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December 2014
Issue: August 1, 2012

Scoring Disney's 'Odd Life of Timothy Green'

By: Marc Loftus
SANTA MONICA — Disney’s latest live action film The Odd Life of Timothy Green centers on a young couple struggling with infertility. In frustration, they bury a box in their backyard, listing all of the traits they could hope for in a child. To their surprise, their dreams are answered when a young boy arrives the next day, covered in mud having sprouted up from the soil.

Geoff Zanelli (www.geoffzanelli.com) was challenged with composing the score for The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which opened in theaters on August 15. Zanelli, who has worked from composer Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control facility since 1994, described the soundtrack as organic — no surprise considering the film’s storyline. 



He created nearly an hour of original music for the film, represented in 30 cues. Most run one to two minutes in length. A few span five to seven minutes. Just one is shorter than :30.

“Every note is me,” he says of the writing. In the beginning, he had just a script for reference, which allowed him to create abstract themes to present to director Peter Hedges. While most of the approved themes would have to be re-written to match the timing of the edit, one piece made its way into the film virtually untouched. The second piece that Zanelli wrote plays almost intact at the open of the movie. He had to add an elegant ending to complete the original piece.

Zanelli describes three specific themes that can be heard throughout the film. The young boy, Timothy, played by CJ Adams, has his own theme titled "You're Gonna Find It Hard To Believe." The second theme he describes as “Life Goes On,” which reflects the moods of the parents, played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton. The third main theme Zanelli calls, “Love and Be Loved,” which supports the young girl who takes an interest in Timothy.

Zanelli's space at Remote Control allows for writing and recording, making use of Logic for sequencing and the facility’s exclusive sample library and triggering system, dubbed SAM.



“When I first started, I thought it was a very human and organic story,” Zanelli recalls. “I wanted to feel the fingers of the musicians — like on the guitars, where fingers were creating a sound.”

For the guitars, he used Millennia mics and pre-amps, and explored different mic’ing techniques to capture the instrument in a flattering manner that highlighted the human element without making it sound too harsh. 

All of his mock-up tracks were ultimately re-recorded with live musicians. “This film was so much about keeping the human element in score,” he notes.
The recording sessions took place over three seven-hour days at the Warner scoring stage and Remote Control. Approximately one-third of the score was recorded using a large orchestra. The other two-thirds made use of a smaller octet, comprised of violins, a viola, cellos and a bass.

“It was a bit luxurious for what we had to record,” he says of the timeframe. “We would not have benefited from a fourth day.”

Zanelli even contributed some light vocals, as did a female vocalist. At press time, he was finalizing work on his own home studio in Woodland Hills, CA, which will have identical technology to his space at Remote Control, minus that SAM access.