Fun fact, friends. 1985’s The Black Cauldron was actually intended to be released in 1984. In fact it was intended to be the big Holiday release for Walt Disney Pictures. The reason for the delay? It might have had something to do with the test screening of The Black Cauldron. The one that rumors claim sent smaller children running from the private theater in Burbank, California. That might of course be hard to believe at first, but I would ask you to certainly check out the teaser trailer, before making your decision!
For The Black Cauldron things looked pretty grim. It’s even been said that Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the studio chairman, took the film and attempted to edit it himself. Against the wishes of producer Joe Hale (Robin Hood, The Black Hole) in fact. Supposedly it was the CEO of Disney at the time, Michael Eisner, that stopped that editing, but Katzenberg felt strongly that changes needed to be made. So not only did The Black Cauldron get pushed from it’s Holiday spot to July of 1985, but some of the more darker aspects were excised as well.
However, in the end much like 1979’s The Black Hole the film failed to reach its audience. Or at the very least the movie going public of the time weren’t ready to embrace the film. Furthermore it wasn’t even until August 4th, 1998 that The Black Cauldron was released for home media!
That isn’t to say I knew anything about all of that behind the scenes drama in my youth. As a matter of fact the first time I even knew a movie was coming out was thanks to a collectible butter tub featuring scenes from the film. Of course there were puzzles, children’s books, as well as coloring books.
Naturally there was also a wonderful book and record for The Black Cauldron.
So, go grab your favorite beverage and snack. Sit back and let us journey back to 1985 as we listen and read The Black Cauldron on Retro Records!
Soundtrack fans, we’re in yet another unexpectedly meaty week of wonders, so let’s waste no time in diving right in.
La-La Land Records, as previously announced, is now taking orders for their limited edition (1500 copies) double LP vinyl pressing of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, returning Jerry Goldsmith’s magnum opus to turntables for the first time in nearly 40 years, this time with the complete score spread across four sides. (The CD box set has even more music, if you’re after music instead of a display piece: Goldsmith scored half the movie before coming up with the iconic Enterprise theme, which was later repurposed as the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the CD edition presents the complete score as heard in the movie plus what basically amounts to an unused alternate soundtrack.)
While the first Star Trek movie is returning to vinyl, another classic movie is, incredibly, only just now making its way to CD thanks to Varese Sarabande, which is presenting Dave Grusin’s music from On Golden Pond, interspersed with dialogue from the movie (in some cases, quite lengthy chunks of dialogue).
Varese also has a trio of limited editions now available: an “encore” re-pressing of Elmer Bernstein’s score from Disney’s The Black Cauldron, limited to just 1000 copies for those who missed out on the last limited edition issue of this title.
For fans of high-octane action movies (and their music), there’s a new edition of Basil Poledouris’ music from the Steven Segal flick Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, more than doubling the running time of the original 1995 CD release. Even the movie’s source music is included as bonus tracks. What’s source music? Ask me that again in a minute.
And finally, John Williams’ score from the 1990’s Stanley & Iris gets a limited edition CD release of 3,000 copies, but that’s not all: tucked into the open space left by that movie’s score is a second Williams score hitting CD for the first time, 1972’s Pete ‘n’ Tillie. The two movies’ music are a good fit to share a CD: both are heartfelt relationship movies, and hey, it’s John Williams.
So…about source music: it’s a wonderful thing when original source music winds up as a bonus track on a CD…of course, that’s assuming that the director isn’t married to his temp track. Confused yet? That’s why we have another slice of the Retroist Scoreboard Glossary this week.
The Retroist Scoreboard Glossary: How The Sausage Gets Made Additional Music – you’ll see this in movie and especially TV credits these days…often in small print. Particularly with the breakneck production timetable of television, but also with movies, composers must hire extra help to ghost-write the sheer amount of music needed within that timetable. Some of today’s biggest names were yesterday’s up-and-coming “additional music” composers: the ubiquitous Bear McCreary (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Walking Dead, Agents Of SHIELD, Outlander, Black Sails, Da Vinci’s Demons) got his break composing “additional music” for the 2003 Battlestar Galactica miniseries, whose primary composer moved on, leaving McCreary to take over the hourly series, making his career in the process. Due to the structure of CD release contracts with the primary composer, this additional music may or may not appear on an official release, leaving music from memorable scenes off the table. (Thus was the fate of the pivotal, Joel Goldsmith-composed “Flight Of The Phoenix” scene from Star Trek: First Contact, which was left off of the original 1996 soundtrack release at the label’s demand, simply because it wasn’t by primary composer Jerry Goldsmith.) In a few cases, the assistant composers may release their material as a composer promo.
Music+FX Track or Stem – a special mix of a movie or TV show’s music score and sound effects, prepared so that local voice artists in various parts of the world can do a language dub without the original actors’ voices in the background. Particularly with older films, this may be the closest we come to having a film’s original music tapes; it’s exceedingly rare to see a CD release of a Music+FX mix, but not unheard of (i.e. La-La Land’s “archival” release of Jerry Goldsmith’s rare score from The Satan Bug). Music+FX mixes are more often the domain of bootleggers.
Source Music – composers may be called upon to create “source music” for a scene in which a movie’s characters can hear that song in question from some on-screen source – a radio, a jukebox, a band on stage, to name a few examples. (Contrast this against the movie’s score, which the characters do not hear.) Some reissue producers go out of their way to include specially composed source music, particularly if it’s been the subject of “what was that song…?” debates for years and years. In some cases, source music is a piece of music from a movie’s songtrack.
Spotting – a process during pre-production of a movie or TV show in which the composer sits in on a screening of a rough edit to discuss the timing, placement and emotional thrust of the music with the director and/or editor(s), sometimes using temp tracks as a guide. (These meetings are called spotting sessions.) Once spotting is complete, the process of composing actually begins, though some composers may discover at a very late stage that the director’s ideas on spotting has changed, and their music has been tracked over a completely different scene…or has been replaced with a piece of the temp track.
Temp Track – a “temporary track” is often assembled, during a movie’s editing process, by the director and/or the film editor to track scenes in a movie that has no score yet. Temp tracks are often cobbled together from classical pieces or other movie soundtracks, and a composer hired to score a movie will often be asked to compose music with a similar feel…without actually duplicating it note-for-note, of course. The history of film music is rife with instances of directors falling in love with their temp tracks to the point that they either don’t hire a composer, or reject a specially commissioned score when it doesn’t live up to the director’s expectations (perhaps the most famous specimen of this category being Alex North’s unused original score for 2001: a space odyssey). Temp tracks are controversial in film music, whether for the perception that they limit a composer’s creativity, or for the not-limited-to-Kubrick phenomenon which plagues composers to this day (just this year, Johann Johannson’s score for Arrival was disqualified from Oscar contention because of the prominence of Max Richter’s composition, “On The Nature Of Daylight”, in key scenes of the movie – a holdover from the temp track that the director felt couldn’t be improved upon, costing his composer a nomination).
Tracking – once a composer has turned in a completed score, that music is at the mercy of the film’s director and/or editor(s), and may not appear where it was originally spotted. The music may be chopped up, edited and tracked in a different place entirely, such as >em>Star Wars Episode IStar Wars Episode III. Additionally, licensed or specially commissioned songs may be tracked into scenes, replacing sections of more traditional scoring (Ray Parker Jr.’s memorable song was tracked into as many scenes of Ghostbusters as possible late in editing, leaving significant portions of Elmer Bernstein’s score on the cutting room floor).