Alan Silvestri talks FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

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Alan Silvestri and FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is one of my favorite animated films that doesn’t come from the Walt Disney studio. It tells the story of Crysta, a fairy who lives in the untouched rainforest of FernGully. She is learning to use magic as she will one day be the leader of the fairies. According to their legends, fairies and humans used to be very close until an evil spirit named Hexxus drove them away, presumably to their extinction.

Of course the humans didn’t go extinct, and they’re very close to FernGully even now in the form of loggers cutting the forest down acre by acre. And when the tree containing the spirit of Hexxus is destroyed and the evil spirit is set loose, it’s up to Crysta and her new human friend Zak to stop him.

I absolutely LOVE the music for FernGully, it was composed by Alan Silvestri (of Back to the Future fame) and it will stick with you long after the story is over. One of my favorite pieces from the score is “The Spirit of the Trees” and I hope to talk about that piece at some time in the future. But for now, I have a behind the scenes look at making the overall score that I think you will enjoy.

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Alan Silvestri, see here

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The Two Towers “Last March of the Ents” (2002)

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Last March of the Ents (2002)

I think we can all agree that the Ents are one of the greatest things about The Two Towers. After Merry and Pippin rescue themselves from the Uruk-hai, they head into Fangorn Forest and run straight into Treebeard, de facto leader of the few Ents that remain in Middle Earth. Ents…are like trees, sort of. They resemble different varieties of trees, but they have legs, and eyes and they can talk too. Oh and they live for a really LONG time. So long in fact, that regular events in Middle Earth like war very rarely bother them. They’d just as soon let the humans, elves and other races sort it out among themselves, despite the pleas Merry keeps making to them.

But just as Treebeard is set to take Merry and Pippin to a place where they can safely head off to the Shire, Pippin has an idea: he tells Treebeard to take them south past Isengard, having a fairly good idea of what the Ent will run into on the way.

See, while the Ents have been busy deep in the forest, Saruman the wizard has been busy having the forest surrounding Isengard chopped down as fuel for the furnaces helping to produce weapons and armor for his army. So when Treebeard comes to the slopes nearest the wizard’s tower, he emerges to find that acres of forest have been chopped down and completely destroyed, trees that he had known since they were seedlings.

That does it!! Exclaiming that “a wizard should know better” Treebeard lets out a howl of pain and anger that summons all the remaining Ents to his side as he explains to the hobbits:

“There is no curse in Elvish, Entish or in all the tongues of Men, for this treachery.”

Now the Ents will go to war, as they have not done for ages. But there is no optimism here: as the females of their species disappeared centuries ago, there are no more Ent children. Whatever losses they suffer in the coming battle will only hasten the extinction of their race, hence the reason this is called “the last march of the Ents.”

The Ents Attack Isengard

I love the scene when all the Ents are striding across the ruined plain, the Ent theme sounding clear in the background. This is one of those moments that is absolutely pure Tolkien and I never get tired of it. It’s such a sad theme, sad and bittersweet, but it matches the Ents perfectly.

For more of The Two Towers, see also:

The Two Towers “Lament for Theodred” (2002)

And for The Fellowship of the Ring, see here: Live-action Soundtracks F-L

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Cancelled Too Soon #8: Dr. Vegas (2004)

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I could be wrong, but I believe Dr. Vegas is the first time I took exception to a TV show being cancelled after a few episodes because I really liked it. The extremely short-lived series followed Dr. Billy Grant (Rob Lowe) as he went about his days treating patients in the crazy world of Las Vegas (one heart-pounding episode involved him rescuing a little girl who’d fallen into a pool). I think there was also a side-plot about the doctor dealing with his personal demons as well, or an on-again/off-again girlfriend (or possibly both).

I really liked this series, at least I liked where it was going. But unfortunately, only five episodes were ever aired. One week it was there, the next it was gone. I can only assume the show wasn’t making enough ratings to justify continuing its existence.

It really frustrates me when a show is cancelled after only a few episodes. There was barely any time for character development or to give us a real chance to see where the series was going. But these days studios demand instant success from its television shows (classics like MASH and Star Trek would’ve never made it past episode 1 if they premiered today), and I guess Dr. Vegas just didn’t cut it. What a shame.

For more shows that were Cancelled Too Soon: see here

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RIP Don Rickles (1926-2017)

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Last week the sad news came out that legendary comedian Don Rickles died from kidney failure at the age of 90. Rickles was a master of “insult comedy” and a frequent presence on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In fact, that show is how I learned about Rickles due to a memorable incident on the show.

As the story was told to me, one night Don Rickles hosted The Tonight Show in Carson’s place and during a particular joke he ended up breaking the cigarette box that had been on the host’s desk for years! Well he put it together the best he could and that seemed to be the end of that. But the next night when Johnny came back…he noticed that his cigarette box was broken. He wanted to know who did it and the audience told him. Well as it happened, Rickles was in the studio next door filming scenes for his tv show CPO Sharkey. Carson wanted an explanation for his broken cigarette box, so he grabbed a microphone and marched right on over to the other studio, to the shock of Rickles and the utter delight of the studio audience. What follows is just brilliant:

Johnny Carson demands an explanation from Don Rickles (1976)

Outside of insult comedy, Rickles was also known as the voice of Mr. Potato-Head in Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3.

I can’t help but feel sad that we lost another comic legend, there really wasn’t anyone quite like Don Rickles. Rest in Peace.

The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon is coming, check out the sign up page here

Cancelled Too Soon #7: Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)

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Among the list of “shows I should have watched but didn’t have the time for” is Pushing Daisies, a show that sadly only ran for two seasons between 2007 and 2009. I thought the concept was intriguing for sure: Ned (Lee Pace) is a baker with a really strange ability: if he touches anything dead it comes back to life; but if he touches it a second time, it dies for good.

A private investigator learns about Ned’s “talent” and recruits him to revive murder victims to discover how they died (any reward money being split between them). But then Ned discovers that his childhood sweetheart was murdered on a cruise ship. He revives her, but as he can’t stand to see the girl he loves die forever, he creates a plan to keep her alive by making it so that he never touches her again (this includes kissing with a layer of plastic wrap between them). With Ned’s girlfriend back in the picture, murder cases continue to be solved.

Unfortunately, circumstances worked against this show almost from the start. Although Pushing Daisies had been picked up for a full first season of 22 episodes, the 2007 Writer’s Strike made it so that only nine episodes were completed and aired. Instead of finishing out that season, the show’s team began work on a second season instead. But when ratings declined in that second season, ABC declined to renew the series past episode 13 (of season 2), meaning that only 22 episodes were ever made.

It really is a shame, Pushing Daisies seems like one of those quirky shows I would really like. And what makes this show really cool (from a retrospective point of view) is that the lead actor goes on to play King Thranduil in The Hobbit film trilogy (yes, he’s THAT Lee Pace).

If you watched Pushing Daisies, what did you think about it? Should it have run longer? Let me know in the comments below!

If you’d like to read about more shows that were Cancelled Too Soon, see here

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Disturbing Disney #9: Dr. Facilier’s Fate (The Princess and the Frog, 2009)

Ever since the Evil Queen fell screaming to her death in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), there has been a tradition of Disney villains meeting a particularly gruesome fate by the end of the story. And few are more gruesome or disturbing than what happens to Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog (2009).

“Friends on the Other Side (reprise”/Facilier’s Demise (2009)

Facilier is a witch doctor operating in New Orleans, making a living by promising his “clients” one thing and then trapping them into something else entirely. His latest victims are Prince Naveen and Tiana, who have both been turned into frogs. But they’re small fry compared to Facilier’s big plan: capturing the souls of everyone in New Orleans for his “friends on the other side”, the dark voodoo spirits. These spirits are impatient for Facilier to deliver what he has promised and at one point make it clear that if the witch doctor does not deliver, then it will be HIS soul in jeopardy.

Facilier makes a deal with his “friends”

Fast forward to the climax of the film: Facilier tempts Tiana with everything she ever wanted if she will only give back a magic amulet that allows the witch doctor’s current spells to work. When Tiana refuses and attempts to smash the amulet, Facilier changes her back into a frog (he’d temporarily made her human again) and prepares to finish her off. But having learned about what it means to be a frog, Tiana uses her sticky tongue to seize the amulet back and smashes it into oblivion!!

This is a big problem for Facilier. The voodoo spirits had made it clear that they would not help him any more once they gave him that amulet, he would have to deliver what he promised….or else. But with the amulet smashed, it was now impossible for Facilier to deliver New Orleans to the voodoo spirits, so the spirits come to collect Facilier in their place.

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Welcome to Hell Dr. Facilier

As someone brilliantly commented on YouTube, “when a villain’s theme song is used against them, you know they’re screwed.” The voodoo spirits come crawling out of the earth, singing a refrain from Facilier’s song “Friends on the Other Side”, and keep asking “Are you ready?” , to which Facilier keeps pleading that he is NOT ready, this is only “a minor setback in a major operation”, he can still deliver what the spirits want, “I just need a little more time” he pleads. But then the head voodoo spirit appears and his glare makes it clear, he is DONE with waiting. The shadows literally grab hold of Facilier and drag him screaming to Hell via the mouth of the head voodoo spirit. The entire way Facilier is pleading for his life, screaming “I promise I’ll pay ya’ll back, I PROMISE!!” And with a final scream, he is pulled into Hell and the mouth of the voodoo spirit slams shut!!

The scene gives me goosebumps every single time I watch it. For all the bravado Facilier has shown up until now, he is completely terrified when he realizes that the voodoo spirits are coming for HIM and him alone.

It’s really a disturbing way to go, being dragged alive into Hell, where he’ll suffer who knows what for all eternity. And this is why Dr. Facilier’s demise is part of the list of Disturbing Disney. What do you think of Facilier’s death at the hands of the voodoo spirits? Does it send chills down your spine? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you think about it 🙂

For more Disturbing Disney, check out the main page here

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country “Main Theme” (1991)

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After Star Trek V: The Final Frontier went FLOP at the box office, it was very nearly the end of the Star Trek films. But the studio managed to persevere and plans were laid to make a sixth film. Initially, Star Trek VI was going to be a prequel, featuring Kirk and co. at the Academy (which later became the basic plot of Star Trek (2009)), but that was scrapped in favor of a final adventure with the original Enterprise crew.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country “Main Theme” (1991)

Now when it came to scoring Star Trek VI, director Nicholas Meyer had some trouble finding a composer. Jerry Goldsmith was so disappointed after Star Trek V that he currently wanted nothing to do with the project. James Horner felt that his career had advanced beyond Star Trek, so he declined as well. With no other alternatives, Meyer looked to a pile of demo tapes sent in by other composers wishing to work on the project and he ultimately selected a tape sent in by composer Cliff Eidelman, as he felt his music best captured the “spirit of Star Trek”.

Eidelman’s music is a big part of why I love The Undiscovered Country so much. It’s dark, occasionally eerie, and chock full of tension at all the right moments. And the main theme is a perfect introduction to this score. The music plays over the opening credits before the story proper begins and instantly lets you know that this isn’t like the other Star Trek films. Jerry Goldsmith’s bright fanfare is absent, Horner’s beautiful strings aren’t there. What we have instead is a dark motif that will recur throughout the film.

As the credits move on towards the end, the music becomes more and more tense, and it will later come out that what we are hearing is the music from the final battle between Captain Kirk and General Chang. The tension builds higher and higher, until finally the music ends on almost a literal cliffhanger, as the music cuts off just before a huge explosion fills the screen (talk about starting a story off with a bang!)

I really enjoy the main theme of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, it is an underrated gem in the musical canon of Star Trek. I hope you enjoy listening to this theme as well.

For more live action soundtracks, see here

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