Finding the perfect track, adding the element of magic and threading a plethora of sequences together with smart sound design - String and Tins sound designers/mixers Will Cohen and Culum Simpson take us behind the scenes on ‘House of Disney+’, the latest trailer for Disney+.
LBB> When you received the brief for House of Disney, what was your initial reaction?
Will> When I saw the treatment, it was clear we needed to make it immersive and emphasise the different scenes... given we have done a fair amount of VFX heavy work with director Ian Pons Jewell and Time Based Arts, we knew it was going to be a fun one to work on.
There was plenty of testing up front on different music ideas: contemporary, more electronic, vintage Disney songs, covers by well known artists; we all know how subjective music is - this could have gone in many directions but we are really happy with where it ended up.
LBB> Can you tell us what the ideation process was like - what was your approach and vision?
Culum> Creatively, the source material is so well known that we had plenty of references to choose from. Part of the challenge was making several stylistically different sequences feel like part of a thematic whole.
Mechanically Will and I worked outside-in, with Will working on the atmos up to the more non-diegetic design and moves, while I worked on the foley and spot FX and landing on the diegetic hits. We also worked with our friends at The Foley Barn, then after merging our projects, Will slotted the different sound passes together with a sprinkling of Disney magic to make it all gel. It’s sometimes productive concentrating on one element of the tracklay at a time and it came together pretty well we felt.
LBB> There are a lot of different sets inspired by the shows you can watch on Disney+. How did you go about designing the sound and music to fit each different scene?
Will> We considered the kind of sound palette used in the shows the sets were mirroring, but to be honest we added more detail than you would normally find in these shows as over this short format, where it's all about the movement and transitions, there's scope for that. We weren't supplied with any sound from any of the shows for licensing reasons and we had to be careful about not copying any Lucasfilm sound ideas for IP reasons too - we created everything from scratch.
Culum> I think it was less about being true to each of the shows and more about slotting into the vibe of the piece as a whole. It has a lovely warped perspective and locking into that aesthetic really brought the film alive. There were a few specific effects we had to consider from a brand perspective (the force in the Boba Fett scene, and The Simpsons running in) as we couldn’t use any sounds from the actual media and had to remake them, but the shows are so ubiquitous it was simple-ish to create something that sat in both worlds.
LBB> What were some of the creative challenges you faced on this project and how did you overcome them?
Culum> The music was probably the biggest discussion we had. We went through a lot of tracks under the guidance of our Music Supervisors Mike and Hywel, until we started to lock in to what was needed from a creative/agency/brand perspective.
Will> We were all keen to keep this 'Wondrous Place' track on the film as it has a really nice vintage aesthetic offset against the modern visual interpretation of the House of Disney. The client felt the music needed more energy and modern production, so with us directing one of our musical collaborators Nick Hill who added strings, drums and all sorts of sparkles on top, we got it to a good place.
Also we wanted to try to get the music to not just sit as a flat soundtrack on top of the film, so there's a fair bit of filtering and subtle noodling with the music to make it work with the scenes. I enjoyed doing a convolution pipe sound on the music as it goes through the duct at the beginning, and there are some subtle manipulations to get it all to gel.
LBB> What was the trickiest part to get right?
Culum> We went back and forth internally on one small detail a few times - the wind up mouse! Trying to find that perfect squeak. We had a traditional mouse, a woodpecker, Liv from production (she ended up being a zombie), but it was Will’s pitched up monkey that stuck in the end. It's always something so seemingly obvious-sounding that causes the biggest stir!
LBB> What was it like collaborating with Disney on this?
Culum> Other than a few of Disney’s specific requests, the client was receptive to a lot of our ideas and were pretty clear where we couldn’t tread.
Will> We worked with their agency Leo Burnett: Ben Mooge, Megan O'Hagen and their team were fantastic to work with and trusted us to get it done, so thanks to them!
LBB> What was your favourite scene to sound design and why?
Culum: The Kingsman fight sequence was great fun from an editing point of view, but it was recording the zombies for the Walking Dead sequence that probably takes top spot. Very hard to keep a straight face seeing your friends and colleagues being very earnest zombies! There was also a classic Homer scream in an earlier cut that we needed to voice… Will did the honours; there's a video of him recording himself doing it somewhere… It's wonderful.
Will> Other than Culum’s nice moves on the fight scene, another moment I enjoyed working on was the lightning strike near the beginning... Time Based Arts gave us a really beautiful visual moment to slam some good sound on so props to them. When I first built that sound it was ear splittingly loud... you'll have to catch Culum's cinema mix to hear it in full effect!