In this post I will be comparing and contrasting the film scores of the two movies Fantastic Mr. Fox and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The films are both similar with their music in many ways. However, I will be pointing out some differences between them. Particularly, I will address the use of diegetic as opposed to non-diegetic music, the empathetic music versus that which is not and with that, the main emotions evoked. I will also discuss occurrences of leitmotivs.
Starting with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, the music is primarily non-diegetic. This is true because we often do not see a sound source of the music with only a couple exceptions. One of these exceptions is the moment that Pee Wee turns on a record player after he wakes up early in the film. Following that, we hear this happy upbeat music from the player in the background as he is playing around in his room. The second and most notable exception is when we see Pee Wee turn on a Jukebox in the biker club as he is about to do his iconic dance routine.
As I mentioned in my post on Fantastic Mr. Fox before, there is a more blurred line between what music is diegetic and what music is not. A lot of this is true because of one specific element, Foxy’s small radio. Many times, we see him switch the radio on or off and it makes for many nuances as to whether the music is happening within in the scene or not. One example of this is the scene where Foxy turns on his radio as him and his peers are about to do some more sneaking around. Upon this, we begin to hear some bluegrass music. We assume that it is playing on the radio only as we see Foxy and his peer characters dancing a bit. Then, however, we see the music being played by a group of men sitting together with instruments. It can be argued here that the music’s place in the scene is rather ambiguous to the audience.
Both films share similar traits in the emotions and demeanors that their music, usually empathetic, is expressing. In Pee Wee, we get lots of music that is upbeat, chromatic, and very active rhythmically in the melodies and basslines. This is often to give a sense of adventure, which is the common theme in this film. One example is the big chase scene that takes place at Warner Bros. studios. Here we have music that is very active melodically and has a very driving feel as the scene is very adventurous and climactic to the film.
The same can be said for lots of the music in the Fox movie. Although the music here borrows more from bluegrass and rock styles, we still get the same elements of fast tempos and fast melodic ideas, both representing the adventure throughout. One example is when Foxy’s family hears the tractors digging for them and they start speedily digging their way to safety. During the digging, we hear this fast and energetic bluegrass tune that plays. It serves to both express the current adventurous action on screen while also keeping relevance to the film’s themes and cultures.