Halo Anniversary Disneyland Adventures | Music Centerstage in Game Releases

Jan 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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The <I>Kinect Disneyland Adventures</i> team, from left: Mark Griskey, Lennie Moore, Laura Karpman, Paul Lipson, Leslie Ann Jones, Peter McConnell, Wataru Hokoyama, André Zweers, Michael Roache

The Kinect Disneyland Adventures team, from left: Mark Griskey, Lennie Moore, Laura Karpman, Paul Lipson, Leslie Ann Jones, Peter McConnell, Wataru Hokoyama, André Zweers, Michael Roache

The orchestral sessions for KDA at Skywalker in mid- to late August and the beginning of September 2011 were longer and more involved than the ones for Halo Anniversary, including 12 three-hour sessions with a 79-piece orchestra, and others with what Jones calls “the B-band—27 players, just strings and woodwinds.” Rather than recording strings and woodwinds and brass separately as they had on Halo, Jones says, “On KDA, everybody was playing at the same time, including the percussion, so the only things you could separate from that were if the strings doubled, or if the percussion had extra parts they overdubbed, or any of the pre-layed percussion the composers came with.

“For some of it that had that ’50s-style orchestration, we were looking for an older sort of sound rather than something that’s very pristine and hi-fi,” Jones continues. “For KDA, we ended up using C-12s for the strings and ribbon mics for the brass—I use Wes Dooley mics, I use Royers, I use Coles—because we wanted a sound that was full, but not terribly ambient and not too dry.”

The different composers would be on hand for the days on which their pieces were recorded—on the day I visited, Laura Karpman was in the control room at Skywalker, standing to Jones’ left, carefully following the score as the orchestra—with Wataru Hokayama conducting—went through its paces. Occasionally she would communicate a minute change to an arrangement through the conductor, and there were also instances where musicians would ask questions about a specific note or rest. Lipson was at Jones’ right at the Neve, also examining the score and listening for problems. During the hours I was there, few anomalies showed up—the Skywalker Symphony moved from piece to piece with remarkable precision and alacrity. You could almost feel the euphoria of Disney Magic in the control room.

Wataru conducts the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra

Wataru conducts the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra

“All these scores hit the stage the day we were recording them,” says Gordon, who was also on hand that day at Skywalker. “Wataru was sight-reading all the conducting as it went down the whole way through, just as the orchestra was sight-reading it. It was so impressive.”

After the orchestral recording for KDA was completed, Pyramind once again became the site of some smaller sessions for other parts of the score, including a bluegrass group that had to be mixed into the orchestral base of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad section. Even more challenging was the Disney Soundsational Parade.

“For that one,” Lipson says, “I had to take a bunch of beloved Disney melodies—‘Under the Sea’ and some of those beautiful Menken melodies, along with Peter Pan, Mickey Mouse and others—and arrange them for brass and also make it interactive, because in that part of the game, [the player] conducts the music, and how it sounds depends on how well it’s being conducted. So when we were recording, I had to say something to the musicians I’ve never said before on a project, which was, ‘Give me your worst!’ Because I had to track the success of you conducting well and also you not doing well. The result is astounding. It will move out of bad playing and good playing depending on how you’re doing. It’s hilarious.”

Jones mixed the large “A-band” orchestral sessions on the Neve 88R at Skywalker and then the smaller “B-band” cues (the 27-piece group) went into the game directly from the 2-track mixes she made at the time she recorded them. Gordon mastered the entire score, which was the single largest either Pyramind or Skywalker had ever worked on.

“More than just about any game I know, the score is front and center [in KDA],” Lipson says. “The music drives the game audio. In every single attraction, the music is important.”

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