It has always seemed amazing that there weren't a flood of cash-in sequels
to the success of Toy Story. The fact that they take so long to make
obviously accounts for some of that. Yet it is odd that no rival studio to
Pixar picked up on what they were doing and rushed something out. Instead,
some 4 years later sees 3 headed our way almost all at once. This is the
'rival' effectively, hailing from Spielberg's Dreamworks. Impending are Pixar's
A Bug's Life, and the inevitable Toy Story 2 (which was actually
intended to be Direct To Video, but is considered good enough for cinema).
Both these will feature scores by Randy Newman, who must have kick-started
a pigeon-holing in his career with the stop-motion animation of James
& The Giant Peach.
Originally only John Powell's name was credited on Antz. That now
follows fellow Media Ventures colleague Harry Gregson-Williams. If you look
at most of MV's releases (almost exclusively connected to Dreamworks so far)
it is interesting to see just how often this crops up. Powell's own Face/Off
credits additional music to Gavin Greenaway. Both Gregson-Williams' The
Replacement Killers and The Borrowers credit Steve Jablonsky,
and Greenaway again on the latter. Media Ventures is of course the brainchild
of Hans Zimmer. Taking a peek at some of his recent efforts, the team can
again be seen acknowledged. The Peacemaker was conducted by Greenaway &
Gregson-Williams, with a whole cue by Greenaway. Just to finish my pattern,
Antz credits additional music to Greenaway, Jablonsky, and Geoff Zanelli.
So what's the deal ?
The reason I make mention in this case is because for this album, the double
credit blends two creative influences together and we cannot tell who did
what (although "Mandible and Cutter Plot" bears strong resemblance to Powell's
Face/Off style). I just wanted to get the one downside out the way.
What makes the film so fun is in the whole concept of a CGI Woody Allen flick
- which is about the only way you'd ever see a buddy-buddy relationship with
Sylvester Stallone perhaps. Being a kids movie there are plenty of heavy
or under-handed morality messages. Above all else it concerns individuality
and that it is OK to be different. Allen's character goes from a neurotic
outsider to colony saviour. which cues a composer to think quirky and heroic.
So whichever of the two hooked into that first certainly delivered.
"Opening Titles - Z's Theme"' is wistful and searching on a simple piano
line. A harmonica chips in every so often, and a gentle mix of triangle and
light percussion is all about a humble simplicity. Pass on to solos for flute,
and strings and you've got the picture. The establishment of Z's plight out
the way, we next go into large scale mambo style for the sight of millions
of ants hard at work."The Colony" is quite a showstopper and introduces a
very catchy theme which with a rhythmic breakdown partway through is easily
recognisable in subtler guises later on.
One of the very nicest touches of the whole score is Jonathan Snowden's flute
solo for "General Mandible". Gene Hackman's has much of that other well known
General about him (Patton), and accordingly his theme plays off the militaristic
clichés after the subtler opening. A mixed choir (conducted by Rupert
Gregson-Williams - a brother ?) actually recalls Zimmer's score to Crimson
Tide in which Hackman was a submarine captain. There are less versions of
the theme on album than to film, which is small shame.
The only source cue featured here is one of the best integrated this reviewer
has come across in some time. As Z is bemoaning his existence at a regular
bar, Sharon Stone's Princess Bala walks in. She too is tired if the mundanity
of (a royal) existence. At 6:15 every day we learn that the colony joins
in some meticulously co-ordinated dance aerobics. The cheesiest sample ensemble
imaginable strikes up a version of "Guantanamera", and all the ants stomp
in perfect synchronisation. The comment is on conformity of society, and
in a subtler way it pokes fun at
the night-club scene. The song therefore sits perfectly, and is redeemed
from its painful introduction by a big band version once the 2 malcontents
are thrown together.
Interestingly "The Antz Go Marching To War" isn't given an original credit,
yet it is an instantly recognisable ditty (also to be heard in Goldsmith's
Small Soldiers). Here the comedy angle is played up with lyrics such as "we
slaughter termites just for fun - hurrah hurrah", and "we'll all be dead
before we're through - hurrah hurrah". The quick song break then segues into
some synthesiser crashing (an MV staple), before a fantastic percussive rhythm
and horn trills underline the army's determined storm onto the battlefield.
Sadly, "The Magnifying Glass" doesn't open with the play on the Close Encounters
'welcome' theme as it does on film. It does contain a superb mini action
cue however. With the main battle already over, this is something that doesn't
get developed. "Ant Revolution" alludes to the start of some action by building
suspense, but the only pay-off for the expectation of further heroics comes
in "Z To The Rescue" which is a generous near 8 minutes of dramatic detonation.
The variety continues through a lounge music version of the Colony Theme
("Weaver and Azteca Flirt"), some traditional brass band music ("The Antz
Marching Band"), and some welcome romantic respite in "Romance In Insectopia".
In all, it makes for a terrifically tongue-in-cheek album, and goes to show
that synthespians are in for as much musical diversity as we live ones have
enjoyed so far.