Jen Yamato contributed to this report.
The words “everything is awesome,” which became the title of the theme song for what is expected to be a $69.1M+ mega-hit The Lego Movie, were written into the script well before Mark Mothersbaugh even began scoring the animated pic. The man behind the soundtrack of such diverse fare as Wes Andersen’s The Royal Tenenbaums, Sony’s animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and TV shows like HBO’s Big Love said he had to come up with an entirely different sound. “When I saw early cuts of the movie, and there were tiny Lego bricks forming a wave, forming the explosion cloud and when he turns on the shower, water comes out as Lego blocks, so I had to think to myself, what is the sound of that universe? What is the sound of Lego?”
The musician/composer — who is as well known for his days as the frontman for the new wave band Devo (“Whip It”) as he is now as an accomplished composer of songs and scores (Rugrats, House of Lies, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, 21 Jump Street) — said he reached back to his past to compose the score. “I used old retro synthesizers that I used from the days of Devo and then used circuit bending.” What is circuit bending? “If you go on YouTube you can see these people who pull out all these crazy, electronic Speak and Spells to Elmo dolls and Casio keyboards and combine the sounds. It’s circuit bending. These people even have their own circuit bent instruments. They are the vocabulary of modern music. So I looked at a lot of that gear, and I created this palate of electronic sounds.”
The song Everything is Awesome plays prominently (and repeatedly) in the film and, in fact, is part of the story. It’s the only known song in the animated world, at first used as an opiate of the masses. By the end of the film it takes on a new meaning of collaboration and cooperation. “It’s a clever writing on the part of Chris (Miller) and Phil (Lord).” In fact, the filmmakers (who also directed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) have been roundly praised for the creativity on this film. This marks Mothersbaugh fourth collaboration with them so there was a creative shorthand when they started working together again.
Mothersbaugh said he scored the movie in parallel. He initially scored the whole thing in electronics and then went back and layered in an entire orchestration underneath. The result is bright, popping, almost frenetic music with an underpinning of emotional swells. “Because it’s the world of animation, you really need an orchestral sounds. Even the most cutting edge animation needs help to look and feel like the real world. When you have a little square peg with a face painted on it you need to feel the heart and know that there’s a brain there. I had to ground it and give it its unique place that it was also meaningful emotionally.”
In a very interesting aside, Mothersbaugh also reached back to the old Spaghetti Westerns of Clint Eastwood to employ the famous whistler Alessandro Alessandroni (a musician/composer in his own right) from the famed Ennio Morricone’s The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Alessandroni can be heard whistling on the song Saloons and Wagons.
Tegan and Sara, twin sisters who both play the guitar and keyboards and sing, were brought on by Niki Sherrod, VP of music at Warner Bros. Pictures who also helped get the choirs and engineers together for him. The Lonely Island is a comedy trio comprised of Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone (from SNL and before, when they used to call themselves Incredibad) and are the male rap voices audiences hear on the credits theme song Everything is Awesome (they also wrote the rap lyrics). Other lyrics for the song were written by Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew & Lisa Harriton.