Composer Steven Price first hit most people’s radars when he won the Oscar for Best Original Score for his terrific work on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. But film music aficionados took notice a few years earlier with his major release debut on Joe Cornish’s cult hit Attack the Block. Price’s compositions feel wholly unique and somewhat offbeat, but never delve into electronica muddiness. There’s always a musical rhythm pulsing through, and it’s what makes his work on films like The World’s End, Baby Driver, and Fury so striking.
Most recently, Price made a first for himself by working in the world of feature animation on the upcoming film Wonder Park. The Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Studios animated film tells the story of an optimistic young girl named June who discovers an incredible amusement park hidden in the woods. It’s in a state of disarray, but is full of fantastical rides and talking animals, and June discovers it was created by her imagination, and she’s the only one who can fix it.
In anticipation of the film’s release in theaters on March 15th, I recently got the opportunity to speak to Price about his work on the movie. He explained why he was drawn to the feature animation medium in the first place, the surprising ways in which the project evolved over time and the opportunities that presented, and more. Additionally, given Price’s relationship with Edgar Wright, I had to ask if he’s involved in Wright’s next project—which is reportedly an original psychological thriller. While Price couldn’t divulge details, it does sound like he’ll be composing the score for that film, which comes as very welcome good news.
Check out the full interview below, and if you missed our exclusive debut of a track from Price’s score, click here. Wonder Park is in theaters on March 15th and the soundtrack is available now.
How did you first get involved in Wonder Park and what made you want to be a part of the project?
STEVEN PRICE: Scoring an animation had always been something I was really interested in doing… throughout my life I’ve always loved animated films and latterly its been something I’ve enjoyed shared with my kids, so I was always hoping to get an opportunity to work on an animation of some kind. I’d done a couple of animated shorts in the UK, but was constantly hassling my agents to see if we could find a feature for me to really get stuck into. In the end, I was lucky in that this one came to me when the filmmakers had heard some music I’d written for a BBC show called The Hunt in 2015. The stuff I’d done for that was very thematic and yet quite textural, and that opened a door for this, we met up and talked about the project, and I was thrilled to sign up. It’s been a load of fun.
When work first began on the film, what were some of the big ideas you wanted to capture with your music?
PRICE: The key thing was that this is a story all about imagination. The park is the work of the lead character June, who creates all of these incredible designs for an amusement park, building it and playing it as a game with her mom. Every aspect of the park is full of ideas; there’s a ride called Fireworks Falls, a Zero G Land and all sorts of things along those lines. Kind of the place you’d love to have gone to as a kid. So, musically, I had the opportunity to really shoot for big thematic ideas. I wanted to capture the feeling of a classic theme park, this feeling of the park being filled with flowing music, but also find the characters of the distinct zones within it. Combine that with a touch of magic as we learn that the park has come to life, and it gave a huge amount of opportunities musically. I never thought I’d be experimenting with recording the sound of fireworks for a percussion track, but this was the sort of project where you could get into that!
You’ve worked on a number of diverse projects in your career, but never an animated feature film. What surprised you about the process of working in animation that you didn’t quite anticipate?
PRICE: The length of the process, and the way they whole thing would evolve in both big and subtle ways was really interesting to me. What was cool was how the process kind of rewards constantly going back and studying the changes. Every time I revisited a piece, there’d be a new bit of animation, perhaps a tiny little facial gesture that suddenly had more depth and subtly tweaked the emotion, or a lighting change that made me want to reach for different instruments to keep the music bonded to the picture. I kind of felt that the way the animation evolved suited the way I think musically, in that I’m often gradually developing the music from quite rough outlines into something with a lot of textures and shifts of color. It was a really interesting process, and the film seemed to keep offering up new inspirations.
Was there a theme or motif you created for Wonder Park that you’re particularly proud of?
PRICE: The whole park runs on the power of June’s invention, The Clockwork Swings, and we see these first in toy form, and then in the “real” park on a massive scale. I wanted to have the whole score feel like it was being powered by these whirring cogs and gears, whether they be the small homemade clockwork versions of June’s original model, or the huge towers of the park itself. So I built various motifs played on all manner of bells, chimes, anything metallic. We literally filled the recording stage at Sony in LA with all of these instruments and would work through to see which combination would work for each scene. The motif is an intrinsic part of the main park theme that is heard throughout the movie, but, crucially, when the park is failing, and things are not working, the bells and their patterns would be stretched and morphed around, hopefully sounding as damaged as the park looks. Its often low in the texture, but there’s some element of the clockwork swings working, or at least trying to work, throughout the movie. So that was something I enjoyed working on. Also, speaking thematically, June herself has a theme that had to undergo a lot of changes as her journey progresses , and I’m proud of that emotional side of the score.
I’m a huge fan of your collaborations with Edgar Wright—your score for The World’s End is tremendous, and I love that movie to pieces. Will you be reteaming with Edgar on his new horror film, and if so, what can you tease about that project?
PRICE: Thanks for the kind words! Working with Edgar has been one of the great treats of my life. He’s a genius, and he loves music and uses it brilliantly in his project. I’ve got a load of great memories working on projects right back to Scott Pilgrim, through The World’s End, and then finally finishing Baby Driver after being involved in it from it’s earliest drafts back in 2007 or thereabouts was a massive thrill too. It’s a bit early for me to talk about anything to do with Edgar’s next project, but obviously it’s exciting and I can’t wait to see what he shoots. All I can say is that I have read a script, and it’s going to be brilliant.