Disenchanted (2022) - that special Disney orchestral magic

March 30, 2023, 12:25 AM · Roughly nine years ago, I wrote a mini-review of Frozen and discussed a medley I wrote on this blog. It's been a long while since I've tried writing a film score review. I just watched Disney's holiday film from last year, Disenchanted, last night. While I've been slowly getting into musicals more now than any other time in my life (and I'm currently helping work on two collaboration shows, one of which I'll definitely discuss in the future and will possibly be out next holiday season!), I just wanted to share a couple thoughts on Alan Menkin's new score for Disenchanted in this post.

I'm not sure if there's any one way to explain that special Disney magic that comes with its scores. Of course there are multiple composers and lyricists that write music for these films, but they all seem to stem from that special sound of early Disney animated films. Woodwind flourishes really add that sense of innocent wonder, and strings (and solo violin!) playing in a very Romantic style, hearing the shifts strongly, also helps us feel that timeless sound playing violin from the 20th century. All of this can be heard strongly in this film's score.

There's a certain kind of contained musical growth the orchestra helps provide for the singers. For instance, in Morgan's solo "Perfect," bassoons and strings create a leggiero feel as she sings about the perfection of the morning, creating a place where the music can grow. This is of course timed perfectly with a half-step key change, a staple in many musicals as I have known. In this moment, the brass plays chords over violin runs as they all rise together into the next verse. It makes a phrase where a majority of the orchestra drops out become even more intimate, before we build to a climax with a swell and a cymbal crash. I noticed this kind of formula in the other favorite of the film, "Love Power," sung by Idina Menzel and with a throwback to Elsa's "Let It Go!" (This was a nice callback to Frozen, of course, and is what reminded me about that old post on my blog.) This key change also occurs via an ascending scale. This song really showed me the power the orchestra has - towards the end, she hits her high E-flat and F when singing "love power," and there are times when she has the full orchestra to back her and times when the orchestra takes a backseat. As a composer it creates an interesting idea to explore with holding back - and as a session musician, you don't want to be expected to be playing at 100% for an entire song! This is a way to help create pockets of different emotions within the piece, and I think it's done quite effectively here.

Although I'm sure there is much more I can discuss (like the funky counterpoint of the villainous duo "Badder", or the heartbreaking reprise of "Love Power" with strings and celeste/harp), I'm going to leave my initial thoughts there. I remember loving the original Enchanted as a kid (and many Disney films both referenced), and it was a nice surprise that watching this film now just happened to line up with my current composing work and listening obsession with various musicals. I might try to put together a fuller review on some in the future, but I just wanted to get my thoughts on this film out here tonight. It's been on Disney+ since November 2022 if you haven't seen it yet! Here's the movie on imdB. Thanks for reading!


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