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  • The Evolving 'Temp Score' in Animation
  • Jack Curtis Dubowsky (bio)

'Temp music' has long been used to assist in the making of Hollywood motion pictures. Animated feature films, in particular, often spend years in production, going through a protracted process of development, storyboarding, animation, lighting, shading, editing and revisions. Unlike live-action film, today's computer-animated film is also edited as it is being developed, written and conceived. Hence, the 'temp score' changes, evolves and is 'conformed' as sequences are further edited and altered following reviews, screenings, rewrites, picture changes and new animation. Over several years, the temp score evolves along with the film. The evolution of the temp score, while being a hidden, unglorified part of the filmmaking process, is ideally situated to impact upon debates concerning authorship, originality, auteur theory, collaborative processes and intertextuality. Drawing on the author's notes and discussions with filmmakers, this article provides a glimpse into the internal process of temp scoring in computer-animated feature film, and analyses temp and final music. Attention is given to the collaborative process, music selection, intertextuality and authorship, as well as insight into possible ideological comparisons with final score.

Temp Music, Feature Film and Animation

Filmmakers use 'temp' or temporary music as a placeholder and guideline for final music in feature films. As Ron Sadoff describes, 'Before the real score replaces the temp track, the temp track as mockup is deemed artistically and commercially viable [… It is a] blueprint of a film's soundtrack – a musical topography of score, songs, culture and codes.' He notes that in live-action films, the temp track 'survives only in its role for audience previews' and is 'discarded immediately following the preview phase' (2006: 166). Frequent hearings of the temp by the director and editorial crew help cement its influence as a guideline for the composer. [End Page 1]

In animated feature film there are many private, internal screenings over the course of several years of production, and these have temp music as well. These screenings are not audience previews, but allow directors and various departments to review their work in progress. Unlike live action, nothing is ever 'in the can'; therefore, there are always opportunities to refine creative work, limited only by contractual deadlines and budget.

Directorial control over musical conception is nothing new. Temp music has been used in Hollywood since the 1930s.1 Temp music has been studied and commented on by a variety of scholars, authors and bloggers, who have approached the topic from perspectives ranging from the vocational to the highly analytical.2 Burt claims temp tracks 'will strike horror in a composer's heart' (1996: 220), and Lack, Karlin and Wright claim in very similar language that while temp tracks are intended to be temporary, they usually are not.3 While this statement seems short of literal truth, it is striking that three authors have so described the powerful influence the temp has come to bear upon a hired composer's final score. Generally, temp music today is comfortably understood as part of the communication between directors, editors and composers, as well as a routine part of the commercial feature-filmmaking process.

Music for animation has likewise been extensively studied, and has been reissued on its own for many years.4 In particular, Daniel Goldmark has written extensively on cartoon music. Music for cartoons has proved particularly fertile ground for analysis, as it is widely known, fondly remembered from childhood and contains many sophisticated musical references intended for the amusement of adults as well as children. Much analysis of music for animated film has been devoted to tracing these references, analysing the style and history of the musical composition, and examining the lives and working conditions of the composers, animators, and studio employees and executives. Researchers have also studied interactions between cartoons, music and culture at large, including issues of politics and race. All of this research has given consideration to the final music used in the cartoon for its public release.

When we focus on the temp tracks used for animated feature films, however, we run into complications. Temp tracks in animated feature films bear a huge impact upon the final product, and...


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