'Brave' Composer Patrick Doyle on Music for Toons and Working With Robert Altman

Patrick Doyle Headshot - P 2013
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Patrick Doyle Headshot - P 2013

The ASCAP honoree reveals the need for versatility and the precise craft -- or "Mickey Mousing" -- required for animation.

This story first appeared in the June 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The Hollywood Reporter: Is there a difference in writing music for an animated feature versus a live-action film?

Patrick Doyle: Drama is drama. I worked on Brave the same way I would work on a live-action picture like Planet of the Apes -- it's the same symphony orchestra. With animation, there's more of, for want of a better expression, "Mickey Mousing," where you have to be very exact, but the same discipline and knowledge is required.

THR: You're known for blending an old-school orchestral approach with unexpected instruments and rhythms. Are there no rules to scoring? 

Doyle: As a composer, you have to be aware of what's contemporary. At the same time, your style may change as people's taste in music changes. You've got to have a fairly open mind. I'm very fortunate that I've had diverse opportunities to compose music for all these different types of films.

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THR: Is there a score that got away? 

Doyle: Never. I remember I turned down a picture once, for all the right reasons, and then I went on holiday. When I came back, I got a call out of the blue to do Gosford Park and got to work with a legend -- Robert Altman. I think you create your own fate.

THR: What have you learned about dealing with directors?

Doyle: The art of collaboration. There's enormous pressure on filmmakers, and I suppose my experience in theater has proved to be beneficial in that I was a musical director, composer and performed, so I would work very closely with the director on simply creating.