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Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts - Interview with Composer Daniel Rojas

The third and final season of Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is now streaming, with many fans and critics sad to see the animated series coming to an end. The show, helmed by Radford Sechrist and Bill Wolkoff, not only told the whacky story of survival for a lite girl named Kipo, but also taught many life lessons along the way. Lessons that were accompanied by a fun and eclectic score from composer Daniel Rojas. To dig deeper into the show’s sound, we spoke with Rojas about everything from working with Radford, to his favorite episode. He answers ten questions below. You can next hear Rojas compositions on Hulu’s stop-motion animated series M.O.D.O.K. for Marvel early next year.

How is the season 3 score for Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts different from the previous 2 seasons?
I would say the story keeps getting bigger in scope. By season 3 we already know Kipo’s backstory. So, from the beginning the stakes are a lot higher. The way the show is built, each season is basically an act. We arrive at act 3 this season. This season the action is more intense. In general, musically, it’s a bigger season, so there are more orchestral elements with big hits and percussions to make it feel like the final act.

Season 3 of Kipo is the final season. Did you know there was only going to be 3 seasons from the beginning? If so, did you arc the score for this timeframe?
Yes, we always knew. It was always planned to be 30 episodes. I was aware of the whole story arc from the beginning. For example, with Scarlemange we teased his motif since the first time he was mentioned in episode 2. Then it continued to be teased in episode 3, 4 and 5 until we finally meet him in episode 6. Then that same motif is carried all the way to the end of the show, until it becomes Hugo’s scene. So, if you watch the final scene in episode 30 you will see the same motif from episode 2. We also did this with Dr. Emilia’s motif, it was teased from the first time they talk about her all the way into the Mega Walrus. Mega Walrus uses the same motif early on that was used for Dr. Emilia from season 2.

It was just announced that Back Lot Music will be releasing a Season 3 score. If you could only pick 2 tracks from the album to tell people to listen to, which would they be?
I would say the songs are always fun and people tend to listen to those more, but if I could pick two score pieces for this season, it would be “Treetop Butterflies” and “Catch Me”. Track 7 and Track 13.

You not only composed the score for Kipo, but you also wrote a lot of the lyrical songs. Did writing the lyrical songs come pretty natural for you, because you were already so connected with the story?
For sure. I’ve been writing songs for the larger part of my career. So, it’s something I’ve worked on for a while. This was the first project that allowed me to write original songs that would be performed on screen. I had the pleasure to work with a fantastic team of screenwriters that came up with all the original ideas for the lyrics. So, I definitely have to give credit to the writing staff for coming up with a lot of the ideas for the songs.

How involved was the show’s creator, Radford Sechrist, with the music for the show? Would he come to spotting sessions?
He was entirely involved from the very beginning until the very end. He was at every spotting session and would review everything. Rad was the point person. He was the most involved of all the creatives.

With 3 seasons of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts under your belt, do you have a favorite episode? Why?
That’s a tough one, but if I had to pick it would have to be season 1 episode 6 for many reasons. It introduces Scarlemagne as the first villain, which had been teased on all the episodes before. It had Ratland, which was just a very magical and enchanting place. It also introduces the Scooter Skunks and has a very special moment between Kipo and Benson.

What have been the positives (if any) of the COVID 19 situation for you?
COVID 19 has been very tough for our industry. As a whole, it has been more difficult than positive. If there was a positive, it would have to be that there are a lot less distractions socially. So, there is a lot more time to work on your own craft. It can allow you to really immerse yourself creatively without distractions.

Since you started out, what do you think are the biggest changes that the film and television industry has experienced from your point of view as a composer?
The biggest thing now is that there is a lot more content being created. There are a lot more composers getting work, so the budgets have decreased significantly. When I was first starting off, there was just a handful of composers getting all the work and the budgets were immense, so each composer had giant teams. But now, most composers I know work alone or with small teams. The budgets now don’t allow for such large teams, but more composers are working- which is great!

What are the most challenging and most rewarding parts of your job?
The most challenging part is delivering everything on time because production schedules can be very tight and there isn’t a lot of space for moving anything. It’s challenging because creativity is not something you can just turn on and off, but schedules don’t change and you just have to force yourself to get it done. It can sometimes mean all-nighters just to make something happen.

The most rewarding part is getting to do what I love, which is writing and playing music every day of my life. Also, whenever a project is finally released it’s extremely rewarding because it’s a secret for such a long time. So, when it comes out and you can show people what you have been working on, it’s very rewarding.

It was recently announced that you are going to be scoring Hulu’s stop-motion animated series M.O.D.O.K. for Marvel. Big congrats!
Thanks so much. I’m very excited for this show to come out. Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum have done a fantastic job crafting this character.

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