By Amanda DK
It’s been said, but I’ll say it again: the hardest songs to place in a film are for the main titles and end titles. Respectively they need to set up and sum up the film, but in a way that isn’t too “on the nose.” The end title song especially is where artists and writers are often brought in to create something original; it’s usually the only time viewers will get to hear a song in it’s entirety. While an excellent opportunity for exposure, writing an original piece specifically for a project can’t be an easy task – especially for a movie geared to kids.
What lyrics are appropriate for the film, not too obvious and not pandering? What kind of music do kids respond do? And most importantly, how do you connect to your young audience, and their parents who brought them to the theatre? Here are a few that in my opinion absolutely nail it:
1) Jónsi “Sticks and Stones” from How To Train Your Dragon
Jónsi is a perfect choice to write for a family movie. The former Sigur Rós frontman is no stranger to enchanting, theatrical, emotional pieces that connect viscerally with their listeners across all ages and language. “Stick and Stones” is no different. It touches on the coming of age theme in the film, has a dash of some Nordic-sounding language, and feels extra fitting for a movie with a lot of flying.
Jónsi “Sticks and Stones”
2) Pharrell Williams “Fun, Fun, Fun” from Despicable Me
Many artists are composing for film and television these days, even more are teaming up with composers to do so. I don’t know about you, but when I heard that Pharrell Williams was pairing with Heitor Pereira and Hans Zimmer to work on an animated kids movie, my response was, “Huh?” The result, however, is fresh, modern and youthful. Zimmer and Pereira deliver an enjoyable sore, but it’s Williams electronic, party boy touch during a few choice moments that elevates it to the next level. “Fun, Fun Fun” plays during a heartwarming part of the film, and will pop into your head every sunny day adventure.
Pharrell Williams “Fun Fun Fun”
3) Phil Collins “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan
Released in 1999, Tarzan was the first of the Disney 2D animated movies where none of the characters sang (at least that I can remember). The film utilized pop icon Phil Collins in a similar way to how Pharrell was used in Despicable Me. While the score was composed by Mark Mancina, Collins wrote several memorable songs that appeared in key moments of the film. “You’ll Be In My Heart” is my favorite, and the Academy’s too, as it won an Oscar for Best Original Song. It’s accessible enough for kids to stay engaged in the fim, and is a thematic sweet spot for their moms.
4) Randy Newman “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from Toy Story
It’s impossible to imagine any of the Toy Story movies without the influence of Randy Newman. He is simply a professional at what he does, which is spot on songwriting and an excellent composition. I mean, the man was nominated for 20 Academy Awards. He won twice, both times for Pixar films: in 2001 for “If I Didn’t Have You” used in Monsters, Inc., and in 2011 for “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3. “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” may not have won a tiny golden man (though it was nominated for one), but it’s simple refrain has a place in all of our hearts.