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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Songs from animated films are on the right track

Posted: 01 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Movie soundtracks from animated films are booming.

Considered deeply uncool at one point, music from animated movies is back – and singing along is now not only OK for kids, it's something adults record themselves doing on their phones and share on YouTube.

The boom in popular songs from animated movies comes after a long fallow period when the form yielded few hits in the music world, despite box-office juggernauts like the Toy Story, Shrek and Ice Age franchises.

Though all incorporated music in their films, it was rarely the kind that had come to define the genre at Disney Animation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when it was making music-driven hits like The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast and The Little Mermaid.

"You had this shift ... where there were very successful animated movies but their soundtracks weren't," said president of Disney Music Group, Ken Bunt. "Their scores were important, but they weren't musicals and the music in them wasn't something that gets played on radio or that you're singing in your car."

A sign of the shift: For the first time in 20 years, a soundtrack from an animated film has been No. 1 on the Billboard charts for 11 weeks.

Two weeks ago, Disney's fairy tale Frozen displaced 1994's The Lion King to become the top-selling animated movie soundtrack of all time. It's not the only music from an animated film that's hot right now: Happy, Pharrell Williams' ubiquitous mood booster from Despicable Me 2, has been No. 1 on the single charts for eight weeks and appears everywhere from Fiat commercials to kids' choir homages.

Earlier this year, The Lego Movie popularised a catchy electronic parody song called Everything Is Awesome, and Rio 2 is receiving lots of praise from critics for the quality of its eclectic, Brazil-influenced soundtrack.

In some cases, as with Frozen, the music helped drive the box office, as audiences started learning songs from the radio before they saw the film; in others, as in Despicable Me 2, the song's hit status came well after the film's box-office release and evolved into a story of its own. Regardless, the cloud on animated musicals has clearly lifted.

"There hadn't been a musical in such a long time," said chief creative officer of DreamWorks Animation, Bill Damaschke, which has a Bollywood-style musical composed by A.R. Rahman and an Australia-set project from Tim Minchin, the composer of the Tony Award-winning show Matilda The Musical, in development.

"A really great one came out (Frozen) and it hit a nerve. Everybody's asking, 'What are fresh, original ways to use music in animated movies?'"

One of the key features of the Frozen and Happy phenomena has been social media. According to Bunt, fans have uploaded more than half a million versions of the Frozen empowerment ballad Let It Go to YouTube. Oprah Winfrey recently brought Williams to tears by showing him a collection of fan-made Happy videos from around the world.

"It's sort of like a community singalong in the virtual town square," said Tom Sito, a professor at USC's School of Cinematic Arts who was an animator and storyboard artist at Disney Animation in the 1990s. "And it keeps the material fresh in people's minds."

Rihanna is in the midst of writing a concept album for an animated movie titled Home. She will also lend her voice to a character in the movie. - EPA

Rihanna is in the midst of writing a concept album for an animated movie titled Home. She will also lend
her voice to a character in the movie. — EPA

In addition to the Rahman and Minchin musicals it has in development, this year DreamWorks will release How To Train Your Dragon 2 with two songs by Jonsi, the frontman from the Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros, and Home, an alien invasion movie with a character voiced by pop singer Rihanna, who is writing a concept album for the film.

"For us, music is a big focus right now," Damaschke said. "I'd expect to see more and more of it." — Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Emma Stone embraces her spunky character Gwen Stacy

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 07:00 PM PDT

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 heroine Emma Stone on the element of surprise.

If there was one thing actress Emma Stone absolutely detests, it would be weight training. The affable actress was nursing a sore throat when she spoke to Star2 in Singapore recently. "I don't have a lot of physical strength so the idea of lifting weights makes me want to strangle somebody. It just makes me so crazy," said Stone, 25.

To prepare for her role as Gwen Stacy in the first installment of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Stone went through a gruelling weight training routine. She explained her loathing for it: "I didn't respond well to it because I absolutely hate having to do for the sake of it."

However, her green eyes lit up when she talked about her routine for The Amazing Spider-Man 2. "That's what is great about this new movie – I got to do dance training which was really cool. It was a blast to be able to elongate your body and swing in amazing ways."

Stone returns in the movie as Gwen Stacy, a high school valedictorian who gets caught up in Spider-Man's world as his love interest. When Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) is not busy chasing Russian mobsters through New York or fighting off Oscorp's latest mutation, he is by Gwen's side as Peter Parker.

However, being Spider-Man will eventually take a toll on the couple's relationship.

"Gwen has an understanding that Peter needs to be Spider-Man and he needs to be a hero. While Mary Jane Watson is in love with Spider-Man first and Peter after that, Gwen falls in love with Peter first."

The brainy beauty is also far from being just another damsel in distress. In the previous installment, Spider-Man defeated his opponent with Gwen's help. For The Amazing Spider-Man 2, don't expect Gwen to stand by as just another face in the crowd.

"Yes, I'm very excited about that. She definitely finds a way to infiltrate in what he is doing, to help," she said with a laugh.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 also stars Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro and Paul Giamatti as Rhino. Stone relished the opportunity to work with some of the most critically-acclaimed actors in Hollywood.

Pure heroine: Emma Stone says her character Gwen Stacy falls in love with Peter Parker as himself, instead of Spider-Man.

"It's a dream to be able to work with people who are also teaching you. You have to rise meet to the occasion to grow and learn. I always thought that getting to all this movies is like a masterclass. You can't get this experience in drama school or scene study class. It's a whole other experience."

Stone also said co-star Garfield is "an amazing Spider-Man". "He's so prepared and he knows so much about the character. It's embedded in him to do what Spider-Man can do. So it's really cool."

Though most would associate Mary Jane as Spider-Man's heroine, Gwen is one of the most important characters in the comic book universe. Her fate in the comic books had an incredible impact on Spider-Man's life. She talked about why she wants the film to honour the comic book storyline, particularly issue #121.

"I think it's incredibly important. It's hugely impactful in Peter's life and what happens with him as a hero. It's a devastating and really iconic moment in comic book history. I want to do that for the lovers of the Spider-Man comics."

She added: "Before I auditioned for Gwen, I googled her and it was pretty much the first thing you see. I was just like 'oh God, that's crazy!'. I can only imagine what it was like for people reading the story when issue #121 first came out. It must have been the most shocking thing."

Still, Stone hopes audience will be able to watch the movie and experience the same feeling of shock that comic readers had back when the original story debuted in 1973.

"I'm very protective of people understanding that it's not necessarily what is going to occur in the movie. I want the element of surprise to remain intact."

Related story and videos:

Along comes Spider-Man ... his girl and the director

Watch: Jamie Foxx explains how Electro got his voice 

Watch: Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb team up for The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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