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The World's Finest Presents



The World's Finest has caught up with composer Robert Kral for an all-new interview concerning his work on the Superman Versus The Elite animated feature, now available to own on home video. Kral is a familiar name to the DC Comics Premiere Movie line (and the Man of Steel), having scored the very first feature Superman Doomsday, among other installments in the acclaimed home video series. Now, Kral takes a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer questions about this new blockbuster Superman tale and what he has in store for us!

The World's Finest: It’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen you around these parts – since Green Lantern: First Flight! What have you been up to since then?

Robert Kral: I've been very busy with the Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated TV series, as well as Scooby-Doo DVD releases like Camp Scare, Abracadabra Doo and Legend of the Phantosaur. I was really glad to be asked to score for Superman again and get back into some superhero material for Bruce Timm!

WF: You provided the score to Superman Doomsday, the first title in the DC Comics Premiere Movie line. Is there a safety in going back to the Man of Steel? Will we hear some familiar themes revisited, or are you taking a whole new approach top this score?

RK: It's both actually. We return to the Superman's theme from Superman Doomsday. Bruce always really liked that theme. I was really glad that he wanted to use it again in this new movie. I always hoped that it could establish Superman and stay with him, at least for a while. Bruce had no hesitation in wanting to use it again so it was a relief. Then, for the Elite and other main themes of this movie we wanted to set up an edgy new theme for them, something that could be heroic and somewhat noble at first, but as we realize more about them change into something darker and more aggressive. The Elite theme is even used as a piano solo during a very heartfelt, touching flashback.

WF: When working on a Superman projects, what do you consider to be the key notes to hit (excuse the pun)? What do you think makes a memorable, classic Superman score?

RK: The themes have to memorable, and encapsulate the feeling of the story. I think that's the most important element! With a memorable theme, it somehow gives the movie identity and it can be a big part of "what you come away with." We also try to somewhat avoid cliches and try something a bit different each time, as we did with Green Lantern: First Flight . This time round I had detuned guitars (I love Evanescence), some industrial percussion and other sounds to harshen it up a bit.

WF: Like Superman Doomsday this story is a little dark. It’s safe to say that story and tone play a key role in your approach to the material. How hard is it to maintain that fine line of not making things seem too dark or too light-hearted in a feature such as this?

RK: Yes - story and tone are key. I don't think we necessarily worry too much about a fine line. I tend to go all out, at least attempt to. Then it's up to the director or producer to pull it back if we need to. Whats wonderful for me about these projects is there is no temp track, so I am free to compose however I see fit. It then becomes a collaboration if we need to tweak it. But it starts with Bruce's direction, then my ideas, and then we collaborate if I didn't nail it. Other projects often have temp tracks so the music is already defined, at least the tone of it. So with that freedom I tend to go all out, or at least choose what I think is appropriate to the story, drama, and characters.

WF: You have been scoring a host of projects for television and movies lately. How does the approach change when it comes to doing a 75-minute feature over a 22-minute episode?

RK: If there is more time on a movie, say A Haunting in Connecticut, we can let ideas sit for a while then re-visit them, let them mature (some might say "stew" or "ferment"). In those cases there's more time to allow things to develop. Yet a longer film might also benefit from the same theme being re-used a lot more, simplified and coherent. Essentially it's the same though - it's story telling and sometimes the 22-minute production is just as intense as a 75-minute one.

WF: What do you think are some of the major misconceptions that people have about scoring, be it for a television show or animated movie?

RK: I think the biggest misconception is how long it takes to produce, compose, tweak, orchestrate, perform and record then mix original music into a final production. It takes a lot of time to do all that and thousands upon thousands of decisions each and every day. It can be exhilarating but also exhausting! Sometimes I feel composers are asked to do a lot with too little time or budget. Technology has firmly changed the producer's expectations of what can be done and how fast, and - relative to using a real orchestra - much more cheaply. Yet the music still has to sound high budget and, sometimes, the time allotted (and considering the workload) makes it extremely challenging. Sure, film music has been produced quickly for decades. But previously the composer composed, then an orchestrator handled the cues as they were finished and prepped them for the orchestra, then by the time the last cue was composed you're ready to go to the orchestra the next day and they play it, someone else records it, etc. These projects require the composer to do the whole lot in the same amount of time. Given time, a composer can conjure up anything, but with time constraints the limitations and compromises set in.

WF: Is there a chance we’ll see your score work for Superman Versus The Elite releases, either through a download or CD? Are you concerned that less and less score material seems to be readily available for fans?

RK: I have not approached La-La Land on this yet, as they would be my first choice. La-La Land has been amazing at releasing these projects to the public. But it involves a lot of parameters that aren't my department (with record companies and what Warner Bros wants to do at a particular time etc). Obviously, WB looks at the viability of the product release, but at least companies like La-La Land do what ever they can to bring out great music to the fans.

WF: If fans are interested in purchasing score work, what is the best place to go to or who they should get in contact with to make sure these materials see proper releases?

RK: The production company, like WB in this case, is where the decisions lie. In the case of Superman Doomsday (which I believe started a string of releases once that one happened), I knew someone at La La Land who was prepared to take on the idea. We took it to WB and it happened. So in that case I believe once WB saw that a record company was wanting to do it, they responded. So it takes both a record label and the movie production company to handshake somewhere, and unfortunately that event is often out of control of the fans.

WF: Any final words on the Superman Versus The Elite project, including comments on your work and perhaps the animated feature as a whole?

RK: I absolutely love the story of Superman Versus The Elite. I'm thrilled with how it all turned out, with the exception of unfortunately losing my Main Title music at the eleventh hour. The visuals were not available to me during composing for the main title, so when they were finally complete, the excutive producer felt it didn't match. However, Bruce Timm and I worked hard on creating the essence of the story into the main title music. In the end, you do hear that material in the Superman Versus The Elite scenes and some of it in the End Title. Morally, I think the story raises some really great discussion points and I applaud the writers and creators.

WF: Now, where can we expect to see you in the coming months? Any hints as to what projects you’ll be working on?

RK: A lot of Scooby-Doo projects! Continuing the Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated TV series, several 22 minute DVD releases and Scooby movies to DVD. I am also scoring a feature film called Fatal Honeymoon that stars Harvey Keitel, based on a true story that occurred in Australia with a diving incident at the Great Barrier Reef.

Click here to hear the original Superman Versus The Elite Main Title music!

The World's Finest would like to thank Robert Kral for his participation in this Q & A!

Join the discussions at The DC Animation Forum!
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