Paving the Musical Road to El Dorado
(continued from page 1)

Elton John and his toon alter-ego from the music video for El Dorado. Photo by Greg Gorman. TM & © 2000 DreamWorks LLC.

The Matching Game
Co-director Eric "Bibo" Bergeron explains the process: "We storyboard the sequence...The song gives us the beat on which we should animate the characters. We cut the scenes together to have a certain pace that matches the pace and rhythm of the song." To animate the characters on the beat, the music is put on a 35mm magnetic tape, which is then read on an exposure sheet. The song’s bass drum provides the beat. The editor marks the frame numbers on the exposure sheet to indicate where the music comes in and where the beats fall. Through this process, the editors know how many frames are in a beat for each particular song. This also enables the editors to match the characters’ mouths to the words for the lip syncing of songs. Listening to the pace of the lyrics enables them to determine the number of frames for each individual sound. "Tough to Be a God" is the only song that the characters sing.

While the artists animated on the demo, co-composers Hans Zimmer and John Powell worked on molding the songs to fit the ethnic flavor of the film, which, according to Jacob, was not an easy task. She comments, "Elton John sings these songs and they have real pop roots. [His] material comes to you so perfectly written, that it was a real challenge to make it work within the body of the world of El Dorado."

A beautiful shot from "The Trail We Blaze" sequence of El Dorado. TM & © 2000 DreamWorks LLC.

But, Zimmer and Powell clearly worked their magic. Bergeron comments, "'The Trail We Blaze' is the second song in the show. It was kind of a Vaudevillesque song that Elton did. John and Hans turned this into something that was very South American, and some of it, Spanish." As the composers added their touches to the song, they kept the same beat, staying with the editing and rhythm of the animation. Powell explains, "We'd just take [Elton's] voice and we'd replace everything else and rearrange the song to fit the scene."

As the film continued to take shape, there were changes that inevitably affected the music. John and Rice had written a song for the villain, but it was decided that the character was developed enough and the song was unnecessary. A beautiful song called "Without Question" was almost cut, but made its way back into the film with a new angle, much to the delight of the filmmakers. Powell explains, "It was originally a love song between two of the characters. But, that was an element of the story that worked on its own. We didn't need them to stop and sing a song about [it]."

About a year after "Without Question" was removed from the film, everyone agreed that there was an emotional beat missing from the story. There wasn't enough motivation for Miguel (Kenneth Branagh’s character) to want to stay in El Dorado. The editors reminded everyone about the old footage from the defunct love song. Powell remembers, "By talking to [the editors], we realized that we could change the aspect of the love song from the love of the girl to the love of El Dorado. Some of the images were much more up-tempo and joyous and a real ballad wouldn't work, so we tried some things with the song. Eventually, we came up with a way of doing it where it was a much more up-tempo number and that meant that we could bring that whole scene back."

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