escape the giant demolition ball. Alanta arrived in a toy store and is playing around and raving on being a big hero which is accompanied some gentle and elegant waltzy material based on the romantic theme which develops into uplifting heroic tones with a little mickey-mousing as Alanta performs a wire-stunt (featured in the suite - see below). As Boo and Zino are trying to rescue Alanta from nasty rats in the sewers, a heroic variation on Alanta's romantic theme follows as she fights the rats with Kung-Fu. Screaming brass and a dark statement of the heroic theme suddenly bursts out when they meet a hungry crocodile in the sewers. The action motives from the race are powerfully reprised for the big finale fight between the professor and the heroes before a bright reprise of the Gaya-City material is featured when the heroes are back in gaya.

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 93%

Score as heard on CD: n/a

TOTAL: 93%

 

The presentation:

Well, what can I possibly say about a presentation that is non-existent? One would think that a film like Back To Gaya would generate some kind of soundtrack release but there is not even a song-compilation out there which is very odd because the film utilized several songs including "No Small Wonder" composed by Kamen himself. Early rumours mentioned the possibility of a score release but the idea must have been dropped which is an indication for the total money loss that the film was. Maybe the people in charge did not want to spend any more money on this turkey by putting out a CD. Really, really sad because the score was recorded in London and would have been relatively cheap to release without any re-use fees worries. Now, all hope lies on US film music labels like Intrada, Varese or Perseverance who could probably make an overdue release of the score possible.

Presentation by the Label: n/a

 

Summary:

Michael Kamen's last score is also one of his best. The music is so rich and colourful with striking action music, rousing heroic moments and high flying themes. Kamen's trademarks shine through during the entire composition which makes cues like the race or the final fight some really outstanding musical moments. The depth of the orchestrations is remarkable and the London Metropolitan Orchestra gives it a vibrant and absolutely superb standout performance. After hearing this score, Kamen's early death becomes even more sad because Back To Gaya shows that he just arrived at the peak of musical brilliance when he had to leave our world and only god knows what more he could have done with his amazing skills and craftsmanship. The absence of a score release is a scandal to put it mildly and I can only hope that this last Michael Kamen masterpiece will be released on CD for all fans of great animation scores to enjoy because Back To Gaya clearly is one of the finest. With the present situation, I can only recommend you to watch the movie, if not for the flick itself then for the music. I guarantee that you won't regret it!

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

                   Tracklisting:

Since there is no score release, there can't be a tracklisting. However, for my dear readers, I have created a little suite of score moments from the film that are not drown in heavy sfx to give you an imagination of Kamen's last masterpiece. It starts with the opening titles and the main theme, then goes into a short statement of the heroic theme, then fades right into the introduction of Gaya-City and ends with the elegant waltzy mickey-mousing for Alanta's mirror heroics:

 

Back To Gaya Suite (2:23)

 

Important Note:

 

This clip was created and posted entirely for promotional and non-commercial reasons! If, for whatever reasons, someone out there feels violated in his (copy)rights due to this lousy clip of barely 3 minutes, then please feel free to let me know before you send out the suits.