WonderCon at Home 2021, an Interview Recap

In adaptation to the pandemic, this year’s annual comic book, science fiction, and film convention—WonderCon—has taken place online. Zoom panel discussions, film screenings, workshops, contests, in the last week of March into April.

WonderCon@Home recap on Youtube

As part of this ongoing dialogue of WonderCon@Home 2021, composer James Chapple of Voodoo Highway Music, sound designer Matt Lambourn of POW Studios, and executive producer George Salinas came together for a lively afternoon discussion with members of the press (myself included).

Below is a transcription of my questions for James, Matt, and George. Charismatic, they talk about working behind the scenes in cinema, sound editing, (a funny story about goblin feet), and bringing productions to life.

Members of Voodoo Highway Music Group, James Chapple far right

I’m wondering, what are some differences in approach working on songs versus scores for an animated series.

Right, so we do, I was just talking about this yesterday on a panel and they did the math—we’re somewhere north of 500 songs for Daniel Tiger, in over six seasons, it was like 560 somewhere in there. So, we do a lot of songwriting and it is definitely a completely different nature to scoring. The process that we use on Daniel Tiger, well first of all they’re communicating their educational messages through the songs and they send us the little blurb that they want us to incorporate into the song.

And they research all that out with early childhood educators and everything, so they’ve got that whittled down to just a little phrase. And they send it to us and we write three different hooks, and send them to the producers; hooks meaning the chorus of the song based on that little blurb. Then they pick the one they like and that goes to all the songwriters, and then we write our songs for the following week. Then the next week we demo for the next set of songs, and we just leapfrog back and forth. It’s a hectic schedule. Every song has to be exactly one minute. The second count for international purposes, for when they send the show overseas, they need to make sure the minute count is exact. So that’s a challenge. I’ve been three seconds short before, like, okay I guess I’ll just put a little base slide at the beginning three seconds? These are not challenges we have when we do scoring, right?

Scoring is a lot easier in some sense because the scene writes itself. When you get a scene and you’re watching through it there are only really a couple of ways you can score it. It’s not like, you know, writing a song that has a hook and a catchy melody and wondering what style of music should that be… the jokes are all there, the action is all there, and it’s my job to underscore the story and enhance the story that’s being told, especially the jokes—enhancing the jokes and the comedic aspect. So yeah, totally different nature than the songwriting and honestly, as a composer I know when we started writing the songs for Daniel Tiger I felt like that was one of my weak spots, the “songwriting” aspect. I’m so thankful we’ve done the six seasons now because I feel like I am a far better songwriter now than I was before.

Matt Lambourn

What was the most challenging scene to work on in The Hobbit and what made it challenging?

Well I was foley editor in The Hobbit, and I guess… The most challenging thing for me wasn’t particularly about the work or the long hours or what to do for it. So in Hobbit one there’s a bit where all these goblins come rushing down a corridor and they’re chasing the hobbits and making all this noise, you know, wonderful sound design, wonderful music, wonderful everything; and my job on that was the feet. I was doing goblin feet, and I was cutting every single goblin bit and I worked, I think, for about 3 or 4 weeks just getting everything in sync, re-aligning it up, and making it so [the feet sounds] cut through, and everything, and to me they sounded really good. Really scary, and really interesting.

Then through the process of the mix more sound effects came in, and then more music came in, then more dialogue came in, and then sound effects on top of the sound effects and then more music, and I noticed my wonderful goblin feet just getting fewer and fewer and fewer until there was one left! And I was like, right, that’s my contribution to this scene, that one goblin foot. And then right at the end of the pre-mix when it was just about to be going to the final, and no more touching on the goblin feet, someone said “Ah I can hear one sound, there’s one funny click at the end.” And it was my one goblin foot, and—“Oh, I’ll just pull that down here and…” that was gone. So they’re still there, they’re still there my glorious goblin feet but they don’t stand out as much as one would like being the foley editor on that film. So that was pretty difficult, but, yeah, you get used to it.

I can’t wait to watch that scene now! You just changed my whole viewpoint of it now.

If you hear a goblin foot you’ll be lifting that curse off me!

: I’m totally going to listen to that, that’s great.

George Salinas

What are some recent trends that you’re noticing in the production and Intellectual Property development world, especially as we move out of coronavirus?

A lot of international. It’s become, I’ve moved my business now, I’m not just Latin American now it’s South Korea, Germany, Austria, Italy… I was just saying this in the beginning, people are going to start developing their own things, and then the next wave that I feel is coming is the comic book stuff. The comic book world is becoming much bigger in the Latinx community. It’s always been big though, obviously. But there are going to be publishing houses coming out soon that are going to be focused on that more exculsively, which is great that we’re in front of it right now, but it’s going to be a huge wave of creative people, making comic books unique and something new and fresh.

Then again, the international world I think Matt was saying this, there’s a lot of talent coming out of that group right now. Matt mentioned The Orphanage, which is one of my favorite movies and—you get surprised. You say whoa, this came out of what, where? And you’re going to see a big pull of talent, especially on the crew side, start making their way over here and collaborating with the people they wouldn’t normally, which is going to be amazing.

Thanks for reading! For more on WonderCon, check out their catalogue of Youtube recaps here. And thank you to James, Matt, and George for their contributions! Check out their work in the links above to stay connected.

*This interview was edited lightly for length and clarity, and brought to you by Impact24 PR

Writer, runner, music enthusiast. Exploring connections between creativity + art, lifestyle, and entrepreneurship through a series of interviews.