Review: The Wild (2006)

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Label: Walt Disney Records  

Catalogue Nr.: 61151-7

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Any box office winning formula will immediately cause someone else jumping the band wagon. This seems to be a basic rule in Hollywood and at least explains why films like Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998), Dante's Peak (1997) and Volcano (1997), or, most recently, Madagascar (2005) and The Wild not only share a lot of scary similarities but hit cinemas only a couple of months apart. It's almost like a heavy instance of industrial espionage among studios is causing the production of all these identical twins. At least in the case of The Wild, a more reasonable explanation exists. Disney's The Wild, despite being released later than DreamWorks' Madagascar, was in production long before DreamWorks even considered making such a film. When Disney's Jeffrey Katzenberg left the studio and went to DreamWorks, he had several concepts for future Disney films in his bag and DreamWorks rushed Madagascar into production. It became a hit while The Wild tanked terribly. Oh, before I forget: Both films are about a bunch of animals escaping the New York Zoo and ultimately strand in the wilderness, while Madagascar is a buddy story and The Wild is a father-son thing.

The score:

In 2005, Alan Silvestri fans faced a long dry spell of over one year. Never before has there been such a long absence from film scoring for the composer, who always had an average of 3 to 4 projects per year, so the gap between The Polar Express (2004) and The Wild in early 2006 was seemingly unbearable, only interrupted by his short music for the Disneyland 50th Anniversary commercial Coming Home (2005) and Intrada's release of his earlier score for Judgment Night (1993). Many things have circled the internet concerning why Silvestri did not score anything that year but the most simple explanation must be correct: he was just taking a deserved break to recover at his newly opened vineyard with the family. Apparently, his comeback score for The Wild shows that the long vacation did not hurt his abilities to create excellent, entertaining music with class. In his newest output for a Disney film, he offers us a colourful, mixed bag containing a plethora of themes, warm music for the father-son story between Samson the lion and his son Ryan, well thought-out mickey-mousing for the animal group and a whole lot of action material that simply rocks the house. In short: Big Al is back!

The opening of the album already sets the tone for the score with "Tales From The Wild" and functions as a comprehensive overture. After a rousing vintage Silvestri opening fanfare, some surprisingly dark action music takes over and pounding percussion and dark brass dominates the almost march-like villain theme for the evil gnus that follows. The music is noticeably intense, even menacing at times and several of these big orchestral moments recall Silvestri's action and percussion heavy scores like Van Helsing (2004). The second half of the cue brings more light-hearted fanfare fun that recalls Silvestri's music for the Disney commercial Coming Home (2005). First hints of the heroic main theme constructed around a suspenseful build up appear as well but the real big statement of this main theme follows in "You Can't Roar" after some mickey-mousing at the cue's beginning. The theme itself follows the tradition of big Silvestri themes as the brass is bouncing back and forth between the notes of the melody. It's that big statement which is the exciting first highlight of the album but it ends a bit unsatisfying by just dropping to nothing after a moment of tension when you expect it to really go crazy. Some more sentimental tones take over from there. "Lost In The City" opens with a dark line for horns as the animals start their dangerous journey and continues with low piano ramblings interchanging with pizzicato strings and some whirling structures expressing driving wind that Silvestri used in a similar way for the windy roof-scenes in The Polar Express (2004). The cue's second half continues with more action music and very string-heavy moments reviving the composers first orchestral score for Fandango (1985).

A gentle opening for strings and horns in "To The Wild" greets a shot of the Liberty Statue in the film before it quickly goes into a burst of percussive action with intense snare drums. Things become more and more frenetic near the middle of the cue to keep up with an insane boat chase sequence and the orchestra just keeps racing from one dark fanfare to another string cluster. Then, all of a sudden, things drop quiet and make way for a warm string and horn combo that slightly crosses the path of James Newton Howard's musical expressions for romanticism when a journey montage begins. Roughly pounding percussion with low horns accompanies a storm sequence before we hear a waggish little march for Nigel the Koala, with a melody and arrangement slightly comparable to John Williams' "March of the Villains" from Superman - The Movie (1978) but overall this is Silvestri enjoying himself and us with light-hearted orchestral fun. "Alien Shores" opens with more romanticism for strings and more of Nigel's little march. Dramatic action music recalling the finale firework from The Mummy Returns (2001) forms the middle section of the cue followed by sentimental music for depressive woodwinds and frenetic music at the end. Magical twinkling tones open "The Legend In Action" followed by a more straight-forward statement of Nigel's march. Whirling strings suddenly start a race with the brass quickly stating the main theme before sentimental tones return - quick changes in mood as usual for this genre, but masterfully handled by Alan Silvestri.

"The Mythology of Nigel" offers another race, this time with insanely fast synth-drums and quick trumpet fanfares until everything drops quiet before working forward to another, heavily pounding build up of orchestral power. A bit of Super Mario Bros.' (1993) darkly rousing music comes near the end of this very entertaining track. Maybe one more thing about this score should be mentioned and that is the usage of choir. Silvestri is a master of choir but his use of this powerful musical element is very sparse here and degraded to a rather supportive role. A brief use of choir can be heard in the next track "The Ritual". The theme for the Gnus cultists returns here which makes this one of the darkest cues of the entire album. "Found Our Roar" is the finale fight music which soars you away with glorious fanfares that briefly bring to mind Forrest Gump (1994) as Samson's natural instinct awakes and literally blasts the Gnus away. Big finish! Maybe it is time to mention the songs now. After all, they take nearly 45% of the album's running time, so they shall not remain unmentioned. I can't really identify myself with something like Everlife's "Real Wild Child" or Lifehouse's "Good Enough" but I am sure a lot of teen groupies will jump at these names like I jump at the name Alan Silvestri. "Big Time Boppin'" on the other hand, is an entertaining, modernised rock 'n' roll song that was used for a Zoo party sequence in the film. The real highlight among the songs though is Eric Idle and John Du Prez's "Really Nice Day" for sure. Both Monty Python veterans deliver a catchy but unspectacular song for the gnu cultist's dancing performance in the film. Pay attention to the line 'I am so cuddly, I like you". Before you imagine too much, it's not some hidden gay theme but actually reflects on a very funny sub plot concerning koala bear Nigel.

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 84%

Score as heard on CD: 76%

TOTAL: 80%

 

The presentation:

Walt Disney Records has recently put out several song/score combo albums for comparable (animation) films but their album for The Wild is a bit different. Unlike their albums for Chicken Little (2005) or The Shaggy Dog (2006) which put an emphasis on the songs, this album's spotlight is in fact the score portion. It's clocking in at almost 32 minutes of pure Silvestri music. It's also unusual that it was noticeably tried to turn the score portion into a good listening experience which presents the majority of the best moments from the score while still maintaining the narrative structure of the music to a certain degree. Alas, some cues had to be shortened and heavily edited for that purpose, which is the reason why some ideas, like the heroic main theme, only receive one or two big statements and then descent into barely noticeable hints throughout the underscore. Yes, this is definitely one of the best song/score combo CDs that comes from Disney in a very long time (and it's for sure that the name Alan Silvestri had something to do with it), however, that should not cloak the fact that more score could have been included. After all, if the new re-use fees deal enables a specialty label like Varese to abandon the 30 minute CDs and instead putting out albums that actually break the magical hour mark, then a big company like Disney should be able to do the same... for all of their CDs please!

Presentation by the Label: 61%

 

Summary:

From all Disney, animation and children films Alan ever scored, The Wild must certainly be his most intense. Silvestri is flexing the big orchestral action muscles like he never did in any child film before which makes this half an hour of score very exciting and wildly entertaining. As usual with Alan Silvestri, a wealth of themes is there, but developed in a more careful way than usual. The ineluctable heroic main theme only receives one big statement in "You Can't Roar" but then, descents into barely noticeable hints hidden within typical mickey-mousing and action music for the rest of the album. Further highlights are the string romanticism in "To The Wild" which slightly sweeps into James Newton Howard's territory, a waggish little march for Nigel the koala bear and a set of finale fanfares in "Found Our Roar". Maybe Alan Silvestri does not really re-invent anything here but that wasn't really necessary for a film like this. Instead, all this nice, well-orchestrated action music combined with relatively undemanding themes and lots of colour turn this Silvestri score maybe not into his best or most creative but certainly his wildest score for a kiddie film to this date.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

                Tracklisting:

01. Real Wild Child (03:16)
02. Good Enough (05:11)
03. Big Time Boppin' (Go Man Go) (02:59)
04. Really Nice Day (02:20)
05. Tales From The Wild (03:56)
06. You Can't Roar (03:54)
07. Lost In The City (03:31)
08. To The Wild (04:15)
09. Alien Shores (02:59)
10. The Legend In Action (03:32)
11. The Mythology Of Nigel (03:22)
12. The Ritual (03:24)
13. Found Our Roar (02:47)
14. Really Nice Day (Finale) (02:02)

 

 

The Wild's Wild Notes

It took some time and effort but now I can present results of the chronological film order of Alan's latest score. As expected, the album is heavily edited. They tried to present as many good moments from the score as possible while shortening some cues and at times merging them with others. This leads to a good listening experience but can be quite a bit frustrating if you have seen the film.

Finally, here comes the first part of the chronological breakdown with explanations how the CD fits into the big picture (PLEASE NOTE... that this complete cue breakdown and the analysis are based on the film and NOT on a CD release of the complete score! Beware of Spoilers!):

01. Main Titles & Tales From The Wild (2:30)

The majority of this introductionary cue is featured on the CD in track 5 (0:00 to 1:30) but the film version is different. As the castle logo appears, Alan opens with the low horn heroics and occasionally inserts some funny stops, then repeats the fanfare as the logo keeps starting again and again when Samson is trying to find a good story for his bored son Ryan. Samson's Gnu story has a little bit of additional unreleased music when he unleashes his roar and the statement of the Gnu theme comes right when Samson is telling his fable of the largest Gnu he’s ever seen.

02. Ridiculous Roar (2:00)

Half of this cue appears on the CD at the beginning of track 6 (0:00 to 0:37). It follows little Ryan who is fed up with his baby-roar and dreams of getting into a mysterious green container to go into the wild. The horn statement comes in when Samson warns his son of these containers. In the film, the cue continues with lengthy Mickey-mousing for benny's introduction.

03. The Problem with Ryan / Nigel-Shop / Showtime! (1:00)

The entire cue remains unreleased. The first part follows a discussion between Samson and Benny about Ryan's troubles with his roar, the middle section is some fluffy source music for a souvenir shop with stuffed versions of Nigel, the koala and a little build up continues into a cannonade of pop songs (including Big Time Boppin' which appears on the CD as track 3) as the animals take over the Zoo during night time to prepare a big icey game.

04. Ryan Sulky / Eze... Duke / Icey Games (2:31)

The beginning part of the cue (track 6 from 2:42 to 3:05) when Samson visits sulky Ryan on his tree to ask him to come along to the big game is tracked-in. The rest of the cue follows the appearance of Ryan's buddies Eze and Duke with a little sneaky motif followed by the opening of the game with typical celebrational silvestri joy in the veign of The Boat Race from Stuart Little. All that appears during the second half of track 5 (1:30 to end).

05. Thomson’s Scared / The Game Continued / Thomson Stampede (3:30)

A lengthy action cue which was seemingly edited a lot in the film and on CD though it's hard to tell were the editing starts and stops. An unreleased expansion on the motif for Eze and Duke comes first when they sneak up with Ryan to a group of Thomson Gazelles to scare them. Meanwhile, we go back to the game where Samson and friends are performing troublesome heroics and that part appears on the CD in track 6 (00:38 to 2:42) although in the film it is slightly different with another integration of the fanfare for the game that seems kind of misplaced probably due to a clumsy edit. The CD version stops right after another build up but in the film, the cue continues into a second statement of the heroic theme as Samson wins the game. That statement drops to deafening silence before the Thomson's are running in panic. That Stampede scene carries a thematic moment which appears in track 12 on the CD (2:15 to 2:33) though with a longer ending.

06. You Can’t Roar (1:04)

Angry Samson lectures his boy who is fed up and runs away. The entire cue with its sad woodwinds follows the conversation and goes into a pop song in the film. On CD, it comes at the end of track 6 (2:42 to end).

07. Entrapped / Pigeons / Green Lady & Briefing (3:27)

Another cue which is entirely unreleased. I was hoping for this one to be on the CD ever since I saw the scene in the trailer. Ryan is accidentally trapped in one of the containers which is being transported to the harbour. Alan responds with a set of dark screaming fanfares which goes into an interesting ethnic source music with an india-instrumentation for the insane pigeons. Lower tones come in as the birds explain the destination of the containers: New York harbour. A rescue mission briefing with Samson and friends is scored with careful mickey-mousing for dialogue.

08. Lost In The City Part 1 (1:30)

The animals hide in a garbage truck and drive through the city where Benny is getting lost. The accompanying music can be found in track 7 (0:00 to 1:28) with an interesting playful development for strings that Alan used previously in The Polar Express. It seems to be a musical re-interpretation of driving wind that is whirling through the animal’s hair.

09. Lost In The City Part 2 – Street Pooch / Escape (2:45)

Except for an unreleased action/mickey-mousing moment at the beginning, most of the cue is released as the second half of track 7 (1:28 to end). It accompanies a group of nasty street dogs chasing Samson & co. Two versions of the escape into the Sewers appear on the CD, one is a synth-ladden percussive version followed directly by the orchestral version used in the film.

10. Alligators (00:35)

A short moment of brooding music finished by dark fanfares accompanies the appearance of two alligators in the sewers. Unreleased.

11. Meet The Lady / After the Container / Boat Chase / Benny’s Comeback / Journey (6:34)

Lots of things are going on in this cue which contains a lot of unreleased action material that was cut from the CD version. Meet The Lady / After The Container / Boat Chase is basically featured entirely in track 8 (0:00 to 2:22) but right after the ‘bang’, the cue actually continues into another statement of the heroic theme as Samson maneuvers and prevents an accident. A funny little sea-faring melody is played by solo flute as Samson enjoys his role as captain of the ship. Meanwhile, Benny buckled up and performs an aerial comeback with a group of canadian gooses. Alan meets the stunt with another unreleased statement of the heroic theme and a solo trumpet version of the tune as Samson thanks Benny for his return. The released material continues with the Journey, a montage scored with a homage to James Newton Howard romanticism as heard in track 8 (2:22 to the end).

12. Alien Shores / Samson after Ryan (1:36)

The animals arrive on an island with a huge green jungle and spot Ryan who escapes the container. Track 9 on the CD features the entire material (0:00 to 1:34)

 

To be CONTINUED... (I knew you would hate that line ;-D )