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Pete’s Dragon (Daniel Hart)

September 14, 2016

cover_petesdragonPETE’S DRAGON

Daniel Hart, 2016,Disney
28 tracks, 75:32

We’re a bit late to the party, but we can’t let Pete’s Dragon go unreviewed.  We (that’s the royal we) also can’t get it out of our head.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Directed by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), Pete’s Dragon tells of the adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. It stars Oakes Fegley as Pete; and further features Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford. Whilst Howard Shore was briefly associated with the project, the original score is by Daniel Hart, who has a long-standing working relationship with the director. Personally, I’m glad Hart was given the chance to score this movie – and he does not disappoint!

What does it sound like?

Skipping the songs (some of which are quite nice), the score opens with “An Adventure”, which is a fairly subdued cue that carefully lays out some initial melodic ideas and soundscapes. Soft strings, harp and chorus. It’s quite magical, without being overtly obvious about it. During “Are You Gonna Eat Me?” Hart introduces a wonderful melody, which I will refer to as the main theme. It’s graceful, heart-warming and totally uplifting. It is based on a fairly familiar chord progression, and as such it does remind me of a few other things, but I don’t mind that. For now, Hart resists going all-out with his theme (though it does end on a crescendo). In fact, with few exceptions, the whole score feels a little low-key in terms of its orchestrations. There’s a full orchestra and choir present, but Hart gives his score a distinct folksy sound by focusing on solo instruments like violin, guitars and hand-claps (e.g. in cues like “Brown Bunny”, “Reverie”, “Treefort” or “Timber”). Elsewhere Hart applies a lovely America-style with an emphasis on strings, harp and winds; for example in “North Star”, “Bedtime Compass” and “Go North”. Throughout the score, a dulcimer adds a tiny exotic touch to the overall sound.

Having said all that, the second half of the score sure packs a punch with a few excellent action cues. It sort-of starts with “Gavin Knows What He’s Doing”, but it really kicks off with “Takedown”, a fast-paced cue for rattling percussion, lush strings and soaring brass. I really like the dramatic minor key towards the end. There are some wonderfully dramatic cues to be found here as well (“It’ll Be Just Like It Used To Be”, “You’re Not Alone” and “Saying Goodbye” for example).

“Follow That Dragon” is an outstanding action cue. It’s melodic, it’s colourful and it’s powerful. What makes Hart’s action music so attractive is that he keeps it melodic all the way through. It never resorts to senseless pounding or droning. It’s constantly telling a story – it’s wonderful! “Elliot At The Bridge” is a big and powerful cue; and it’s followed by an absolute jaw-dropper of cue called “Abyss”, where Hart lets his main theme Soar, with a capital S. That little ritardando just before the theme bursts out, just makes you want to punch the air in delight. I get shivers… every. single. time.

Whilst the main theme doesn’t appear all that often throughout the score, when it does it’s an absolutely feast for the ears. In “Reverie” Hart creates a joyous atmosphere through the use of claps, all kinds of sparkly sounds and some lovely melodic content. Around the halfway point, he calms it all down and starts building it back up again. It’s a magnificent build up with accelerating percussion, lush brass, racing strings (especially that moment where the strings fall and rise is gorgeous) and… there is the theme. In all its formidable glory. Rising and rising, with strings and flutes adding so much energy and emotion. I struggle to put into words just how utterly fantastic this cue is. I do however still wonder whether that build up is, maybe, two beats too long. I’ve gotten used to it now, but initially I thought there were four too many notes, right there at 2:08.

The score concludes with “The Bravest Boy I’ve Ever Met”, which allows that main theme to roar its head one last time. And oh my… Again, Hart quietly sets the tone with strings, harp and horns before he lets rip one more time. It’s absolutely epic.

Is it any good?

Daniel Hart’s Pete’s Dragon is absolutely, ridiculously delightful. One of this year’s most pleasant surprises and one of the year’s greatest highlights – if not the. It’s pretty, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s epic… and all this without a hint of sarcasm, and without being overly bombastic. It’s an unadulterated pleasure from start to finish. I am so glad that Hart got to score this film after all. And whilst I do wonder if the orchestrators had to fluff it up a bit, I love how Hart managed to make his music feel intimate, no matter how big and epic it does get. It’s been a couple of months since this score came out, and I still listen to it almost daily. I still absolutely adore it; and I still can’t wait to listen to it again.

Rating [5/5]


1. The Dragon Song – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (2.28)
2. Something Wild (feat. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness) – Lindsey Stirling (3.43)
3. Nobody Knows – The Lumineers (3.08)
4. Something on Your Mind – St. Vincent (3.00)
5. So Long, Marianne – Leonard Cohen (5.39)
6. Gina Anne – Bosque Brown (2.40)
7. An Adventure (3.04)
8. Are You Gonna Eat Me? (2.31)
9. Brown Bunny (1.01)
10. Reverie (2.52)
11. Tree Fort (1.03)
12. North Star (1.25)
13. Bedtime Compass (2.15)
14. Timber (1.19)
15. Breathe (2.27)
16. Gavin Knows What He’s Doing (3.42)
17. You Are Not Alone (1.58)
18. Elliot Gets Lost (4.26)
19. Takedown (1.44)
20. It’ll Be Just Like It Used to Be (2.04)
21. Follow That Dragon (3.01)
22. Elliot at the Bridge (2.19)
23. Abyss (1.35)
24. Go North (1.44)
25. Saying Goodbye (5.03)
26. The Bravest Boy I’ve Ever Met (2.46)
27. The Dragon Song Revisited – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (2.34)
28. Candle on the Water – Okkervil River (4.01)

Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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