Backstage - Christopher Drake Interview

How did the Wonder Woman animated feature assignment fall into your hands?
I never really asked, but I would assume, my work with Bruce on Batman Gotham Knight, led to Wonder Woman.

When coming up with the score, what were important notes, being it character or score, that you felt you needed to hit upon in order to make the score memorable?
When I saw the first cut of the movie, I thought the score needed to be big, and operatic. I felt that modern rock, guitar sound was a major component of Justice League Unlimited's musical identity, so I purposely stayed away from using that. I didn't want Wonder Woman to sound similar to anything previously done in the DCAU.

It's a different sounding score from my previous work. Hellboy, and Batman live in dark, and gothic worlds, requiring music that reflects that attitude. With Wonder Woman it was about conveying a sense of beauty and femininity, but also power and strength. I thought having a solo female voice featured in Wonder Woman's theme, and certain parts of the movie, would interject a female energy. I also thought of the female voice as kind of spiritual when Hippolyta is creating her daughter, kind of like a Amazonian prayer chant. The female choir stuff is then juxtaposed against Ares' masculine theme, which uses mostly men's choir.

This is an origin story, so I wanted Diana's theme to slowly evolve though out the movie into the "Wonder Woman" theme. Diana's theme starts off as simple chord structure when you first see her as an adult sparring with Artemis. You hear her theme evolve more rhythmically as she's competing in the gladiatorial games to determine an emissary. Its not until last minute of the movie where Diana is first called "Wonder Woman" you hear the full-on Wonder Woman "hero" theme combining all the elements.

There's a nerdy thing that I like to do with super-hero themes, where I break down how many notes the hero's theme is, by how many syllables are in the hero's name. This has been somewhat of a tradition with Superman's theme music throughout the years. So, Wonder Woman's theme is 4 notes... WON-DER-WO-MAN.

Will fans notice any familiar cues, perhaps homages, to Wonder Woman scores of the past?
Bruce had told me he was thinking about ending the movie with a heavy metal cover version of the Lynda Carter theme song. I felt that our movie ending on that iconic shot of Wonder Woman then going into a "nu-metal" version of the Carter theme for the end credits, would be like ending Tim Burton's Batman, or Batman Begins with the Adam West-Batman TV theme. in my opinion, it would've been out of place with the tone, and style of the movie.

As a fan myself, I love seeing respectful shout outs in movies, acknowledging what's come before. Like the Max Fleischer robots in Superman's fortress of solitude in Doomsday, or the old Batmobile in New Frontier. In the scene where Steve takes Diana to the bar, I wanted to use the Carter theme playing for a few seconds on the jukebox, . It would be more of a subtle nod only WW fans would pick up on. But the reality of the Lynda Carter theme, that outweighed everything, was that it would cost time and money dealing with legal issues just to license the song.

Are there any moments in particular, any cues or tracks, that you are especially proud of in your Wonder Woman score?
The opening prologue of the movie is probably my favorite. It's the longest single cue I've written for a film so far, clocking in around 9 minutes. The first 3 minutes is just Hippolyta kicking ass with just music and sound FX, no dialog. .. It's pure visual storytelling. I think if you listen to this music by itself, separated from the visuals, you can still hear a story being told. The music goes through a lot of emotions, and colors through out the prologue.. war, revenge, defeat, victory, retribution, rebirth, hope...

*SPOILER*

It was fun making a musical "hero" moment when WW's iconic lasso, and tiara are first seen and used in the prologue by Hippolyta, resulting in a bit of arial decapitation. I think that's my favorite thing in the whole movie! Hopefully the R-rated version of that will be released some day, so people can see it in all of its bloody glory. There's nothing more fun than writing music to arterial blood spray, and exposed, severed trachea!

Before we move on to other topics, any thoughts on the Wonder Woman movie itself? Care to share your thoughts on the latest DC animated movie?
Of course I'm totally biased.. but I think its the best one so far! Michael Jelenic's script is really tight and fun. The humour is really great, and sometimes very adult. The voice cast is fantastic. Lauren Montgomery has an amazing talent for directing edge of your seat action, AND emotional, human moments. She also has a great character design style. Overall, I think this movie stands out from the other DTV's, because its story is so accessible to both hard-core fans, and people that aren't familiar, or generally interested in super-hero stories.

Do you find it a daunting task when scoring a DC animated feature, especially when you consider the impressive pedigree of talent you are joining the ranks of? Does it sometimes shock you to see you scoring a movie alongside Kevin Manthei and Robert Kral for Batman: Gotham Knight, or having your work on Wonder Woman compared to the character’s themes in Justice League by Dynamic Music Partners?

Well, the bar for quality, and excellence was set impossibly high by Shirley Walker. Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion, and Kris Carter are so important to the history and legacy of DC comics animation. They were there at the beginning with Shirley, and each of them has contributed amazing scores, and themes for these characters. Kris Carter actually lives around my neighborhood, and sometimes I see him at the local grocery store.. I always ask him for stories about the "old days" with Shirley.

I have always respected Kevin and Rob's work, and was honored to be included with them on Batman. What was a bit daunting about Batman, is the legacy of such famous and iconic music from Elfman, Shirley, and now Zimmer. They've created the template, and musical language of what audiences think Batman music "should" sound like. That's a testament to how good those themes are. So, no matter how different, or original any of us try to be, we'll always be compared.

Wonder Woman is great for me, because there isn't some symphonic John Williams, or Danny Elfman "Wonder Woman Theme" that fandom has fallen in love with. Although, the Lynda Carter show does have a really cool, catchy theme song (personally,I prefer the 3rd season funk-disco version!).

Based on your previous projects, including the Hellboy animated features and Batman: Gotham Knight (great job on “In Darkness Dwells, by the way), is it safe to assume you’re a comic fan? If so, any characters in particular that are your favorite?

Absolutely!! My earliest childhood memory of a superhero was Neal Adams' Batman, and Ditko's Spider-Man. As a young kid I loved silver age stuff from Marvel, and DC.. Stan Lee, Denny O'Neil, Marv Wolfman. I was also really into Marvel's G.I. Joe comics for a while.. one issue.. "Silent Interlude" still being a favorite. I was also attracted to a lot of horror / supernatural characters like Dr. Strange, The Demon, Deadman, The Specter, Tomb of Dracula, ect..

As I got older in the late 80's early 90's Frank Miller Batman, Alan Moore Swamp Thing, Killing Joke, Watchmen.. Got into the whole 90's Vertigo stuff.. Gaiman's Sandman, Hellblazer, Preacher... The more recent years.. Hellboy, B.P.R.D, Planetary, Alan Moore's Top Shelf stuff.. although frankly, I've been a bit out of the loop comics-wise for the past couple of years..

My favorite artists are Kirby, Ditko, Rude, Wrightson, Adams, Stout, Mignola, Corbin, Frazetta... BRUCE TIMM!!

Will you be lending your sound to upcoming DC animated movie, including Green Lantern, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, or beyond?
I'm not involved with Green Lantern, but I know who is... and I can tell you that it's in very good hands!

I think the approach that Bruce is taking for these DC Animated DTV's, is to have each movie really stand alone as its own unique film, not connected with any continuity to the others. In addition to different character designs, voice casts, title sequences, etc.. different scores by different composers.

For me, its an honor and a privilege to be asked to work on these films. They are all such classic, iconic characters, loved by so many people around the world. You wouldn't have to ask me twice to work on another one!

What can we expect from you in the future? Where else should we keep an eye open for your work?
I always get in trouble for announcing things that haven't been officially announced!

The World's Finest would like to thank Christopher Drake for his participation in this interview.
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