Composer Jim Dooley Talks Scores for “Kim Possible”, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” & Netflix’s Upcoming “Secret Obsession”

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For three seasons of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket has been urging viewers to stop watching. The main title sequence even pleads, “Look away.” The humorous message has accomplished just what creators have hoped it would, for people to tune in and be mesmerized by the over the top characters, costumes, sets and score.  The man responsible for the genre bending score, Emmy winning composer Jim Dooley.  With other credits including Disney’s Epic Mickey 1 & 2 video games, ABC’s Pushing Daisies and Screen Gems’ When A Stranger Calls to name a few, Dooley has been able to successfully adapt to any genre or story thrown at him. Case in point, his most recent projects: Disney’s Kim Possible feature, Netflix’s upcoming film Secret Obsession and A Series of Unfortunate Events mentioned above.  Below Jim talks more about what goes in to creating these project’s original scores.

A series of unfortunate events

-Were you scoring A Series of Unfortunate Events and Kim Possible at the same time? If so, was that difficult? How do you keep each project sounding distinctively original with no overlap?

I wasn’t scoring those two at the same time.  ASOUE had wrapped by then.  Projects do overlap all the time.  You do your best to keep them distinctive but I think some things can slip every now and again.  You learn things as you go and those lessons end up informing your future writing.

-Did you go in to A Series of Unfortunate Events with a palate of sounds you knew you wanted to use, or did you just create that palate as each episode went on?

With each episode we try to color it in a specific way sonically.  For example, “A Slippery Slope” featured yodeling.  “Grim Grotto” featured some pirate-style swashbuckling music.  There are some colors and themes that through all the episodes but as Count Olaf creates new disguises new music has to accompany that.  

Jim Dooley; Series of Unfortunate events
SANTA MONICA, CA – OCTOBER 26, 2012: Jim Dooley, composer for Epic Mickey 2, is photographed in his studio in Santa Monica. Can a video game save the movie musical? Epic Mickey 2 is the first-ever video game musical, featuring a number of original Disney songs that are integral to gameplay. (Katie Falkenberg / For The Times)

-Did you have any specific musical influences/inspirations for Season 3 of A Series of Unfortunate Events?

Nothing specific.  We did however want to make it the darkest as the rays of hope grow dim for our little ones attempting to uncover mystery after mystery.  

-The score for A Series of Unfortunate Events is very present throughout each episode. It almost serves as a narrator pushing it along or another character.  Do feel like this also?

We’ve tried to have less music in the show but every time we take it out it doesn’t feel quite right.  Some things become darker.  We have to have a level of whimsy that keeps it moving and grounded in our world.  It’s quite tricky actually.

Kim Possible

-How involved were the Kim Possible directors with the film’s score?  Can you describe your creative process with them?

Adam and Zach were very involved in the score direction from day one.  It was made clear to score Kim as a true blockbuster hero!  Not a girl-hero or teenage-hero.  This allowed us to really set the stake high for what Kim has to accomplish in the film.   It was a great idea.

-Besides the director and showrunner, what other departments and crew positions are extremely helpful or important for your process?

The editors are usually important to the process.  They can be integral to choosing temp music that can affect the score choices later on.  The best ones can really shape the projects in a powerful way musically as well as dramatically.

Dooley; Kim Possible; Secret Obsession

-You scored Secret Obsession premiering on Netflix July 18. Can you tell us a little about that?

This film is directed by Peter Sullivan.  The first film I ever scored in my life was for him.  It was a short film while we were at NYU called ‘Jolly Standoff.’  It’s great to have the long a history with someone you work with.  That level of trust allows us to do our best work.  For example, one scene in the film was temped with an old score of mine called When a Stranger Calls.  I tried to do something similar but it wasn’t quite working.  I decided we needed something unusual and so I had my wife sing some haunting vocals on top of the score and it worked very well.  Peter knows I will dig deep to get it right and he allows me to take those chances to accomplish this.

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