Epic Mickey Original Game Score
Epic Mickey Original Game Score
Walt Disney Records
December 21, 2010
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Epic Mickey features Disney’s first icon, Mickey Mouse, journeying into the dark and barren world of Wasteland in his first triple A video game title. The score for this title was handled by James Dooley, an acclaimed composer of various blockbusters and long-term collaborator of Hans Zimmer, who has previously scored inFAMOUS and Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier. In this title, Dooley blends the light-hearted melodic characteristics most would associate with Mickey Mouse with dark and epic cinematic elements typical of modern day film scores. Is the resulting fusion a satisfying one?
The centrepiece of the score is the brand new and iconic theme for Mickey. The memorable melody simultaneously reflects the light-hearted, mischievous, and ultimately endearing characteristics of Mickey Mouse. Its main rendition in “Mickey’s Theme” is ideal for demonstrating the concept of the game, shifting from a modest and functional rendition featuring classically-oriented piano and light buoyant strings, into a more epic rendition dominated by triumphant brass. The climax of the theme certainly has a pastiche feel, given its adherence to the classic formula used in many cartoons, making it all the more fitting and likeable. His half-brother, Oswald, also receives an endearing characterisation at the end of the soundtrack release with another light piano melody. It’s almost a mirror image of Mickey’s theme, with its similarly shaped melody and orchestration. But make mistake: this is no light-hearted score otherwise.
Indeed, the score features many darker moments to represent the surprising protagonist’s journey into Wasteland. “Main Titles” is a good musical depiction of a pleasant sunny day gone terrible with its contrasting arrangements of Mickey’s theme. It begins with another cheerful rendition of the theme on frivolous woodwinds and bombastic brass, but takes a darker turn from 0:56 with the entrance of an epic crisis motif and more brutal orchestration. “How Micked Ended Up in Wasteland” is a full-bodied description of Mickey’s journey into the darkness, taking many twists and turns during its six minute playtime. Like the score as a whole, this track has a very filmic quality, mixing typical Zimmer-esque action segments with dark mystical Elfman-esque portions, yet still retains a Disney feel during its more personal moments and thematic references. It is certainly well-produced, though some will find the dark moments are too dark, and the light moments are too light, to enable the composition to form a cohesive and satisfying whole.
One welcome feature of the score is the use of familiar Disney melodies at key points. Observant listeners will be able to notice interpretations of the popular song “It’s a Small World” in “The Gremlin Village”, which is appropriate given the location is made up of the remains of the Disneyland attraction. Many gamers and listeners may nevertheless find the arrangement more dark and melodramatic than was necessary for the title. Likewise, there are times when “Transition Games II” pays tribute to Mickey Mouse’s first episode Steamboat Willy by using similar musical compositions and instruments, including a Rhodes organ. The result is certainly a bizarre ‘trip’ down memory lane. Perhaps my favourite rendition, however, is the reprise of “Mickey Mouse Club March” in “Mickeyjunk Mountain”, one of the most epic and striking compositions on the score. Once again, Dooley’s use of the composition offers a draw to listeners and represents the location well, without overly relying on it as a gimmick.
Beyond these compositions, there are a range of other highlights for those that enjoy the darker aspect of cinematic orchestration. They include “Tomorrow City”, with its action-packed fusion of futuristic and organic elements, and “Lonesome Manor” with its slow-building melody and desolate arrangement. Moving to the climax, “The Blot Escapes” emphasises the danger faced by the hero with its extremely dramatic climax. Once again half-Zimmer, half-Elfman in characteristics, this track is so dark and cinematic that it is arguably overblown in a Disney game, even an ‘epic’ one. This isn’t particularly problematic to me as a listener, though I wouldn’t recommend the music for kids. After the giant dramatic arch established earlier in the score, “The Epic Finale” is thankfully a suitable track to end the journey and reveal the happy ending. The interplay of strings and woodwind at the end of the track particularly soaks listeners in emotion.
Handling a project that is associated with many memories can be a very fragile and delicate job and, if not done right, can be messy. Thankfully, James Dooley has generally done a good job in depicting the journey of an iconic Disney character through the world of Wasteland, mixing light and dark elements in his orchestrations throughout. However, his approach is very dramatic in nature and parts of the score are potentially overstated in context, and furthermore his streamlined approach generally favours functionality to artistry. Indeed, those looking for a more simple and understated approach to a Disney crossover will find themselves having more affinity to Yoko Shimomura’s Kingdom Hearts score. However, those looking for a more elaborate and epic approach will find themselves enjoying the well-presented score for Epic Mickey on this digital soundtrack release.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Harris Iqbal. Last modified on August 1, 2012.