Randy Miller Talks The Marvel Experience, Writing Music For S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Man, & Avengers [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Based on the popular comic book franchise, The Marvel Experience assembles Earth's mightiest heroes as they team together to save the planet. In an exclusive Music Times interview, composer Randy Miller talks about how he put together the music to make Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Avengers larger-than-life in the state-of-the-art 4D motion ride.
In the world's only 360-degree, 3-D stereoscopic theater, audiences will join forces with Marvel's mightiest heroes on a mission to save the planet through seven colossal Domes. As you become S.H.I.E.L.D.'s newest recruit, Spider-Man swings by to help fight against Red Skull as Hulk smashes Hydra agents, and Iron Man blasts his way through an army of evil Adaptoids.
Composer Randy Miller (Without Limits) discusses with Music Times how he became involved with The Marvel Experience, his favorite comic book characters, and his approach to creating music for the superhero genre.
Check out this Opening Weekend Tour Coverage here:
Music Times: How did you become involved with The Marvel Experience tour?
Randy Miller: Jerry Rees, the director of The Marvel Experience (TMX) and I had collaborated on other projects, including productions at Walt Disney Imagineering. Knowing Jerry, who has boundless energy and creative ideas, I knew I wanted to be part of the TMX team. Jerry was kind enough to submit my name to Hero Ventures, who produced the show. There were other composers who were being considered as well. I was delighted to be chosen as the composer!
MT: Because you've done other film projects (Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth), was your approach to the music similar? Or did you choose a different route?
RM: TMX has dramatic content and a story arc, which is similar to a traditional film. The score needed to reflect this, and the music had to be exactly right for the evolving story chapters.
What was different was the scale, dimensions and format of the project. This kind of show has never been staged before; huge domes, a 360-degree 3D stereoscopic theater, state-of-the-art 4-D motion ride, interactive and immersive games with futuristic technology.
Check out the Dallas 30 Second Teaser:
MN: Tell me about how the process began.
RM: When I began composing the score in June (2014), there were storyboards and a script. No film as yet to look at. I often compose to a rough edit, but since there was a deadline looming I felt it best to compose a seven minute suite of themes for S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, Hydra, Red Skull, M.O.D.O.K. and other characters in TMX. The suite, with a full orchestral mockup was sent to Hero Ventures and Marvel for approval. This was enthusiastically approved, and I was given a go-ahead to start scoring to picture as the animation segments were being assembled. I enjoyed the process of focusing on themes before scoring to picture. This also provided time for all at HV and Marvel to become familiar with the score.
On a technical level, we had discussions on how the audience could have the best possible listening experience as there were theaters, domes and other unusual shaped spaced and areas. TMX has speaker arrays that are unique and perhaps never used before. We had to work out how to make the audio sound exceptional.
However, when it comes down to music, theater, and drama - this has to be exactly correct for the picture, and inspired by the story arc of the show. It was an opportunity to try something new on a technical level, but in terms of the dramatic writing- this is something I have done many times before.
Step Into Hyper-Reality here:
MT: Did you have a favorite superhero to write for in TMX?
RM: There are so many colorful characters! When I was a kid, I read Marvel comics- Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk were favorites. For TMX, I was fortunate and thrilled to have the opportunity to compose for a long list of Marvel heroes and baddies.
MT: Did you gravitate towards themes of isolation and loneliness, which represent the Hulk and Thor, when writing the music?
RM: TMX is a two hour plus show. The narrative calls for inspiration, evil threats, fun lighter moments, a grand battle and a heroic and exciting conclusion! I composed a new heroic theme and fanfare for The Avengers, and a secondary theme for S.H.I.E.L.D.
Check out The Characters of The Marvel Experience here:
MT: And for the villains?
RM: For the villain, Red Skull, I composed a dark evil theme and atmosphere texture that would immediately identify our primary villain. My desire was to have an old-school thematic approach with orchestra, surrounded by electronics and synths that would add an edge. We wanted the audience to immediately feel the villains. Hopefully the audience will get that sense of dread via the music when Red Skull and Hydra appear.
Another villain was M.O.D.O.K. That was fun, as he is a twisted, warped character!
We had superb heavy metal aggressive guitar playing performed by gifted musician, Ariel Mann. This was also surrounded with full orchestra.
Check out Avengers' Quinjet here:
MT: Because there are the previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, did you go back to them? Or, did you start from a blank slate?
RM: I'm glad you asked that. I am proud to say this is a completely new score. What relates to other Marvel film scores is the power, heroics, at times lighter fun and evil darkness of the score. We made a decision early on not to reference any of the other Marvel movies. We did, however, try to make sure the music felt like part of the Marvel Universe. Marvel and HV were very pleased with the score, that was great to hear! I am excited to have my score be part of the Marvel canon and be heard by many people here in the U.S. and perhaps in other countries.
Check out The Technology Behind The Marvel Experience:
MT: What do you want the audience to come away with from the Marvel Experience Tour?
RM: We want the audience to have fun interacting with all their favorite Marvel heroes and villains and to be totally immersed in a way you cannot experience in a traditional movie theater. We want the audience to feel like they are part of a true Marvel adventure!
I was fortunate to be at the Dallas grand opening. As a fan, I was astonished at how you are completely enveloped by the whole Marvel universe. The producers I collaborated with for TMX; Rick Licht, Doug Schaer and Jason Rosen and director, Jerry Rees always wanted this to be a fun, uplifting experience for kids and audiences of all ages as Marvel comics go back many years.
My intention was for everyone to feel enthused, threatened and ultimately heroic and to enjoy the music at all times. I felt strong themes would connect with the audience, but I also needed colorful and contemporary orchestral and electronic textures to surround the thematic material.
MT: What other projects are you working on now?
RM: I am still on TMX! I had composed a 9 minute suite for the Main Dome, but we realized folks were staying and having fun much longer in the Main Dome, so I expanded the suite to 27 minutes. We're just finishing this new suite now!
The Marvel Experience Tour has announced further stops in Del Mar, CA (San Diego area February 7 - 22) and San Francisco (February 27 - March 22). For a full list of dates and to purchase tickets, visit here.