For this week’s blog post, I have to analyse the soundtrack of a film of my choice. And so I have chosen to analyse the soundtrack of “The Simpsons Move”, composed by Hans Zimmer. I thought it would be interesting to see how a respected composer like Zimmer, would approach soundtracking a movie based on one of the most popular animated sitcoms of all time. How would Hans Zimmer score the dramatic, emotional scenes, and the more light-hearted, comedic scenes “The Simpsons” is notorious for? The aim of this analysis is to understand how I could soundtrack both serious and funny moments in films.
The first thing I noted when watching the film was the prominent use of orchestral instruments in particular the string section. The use of strings creates a cinematic feel and lets the audience know that this movie is far more than an extended Simpsons episode. This is especially highlighted in Zimmer’s version of the theme. The strings are notably more sweeping than in the original but somehow still retains the original’s feel. In fact, one could get the impression that Zimmer’s aim was to create something inspired by Danny Elfman’s work on the Simpsons (which was confirmed by Zimmer, stating that he wanted to be “Danny’s arranger”). Subtle reverb is used on the strings to give it that epic, sweeping effect. The music does not drown out the sound effects used (you can still hear Mr. Burns falling down or Martin Prince getting hoisted on a flag. Ultimately, all soundtrack elements are sidechained compressed to certain sound effects to ensure the audience can still hear them (e.g. jabbing Homer’s butt with a pitchfork.
Also interesting to note was the absence of sound during the movie’s most hilarious moments. For example, when Homer Simpson is hammering a nail into the roof, he tries not to injure himself. Obviously the audience is expecting to and so the strings support the scene by building tension. But when Homer injures his eye with the back of the hammer, there is no music just his screaming. This abrupt silence can also be heard towards the climax of the movie when Marge states she misses Homer. The strings are playing a sad melody until Bart says “his big fat ass could shield us all” at which point the music stops. It is interesting Zimmer chose not to compose “funny” instrumentation like what you hear in Looney Tunes’ cartoons. It is possible that silence is used to let the funny moment sink in and allow the audience to give it full focus and laugh at it.
Reverb plays a pretty big role in the more dramatic scenes. For example, in Homer’s epiphany scene, instruments such as a dark piano, timpani and a choir contain significant reverb for dramatic effect. This reverb, adds to Homer’s fear of loneliness and contributes to the ominous nature of this scene. In addition, reverb is also used in the comedic scenes such as the use of reverb on the guitars in Bart’s nude skateboarding scene.
So, the biggest takeaway I got from analysing this film is that a film’s soundtrack is a supporting piece and it must only augment the situation. The use of instruments an effects cannot shift any attention away from the dialogue nor distract the audience from what is happening in the movie. This will be something I will consider when I soundtrack films in the future.