Jim Hill - May 10, 2001

Jim Hill
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by Jim Hill (archives)
May 10, 2001
Jim Hill throws the "Music from Disney's California Adventure" CD into his stereo and -- surprise, surprise -- find that it's possible to turn a fairly middling theme park into a really entertaining recording.

DCA CD? A-OK or just P.U.?
Jim Hill throws the "Music from Disney's California Adventure" CD into his stereo and -- surprise, surprise -- find that it's possible to turn a fairly middling theme park into a really entertaining recording.

Have you ever seen a mediocre movie that had a really great soundtrack? The sort of film where you forget the faces of the actors as soon as you left the theater, but find yourself humming the movie's theme song for weeks afterward?

That's what I kept thinking about as I was listening to Walt Disney Records' latest release, "Music from Disney's California Adventure"? Why is that DCA sounds so great when you're listening to a CD that features musical highlights of the park, yet the park itself is -- well -- sort of a snooze?

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The new Disney's California Adventure Official Album

I mean, if only DCA's "Superstar Limo" were as much fun as the witty score that George Wilkins wrote for this attraction. Based solely on the track that you hear on the "Music from Disney's California Adventure" CD, you'd have to think that "Superstar Limo" must be this terrific, tuneful tribute to Tinsel Town.

In reality, this Hollywood Pictures Backlot ride is a complete bust. A series of California in-jokes that only the most jaded of Hollywood insiders would ever crack a smile at, this DCA attraction confuses more visitors than it amuses. Yet -- on this CD -- "Superstar Limo" comes across as great fun.

Such is the magical touch of Randy Thornton and his staff at Walt Disney Records. They can take a problematic project like the soundtrack for this troubled theme park yet still produce a polished and professional final product.

Take -- for example -- the wizardy they worked on the track for "Lights, Camera, Chaos." Thornton's team waded through the score that Bruce Healey wrote for this bizarre Hollywood Pictures Backlot show (which thankfully bit the dust a few weeks ago). Randy's crew plucked out the very best bits of Healey's music and wove them together. The end result is a track that is lyrical, energetic, memorable -- everything that "Lights, Camera, Chaos" (the show) was not.

Of course, it's not like Thornton's team is working in a complete vacuum here. After all, Disney did recruit some of the top talents in the industry to create music for its new theme park. Among these were Academy Award nominee Bruce Broughton (best known to Disneyana fans as the composer of the music for "Rescuers Down Under" and "Homeward Bound"). Broughton -- working with Wilkins -- did the arrangement on the weird but wonderful "Beauty and the Bees" number that you'll hear on the DCA soundtrack (You want to hear this in person sometime? Linger in the lobby at the "It's Tough to Be a Bug" theater over in California Adventure's Bountiful Valley Farm area. You'll eventually hear this as well as several other classic show tunes as if they had performed by an all-insect orchestra. Funny, funny stuff ). Bruce also composed the lyrical underscore for the Golden Vine Winery's "Seasons of the Vine" show, another high point of this fine recording.

Personally, my favorite piece on "Music from Disney's California Adventure" would have be the track that features Academy Award winner Jerry Goldsmith's (no pun intended here) uplifting score for Condor Flats' "Soarin' Over California" attraction. As sweeping and majestic as the film footage it underscores, Goldsmith's "Soarin' " music ranks right up there with the other great work Jerry's done for motion pictures over the years (I.E. the scores for the original "Planet of the Apes," "Chinatown," "The Omen," "Poltergeist," "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," "L.A. Confidential" as well as Disney's "Mulan").

(Quick story here, a little bit off the subject, but one I think you'll enjoy: When the Imagineers were looking for a composer to create the underscore for "Soarin' Over California," they invited Jerry Goldsmith out to Glendale to take a look at the work-in-progress version of this DCA ride film. They sent Goldsmith up into WDI's mock-up theater to view the "Soarin' " movie. When they brought him back down again, these Imagineers were shocked to find Jerry weeping. Huge tears rolling down his face.

"Had something gone wrong?" the Imagineers asked. "No, everything was fine," Goldsmith said. He then went on to explain that he had two loves in his life: Music and flying. In fact, some of his favorite memories as a child was flying gliders with his Dad down among on the dunes where LAX was eventually built.

Goldsmith, a native born Californian, had been composing music for TV and movies for 45 years at this point. Here -- finally -- was his dream project. A film that would combine his two loves -- music & flying -- as well as pay tribute to his home state.

Jerry, as it turns out, had been weeping because he was happy. He thought that the "Soarin' Over California" ride film was beautiful, magical. "I'd do anything to be part of this project," Goldsmith continues, "I'd even score the film for free."

Just for the record, Disney *DID* pay Jerry to work on the project. The end result -- the perfect marriage of all that incredible in-flight footage as well as Goldsmith's majestic score -- is perhaps DCA's very best attraction.)

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