|Interview - Robert J. Kral
First off, describe your role
and subsequent duties on “Superman/Doomsday” in as much detail
My role in the production of Superman Doomsday as music composer
was to provide and create all the original music for the movie.
First, we wanted to create a suitable and original Superman
theme. Bruce (Timm) didn't want a John Williams movie rip-off.
We were looking to create something slightly darker, and we
wanted to somehow capture an element of the human struggle in
the theme. The story outlines a massive challenge for Superman
and obviously includes a battle that would lead to his death so
we wanted it to be very serious and less upbeat / happy sounding
than John Williams’ theme. It's a little more Lord of the Rings
or Jurassic Park.
Once we had the main theme working, Bruce and I met to talk
about the music in detail for each scene in the movie. We
decided where the music would appear exactly and what moods it
needed to convey etc. Before music is written, the possibilities
are enormous as to what it might do, so the purpose of this
meeting (called the "spotting session") is to narrow down the
options, to creatively decide what is best for the story.
I then spent roughly six weeks composing the score. I work in
what's known as a midi studio where I can perform all of the
instrumentation via computers and the latest sound and sampling
technology. For most of the brass instruments, I was using new
technology that hadn't even been released yet, but is in my
opinion the most powerful and expressive brass instruments
available in the history of electronic music technology.
The movie is digitized into my computer, and I can record as
many tracks as I wish. An action cue might feature two hundred
tracks of sounds. I continued to collaborate with Bruce and
would send him Quicktime files over the Internet or DVDs of
completed scenes that he could watch and comment on.
While this isn’t your first animated project, this is your
first DC project. How does it feel to score a movie adapted from
“The Death of Superman.” Explain.
It was an absolute thrill to work on Superman Doomsday, creating
themes for Lois and Clark and Superman, scoring Doomsday and
these fantastic action sequences. It was a pure joy! My first
memories of Superman were from my own comic books when I was
perhaps about 5 years old. It's a character that you'll never
forget, and back then none of us kids would have ever imagined
there would be movies made from comic book stories! It’s a total
privilege and honor to be selected as composer for this movie.
The experience was exhilarating and Bruce was a pleasure to work
for. Not only was I honored to work on a Superman movie, but to
handle something as major as "The Death of Superman" was a
What type of score can fans expect from this feature? Will the
music be scored with a full orchestra, or using a keyboard? Can
you explain the differences between the two, and any pros and
cons that come from either?
(See also above). It’s a full orchestral sounding score, using
the latest electronic technology. So I used a keyboard that is
integrated with eight computers. The Mac drives the system with
Digital Performer sequencing and recording software. There are
seven PCs running Gigastudio software and the new WIVI Brass
technology, which was brand new and hadn't even been released
when I started using it on Superman. A real orchestra is always
a better, more expressive and powerful sound. But not every film
has the budget for a real orchestra. Using the correct
techniques and the best technology, an electronic score can
still be extremely powerful and expressive. One advantage of the
electronically produced score is I have total control over every
single instrument simply because I am performing every
instrument that you hear.
Did you read comics as a kid, and have you watched any of the
DC Animated Series. If so, what were your impressions of these
comic and animated characters?
I did read Superman comics as a kid (see above....). I haven't
watched the animated series however, so it will be interesting
to hear from fans of the series how they feel about my score. I
kind of like that I'm not influenced by that. However there is
influence from John Williams, of course, even though we created
a deliberately different feel in the main theme.
You have quite a following from your work on “Angel.” Can we
expect any music cues or homages to your time on the popular
Joss Whedon series?
No homages to Angel! Angel is dear to my heart, for certain. But
this is a different universe. There is a sinister scene with Toy
Man that may remind me of some of the moods featured in Angel,
but there are no intentional similarities in the score.
Before I forget, a (very) belated congratulation on your Annie
Award for your work on “Duck Dodgers.” Very well deserved!
That was a wonderful evening indeed, to receive the award at
that event. A lot of very hard work went into Duck Dodgers and I
absolutely loved that show and working for Spike Brandt and Tony
What inspirations did you draw from for when it was time to
score “Superman/Doomsday.” Did you look at classic Williams
score for “Superman: The Movie,” or did you go elsewhere for
We didn't want the theme to feel "corny". Not that
John Williams theme is corny, but it's more peppy and happier in
many ways. We wanted this to still feel serious in the Main
Theme, not really dark but somehow more serious than the John
Williams theme. I'm very happy with how it turned out. There's a
point early in this new theme that kind of draws you into it and
makes you feel the effort Superman is putting into his work of
protecting our planet.
Can you describe your thought process when scoring a series or
feature? How do you know what cues and notes to use for a
particular scene, for example –Superman dying in Lois’ arms, or
the dramatic reveal of Doomsday?
It's more of an emotional process than a thought process, I
guess. Watching the movie, I am performing the movie, the roles,
in my mind. I am there, feeling it all and "in" it all. As a
composer, this is accompanied by musical sounds that I am in
control of, shaping as if a potter would shape clay. It can be
quite exhausting as I repeatedly "perform" scenes in my mind,
composing and performing all the parts and instruments, layering
the recordings etc. It's like I experience these scenes hundreds
of times a day in order to complete the music soundtrack.
A lot of thought also goes into the bigger picture of the
complete story and movie. If there is a fight I need to keep in
mind the length of the fight, the magnitude of it compared to
later fights or where it fits into the entire story. The same
would go for a love scene or a rescue or a comedy cue. Its not
just "anything goes" but carefully considered in regard to the
rest of the story.
Overall, are you pleased with your work on “Superman/Doomsday”?
Any highlights in particular?
I am very pleased with my score for Superman Doomsday. The
process went very smoothly. For the first 15 minutes of the
movie, I handed in the score to Bruce as my first assignment. He
had absolutely NO changes to make to the score. This says to me
that Bruce and I were very much on the same page as to what the
music should do and how it should do it. Some highlights for me
are Superman's sacrifice and then dying in Lois's arms, and the
final battle. I also love the ending scenes. The themes really
came together how I wanted them to and towards the end of the
story, the last times you hear the themes being used, it feels
the music is really part of the story and feel of the movie,
which is one of my main goals in scoring.
The World’s Finest would like to thank Robert J. Kral for his
participation in this Q & A.