The most famous movie score temp track swipe of all time

Originally published at:

1 Like

Movie directors have zero taste in music.

From Brad Bird (director of Iron Giant, The Incredibles, etc):

Everyone in Hollywood says they wish they could do it like Pixar, but they really don’t. There’s no secret at Pixar, but there is a belief in letting people pursue something with passion and take chances, and most of Hollywood, really, doesn’t like that. It’s too scary. Some studio executives will say they love obsessive creators who take risks, but really most of them would rather play it safe. Projects cost a lot of money and people would rather follow patterns they know and make things safe and accessible. Hollywood wants there to be a math formula for making hit films. To make something really great and different and interesting means taking risks and following these ideas in your head.

(Emphasis mine)



The Venture Bros.


This is nothing new, though, really. Just look at Disney in the late 60s; they hadn’t had a big hit in a few years and were wishing they could replicate the success of Mary Poppins, but were barred from making sequels by PL Travers. Walt wasn’t around anymore for inspiration. So they decided to basically reduce Mary Poppins to a math formula and replicate it. The result? Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Magical caretaker lady? Check. Bumbling but charming male companion? Check. Adorable moppets? Check. Sherman Brothers songs? Yep. Sequence in the middle combining live-action and animation? Check. Big dance sequence with Cockney blokes? Check. The formula’s all there on paper. But somehow Angela Lansbury as a witch fighting Nazis didn’t have the same charm.


I liked Bedknobs and Broomsticks when I was growing up, but, yeah, it’s nowhere in Mary Poppins’ league.


Kubrick did.


Whether or not they have taste, the issue is that the movie is edited (at least roughly) well before the music is written. I wrote music for hollywood, and the process worked like this:

  • Film is shot
  • Editor/Director cuts together rough version, editing to a temp track that captures the vibe they want
  • “Spotting session” with composer to walk through the scenes to be scored
  • Editor/Director continue massaging the edit for months, all the time watching it with the temp tracks
  • Composer goes off and writes music

Then, the composer plays the music for the director, who has been watching the rough cut with the temp music for months. The new music, no matter how good it is, is wrong because the whole movie has been edited, and watched, to the temp track. The composer is told “uh, no - your music has to have the same tempo, dynamics, and beats as the temp.”

The composer has no choice but to completely rip off the temp track. It feels terrible. I can’t listen to my own compositions without cringing.

It depends on the director, of course - in one case, the director edited the movie without music at all, then asked me for music. In the end, he ended up dropping almost all of the music and the scenes ran without any (which is really just another version of “I’ve been watching it like this for months, so the new music doesn’t sound right”). In another case, the director told me at the spotting session to rip off the temp music, then ended up just licensing the temp music because mine wasn’t rip-offy enough!


Here’s an example of where they got it right (though TV, not a movie): “Doc Martin.” The music is fabulous. It’s by Colin Towns and available on Amazon. But then, I think the production company is owned by Martin Clunes, the star, and his wife, who’s the producer, and they seem to be interested in actually producing a really decent show. Both the show and the music are highly rated.

On advice from a friend, we also watched “Pie in the Sky,” another British show. The music during the opening and closing credits is great. I looked for the composer in the credits: sure enough, it was Colin Towns. Alas, the music during the show didn’t make much of an impression. Not available separately; not enough to package, perhaps.

1 Like

And now, a rebuttal to this idea:

1 Like


How can a witch fighting Nazis ever be uncharming?


Bird’s statement could be generalized: our individualist culture champions people who think different and take chances and yet everyday examples of this aren’t just rare, but in business seem to be systemically discouraged. And yet it was the business world that made this cultural pedestal visible during the 90s, when every goddamn office was all but pasting the walls with those goddamn one-word inspirational posters.

And it didn’t stop there. I had the misfortune of having to listen to the audiobook of Who Moved My Cheese? during a family trip and felt almost dumber afterwards. It was basically the 90s echo of the 80s corporate classic Think Outside the Box.

Corporate America seems to love reminding itself that they suck at following their own self-fed advice.


Oh, trust me, I love that weird movie! It was a childhood favorite. But it’s kind of fascinating to look at it as an aborted sequel to Mary Poppins; they had started preproduction on a new Poppins movie but when they couldn’t get the rights, they just used the songs and cast for Bedknobs instead. It was even supposed to star Julie Andrews. So you have a film with the same beats and concept as Mary Poppins, more or less, but with all these dark interludes and Nazis and a visit to the abandoned house that Prof. Browne’s squatting in, complete with unexploded bomb in the front yard.


Hello Rob. I have movie-directory things to say about this but just drank half a bottle of wine and can’t put them together properly. May I please try to make the front page with a post tomorrow?


I like to think that the very best BB guest posts get pitched exactly like this.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.