• Interview: Will Anderson (Friendship is Magic score composer)

    William Kevin Anderson composes the entire underscore for Friendship is Magic. Basically, if Daniel Ingram didn't compose it for any of the vocalists to sing, then Will Anderson composed it to play alongside the action. I contacted him regarding a potential Q&A a while back. Will was gracious enough to answer 11 questions about himself and the music he has composed for MLP:FiM. Interview after the break!

    (Also, Seth advises you to check out this awesome song if you haven't already.)

    Interview / Q&A
    William Kevin Anderson
    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic score composer
    Equestria Daily administrator: Sethisto ([email protected])
    Interview conducted by: Tekaramity ([email protected])

    My Little Pony and all related characters and indicia are ©1982-2011 Hasbro.
    All rights reserved. Equestria Daily claims no ownership of the aforementioned.

    1. Hello, Mr. Anderson. Thank you very much for taking the time to communicate with the MLP: Friendship is Magic fanbase. Let's begin then. First of all, I must note that you already conducted quite an extensive interview with the Marvel Animation Age at http://marvel.toonzone.net/anderson.php - an interview which I highly recommend to all MLP:FiM fans interested in your musical catalog and compositional stylings. Building off of that, then, what have you scored since that particular interview transpired?

    Wow, I just went back and re-read the interview, it is great!

    Since then I finished Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island and did the remake of Biker Mice From Mars. I wrote and produced the songs for an animated feature, "The Life and Times Of Santa Claus"; I scored and wrote the songs for a Disney Christmas special,  "A Miser Brother's Christmas"; I scored another Christmas special, "A Cranberry Christmas" (Barry Manilow wrote the songs for that one - it was cool working with him!); I did some smaller independent animated projects, a few promos, a couple of live action films, a reality show called "Moment of Truth" which was a big hit…and I wrote a new musical with Sonia Levitin, "Return," which had a successful run in Los Angeles.

    2. I see that your catalog extends back across a few decades by now. What events brought you to handle the underscore for Friendship is Magic?

    A few decades? Really? Huh. Well, remember, I started doing this when I was 12!

    I was asked to submit for FiM. The process was blind, so the folks at Hasbro Studios listened to the submissions without knowing who the composer was. My underscore piece was selected, and so they hired me.

    3. Since scoring occurs in post-production, you presumably have access to practically everything you need to score Friendship is Magic effectively. In light of that, what *specifically* do you keep in mind when scoring this show? What stands out about it - from the perspective of animation, dialogue, and overall presentation - that you account for?

    Good Lord, that question is so huge that it makes me tired to think about it. It's all intuition and experience. Help the show, be there when you need to - get it right - make it flow - match the emotional temperature of the scene, or play against it - help the story, billboard the big moments...

    This is our process: The director and I talk through the role of the music for the entire episode. What needs special attention, what we want to achieve, what special needs the episode has. Then I write the music and show it to them and Hasbro Studios. They give me notes, I make changes, I master and deliver the show - then we move on to the next episode!

    4. Friendship is Magic has a remarkably diverse and textured soundtrack. Many scenes and characters carry recurring motifs. You employ a superb variety of instruments, as well. Themes range from classical to electronic, country to rock, ambient to forceful. Would you care to touch upon the musical ideas and elements that you most earnestly inject into the MLP:FiM score?

    I just try to do what is right, and I do have a big diverse pallet. I love the stylistic freedom afforded me on the show.  I think it is important to stay consistent once I get the themes right.  It helps me know where I am in the show.  I love doing electronic, orchestral, gothic metal - you name it!

    5. If you don't mind, I'd like to devote a few questions to specific pieces of music or thematic elements within the Friendship is Magic soundtrack. Perhaps your most well-known piece composed for Friendship is Magic is the montage music during Episode 18: Show Stoppers - unofficially known as "Cutie Mark Crusading" owing to the struggles of the Cutie Mark Crusaders discovering their talents. This piece is extremely catchy and boasts a synth lead alongside acoustic and muted guitars. What do you consider and implement when composing a piece of music such as this one that takes to the forefront and parallels the action while still introducing a strong melody? Any particular notions strike you while crafting this piece?

    We mapped the CMC scene out as a montage when we spotted the scene. Then I wrote a little pop rock theme that I thought worked. I knew I wanted a hook. I knew I wanted to use a retro sounding synth. I knew I wanted guitars and a strong back beat. That was that!
    Once I got the theme working, it was time to wrap it around the scene - make it work to picture. It took a long time to get it just right! Those long cues can take a bit of time to get to sit just right.

    6. Friendship is Magic sports quite a modern soundtrack in several ways. Rainbow Dash's signature instrument is the electric guitar. Synths and electronic beats accompany several side characters, such as the DJ pony and Photo Finish. Is this direction in the music part of the overall "modernization" of the show in updating the My Little Pony franchise as a whole, or do you simply employ instruments and musical styles that you feel are appropriate to the scene or characters on-screen at the time? Any commentary you'd like to share on the more modern music you've composed for FiM?

    To some degree it is unplanned. I mean really, what else would one do for Photo Finish but German Progressive House?  I just go for what is right for the scene or character - and I try to keep it cohesive.  That said, Lauren always wanted to find a signature sound or instrument for every character and so that is always on my mind.

    7. Conversely, the FiM soundtrack also presents a dazzling array of music more in line with classical and symphonic productions. Stirringly beautiful music accompanies the battle with (and triumphant resolution over) the imposing Nightmare Moon; over-the-top fanfare heralds the stage magician Trixie; trepidation resonates from the motif of the ravenous Parasprites; harpsichords dance around several scenes involving the elegant and graceful Rarity. Instead of a dichotomy, these stylings form a unique harmony with the more modern elements. How do you approach and overcome the potential clash between the old and the new? Any commentary you'd like to share on the more classical music you've composed for FiM?

    Wow. You really know the score. I forget what I do week by week (kidding!). I love writing orchestral music.  It is great fun to use the extensive orchestral samples now available for composers and employ them in the show. Overall, I see MLP:FiM as a classic show with a classic score.  I don't see a potential clash - it is all of one thought to me. There's room for everyone.  MLP has a big orchestral element to it. It just turned out that way.

    8. One prime example of the fusion between old and new - as well as the association between a particular style of music and a corresponding pony - is the music accompanying Rarity's second (successful) fashion show in Suited for Success. Each pony in the show receives a fitting segment: Twilight Sparkle's disco-techno, Applejack's hayseed, Pinkie Pie's candy pop, Rainbow Dash's electric overdrive, Fluttershy's earthen beats, and Rarity's triumphant fanfare. This piece of music exemplifies the strongest synergistic elements of the Friendship is Magic underscore. If you've anything to discuss regarding this particular musical segment or the other seemingly dichotomous sections of the FiM soundtrack, would you kindly share it?

    All I can say is that this scene took FOREVER to do - it is so hard to get through everything and make it smooth, then make it so each thematic element for each pony stands out. The tricky thing is to get all the individual beats, but also keep the energy up and make it all smooth and continuous.

    I look for these kind of set pieces episode by episode and give them the special attention they deserve. It is nice to see them appreciated!

    9. You're perpetually busy, I'm aware, but have you found time to watch MLP:FiM on air?

    My daughter TiVos them all, and we often watch them together. It is hard for me to watch them, because I work so hard on them that I am no longer objective.  I think the show looks and sounds great and I am proud of it.

    10. Have you heard the online chatter about the show? It has gained a sizable following outside of its target audience. How does reaching a larger audience and reading any fan feedback impact you? What do you make of it all?

    I have been made aware of it, and I think FiM deserves the attention. Two words: Lauren Faust.

    11. Thank you very much for your answers and for taking time out of your schedule to communicate with the fans. It's been a true pleasure. Do you have any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

    I love the show and am proud to be part of the creative/production team putting it out. Everyone at Hasbro Studios and The Hub has been so supportive. Everyone at Studio B in Vancouver has been wonderful. Roger and Adam and the folks up at Dick & Rogers do a bang-up job. The cast is terrific. The scripts and scribes are wonderful.  It is a huge effort to do this, and I am just happy to take care of my little corner of the MLP:FiM universe!


    Thank you again for taking part in this interview, Will! Really looking forward to hearing the music you will be composing for Season 2!