Guillaume Roussel —Creating A New Score, for An Old Tale
There are horror film scores, scores for sci-fi adventures and thrillers, romantic comedy scores — and then there are Disney film scores. It’s safe to say that Disney scores are in a category all of their own. Whether it be Alan Menken’s majestic themes from The Little Mermaid or Hans Zimmer’s emotional The Lion King score, these melodies have become some of the most recognized in cinematic history. After churning out classics for decades now, it has become known that when you watch a Disney film, you are about to watch a heartwarming tale about family, friendship, courage, or love. With amazing music to go along with it. This applies to Disney+’s new slate of films too, which include Lady and the Tramp and more recently Black Beauty starring Kate Winslet. This latest adaptation of Black Beauty was scored by French composer Guillaume Roussel. This marks his first foray into the Disney world, which he couldn’t be more thrilled about. Below Guillaume goes into detail about his creative process for scoring such a beloved Disney tale.
Making Music Magazine: You have scored a lot of film and TV, but Black Beauty marks your first film in the Disney world. How does that feel?
Guillaume Roussel: I feel very fortunate and happy. I have been a huge fan of Disney films from a very young age. To be part of the Disney family is a dream come true. When I was younger, I would have never expected to be here and working with them. It’s an honor.
MMM: There is nothing minimal when it comes to Disney scores. They tend to be very grand and over the top (in a good way). Knowing this, did you feel any extra pressure when you were scoring the film? Did you have this in the back of your mind when scoring?
GR: I know Disney has a lot of big scores and soundtracks, which we all love, but they also have some film scores that sound more delicate as well. I think in the end, what matters most to them, is that the music embraces and serves the story. For Black Beauty, I never really wanted to put pressure on myself to do something big and over the top. Ultimately, we decided to go with something that was more intimate. Apparently, the Disney creatives liked this too, because we only received few notes back from them
MMM: How would you describe the musical style of Black Beauty?
GR: It’s a combination of two different musical worlds. We took a lot of inspiration from ’90s film scores. We also wanted a more modern sound, so we added synth sounds and atmospheric elements for Beauty. For Jo and the human characters, we used a lot more organic and classic instruments like the piano and the orchestra.
MMM: Do you have a favorite Disney film, that if they were to remake you would love to score?
GR: My favorite Disney movies are the ones that Alan Menken has scored. So, for me, it would be outrageous to do a remake and replace him. It’s hard to choose one particular movie that could be an interesting remake to score, there are so many that would be so exciting!
MMM: You got to record with the London Symphony Orchestra for the Black Beauty score. What was your favorite part of working with them?
GR: Because of the pandemic, I was monitoring the session from LA while they were playing in London. The members of that orchestra are some of the most amazing musicians. I have been listening to their recordings for decades, so it was a big moment for me. It was a real treat. It was frustrating not to be there in person. Pre-pandemic, the director and I would have been there sharing that recording experience.
MMM: The film revolves are Beauty and Jo, did you give them any specific themes or melodies?
GR: Jo has her piano melody, which plays the first time we see her. Beauty has more sounds, that were made from Native American flutes and synths instruments. I tweaked those and made them not as recognizable, so we had something otherworldly. As the movie progresses, those two themes gradually combine. I always attach a lot of importance to sounds, on this movie, it was great to spend so much time crafting it.
MMM: How many minutes of music did you create for the Black Beauty?
GR: There are 100 minutes of music in Black Beauty. The movie isn’t much longer than that. I wrote a lot more music for the film, but we didn’t end up using everything. In the end, there was probably almost three hours of music.
MMM: In a previous interview you said, “We wanted something that would pay homage to the ’90s, but also speak to a younger audience.” Can you elaborate?
GR: As far as the music, we wanted to make sure the music wouldn’t only speak to people like us, that are film score fans. We wanted a younger audience to connect with the characters. That’s why we used synths and had a modern approach to the writing. We tried to come up with a combination of two eras.
MMM: What would you say is your “go to” instrument?
GR: I naturally use the piano, because I am a piano player. It’s an instrument that is very easy to use on the computer now too. Piano sounds are very inspiring, and it covers so many registries, it’s the best instruments for composing.
MMM: Any advice you would give to up and coming composers?
GR: There is a good saying, “Success is when preparation meets opportunity.” I think the best thing to do is be very productive. Compose short movies, compose for yourself. The more you create and the more you learn, the more you will be ready for a situation where you are going to face constraints, when someone is giving you deadlines. Having a lot of composing experience is key.