Academic journal article Music, Sound and the Moving Image

The Evolving 'Temp Score' in Animation

Academic journal article Music, Sound and the Moving Image

The Evolving 'Temp Score' in Animation

Article excerpt

Temp Music, Feature Film and Animation

Filmmakers use 'temp' or temporary music as a placeholder and guideline for final music in feature films. As Ron Sadoff describes, 'Before the real score replaces the temp track, the temp track as mockup is deemed artistically and commercially viable [... It is a] blueprint of a film's soundtrack - a musical topography of score, songs, culture and codes.' He notes that in live-action films, the temp track 'survives only in its role for audience previews' and is 'discarded immediately following the preview phase' (2006: 166). Frequent hearings of the temp by the director and editorial crew help cement its influence as a guideline for the composer.

In animated feature film there are many private, internal screenings over the course of several years of production, and these have temp music as well. These screenings are not audience previews, but allow directors and various departments to review their work in progress. Unlike live action, nothing is ever 'in the can'; therefore, there are always opportunities to refine creative work, limited only by contractual deadlines and budget.

Directorial control over musical conception is nothing new. Temp music has been used in Hollywood since the 1930s.1 Temp music has been studied and commented on by a variety of scholars, authors and bloggers, who have approached the topic from perspectives ranging from the vocational to the highly analytical.2 Burt claims temp tracks 'will strike horror in a composer's heart' (1996: 220), and Lack, Karlin and Wright claim in very similar language that while temp tracks are intended to be temporary, they usually are not.3 While this statement seems short of literal truth, it is striking that three authors have so described the powerful influence the temp has come to bear upon a hired composer's final score. Generally, temp music today is comfortably understood as part of the communication between directors, editors and composers, as well as a routine part of the commercial feature-filmmaking process.

Music for animation has likewise been extensively studied, and has been reissued on its own for many years.4 In particular, Daniel Goldmark has written extensively on cartoon music. Music for cartoons has proved particularly fertile ground for analysis, as it is widely known, fondly remembered from childhood and contains many sophisticated musical references intended for the amusement of adults as well as children. Much analysis of music for animated film has been devoted to tracing these references, analysing the style and history of the musical composition, and examining the lives and working conditions of the composers, animators, and studio employees and executives. Researchers have also studied interactions between cartoons, music and culture at large, including issues of politics and race. All of this research has given consideration to the final music used in the cartoon for its public release.

When we focus on the temp tracks used for animated feature films, however, we run into complications. Temp tracks in animated feature films bear a huge impact upon the final product, and in many ways the temp track constructed for an animated feature film today can be seen to outweigh what the actual final composer writes. This unusual situation is a result of the blurring of 'production' and 'post-production' in animation, and the great amount of time invested today in creating a temp track for an animated feature film. In animation, post-production is always happening.

A Special Situation in Animation

Live-action films have historically had three distinct phases: development, production and post-production. In development, the script is fine-tuned, money is raised, locations are scouted, art and design concepts are tested, actors are cast and preparations are made for a successful production. In production, the film is shot; this may be on location or on a soundstage in a studio facility. …

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