- Review by Kaya Savas - April 16, 2018
Disneynature continues their Earth Day tradition by making nature documentaries more accessible to children and families of all ages. Disneynature films opt for a much lighter look into our natural world by shaping a narrative out of the exciting lives of the featured animals. For Penguins, audiences will follow Steve, a lovable antarctic penguin, on a journey to survive in one of the most inhospitable landscapes on Earth. The film is narrated by Ed Helms, and it sees Harry Gregson-Williams returning to the Disneynature world for another go.
Harry is a perfect fit for these movies, and not just because of his past work for this demographic. Harry’s talents of being able to instill as much wonder and gravitas into a score along with cute character moments make him such a wonderful fit for a project like Penguins. His score for Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom was a wonderful treat, and Penguins follows in those footsteps. The score is able to find that sound that brings the audience into this cold and desolate landscape, but also finds the charm and character within the engaging animals that appear onscreen.
The wonderful thing about nature doc scoring is that the music is incredibly attached to movement almost in a similar fashion to how old cartoons were scored (think Tom & Jerry and Road Runner). Obviously, there will be some moments that adults may find “cheesy”, but they are there to add some humor for the younger ones in the audience. Overall though, the score has such an organic personality to it. You will actually connect with these animals as if they were people you know, and that’s the whole idea. The documentary wants you to feel an emotional connection to them as you would to another person, and the score succeeds in making that happen. And with a crafted narrative, Harry is able to craft a 3-act structured score like he would for any fictional film. So while there are some cutesy animal moments, there’s also danger and stakes infused into tracks like “Killer Whales”. The score ends on a very poignant and heartwarming note for our “happily ever after”.
If you’re looking for the quirks and charm of Chicken Run mixed with the soaring beauty of scores like The Chronicles Of Narnia, then you’ll love what Harry did with Penguins. The score also features additional music from frequent collaborator Stephanie Economou, who has lent her talents to Harry’s scores on a multitude of great projects now. Penguins is just a wonderfully warm, engaging, quirky, fun and ultimately awe-inspiring adventure into the world of some of our flightless feathery friends. This score is a side of Harry we love to see pop up now and again, so it comes as a real treat.