Music is as magical to the Disney experience as the experience itself and whoever has the opportunity to create that music is magic maker themselves!
Christopher Lennertz is one of those magic makers. An aspiring musician since the age of 9 when he first picked up a trumpet, Lennertz has become a widely acclaimed composer for many Disney productions, including Disney Channel’s original movie “Lemonade Mouth” and, currently, “Marvel’s Agent Carter”. Mr. Lennertz’s work will also be seen on the upcoming ABC musical “Galavant”, for which he composes alongside the famous Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Enchanted.
I had to opportunity to interview Mr. Lennertz about his work composing for television and music and working with the Mouse House.
TM: How did you get your start?
CL: It depends on how far back you want to go (referring to his old trumpet playing days) I knew I loved music very early. In college, I came out to USC and studied and managed to start working on some film school projects where I realized that composition was what worked for me. So by the time I was halfway through college, I knew what I wanted to do and then it was just a matter of doing it. I did internships and was an assistant to many people for a long time. It was very helpful; I’ve always loved movies, so I was able to make the decision really quickly.
TM: When you compose, is there anything in particular that you focus on?
CL: I think tone is really important. The interesting thing for me though is that the most important thing is the tempo and how fast the music is going. If you go too fast or slow for the scene it can feel awkward or not sit well. The important thing is to ask is where is the music starting and ending. There’s nothing more telling about how the emotions inside the character are developing when the music actually starts. The character could be in the middle of a monologue and say a really key line and then the music starts right after that line, that has so much impact. And if you don’t do it that way, you miss the opportunity to really drive home a point. The same thing about when it stops, especially in comedy. If the music stops right before a joke, it can make a joke land so much better than if it didn’t do that. Placement is key, and tempo has so much to do with that.
TM: Do you ever orchestrate your pieces with your family in mind?
CL: Definitely, especially since I have some unique outlook now that I have kids, especially when it came time to do kids stuff like ‘Hop’ and ‘Cats & Dogs’. So that was very helpful to know how their attention span works and that kind of thing. I think that’s definitely something that has helped. And I think it’s always good to be able to look and watch a character’s interactions on screen and then find something in my own life that made me feel this way and make music to match that.
TM: Is it your first time composing a musical like ‘Galavant’?
CL: It is. And obviously, first things first, Alan Menken wrote the songs. I’m helping produce the songs and then writing the underscore. This is the first time I’ve done it professionally; I wrote a musical that I pitched on my own fifteen or twenty years ago, and that was good practice. This is something that I was learning on my own. But in this situation there’s no one better to learn from that Alan anyway, so to be able to watch Alan Menken and learn from him is really spectacular. It’s the best grad school I could ever ask for.
TM: And then you’re also composing for ‘Agent Carter’ – how do you feel about that?
CL: It’s so cool. I’m a huge Marvel fan to begin with and it’s such an interesting situation because we’ve had the super-huge explosion of Marvel over the past ten years where everything has gone into the stratosphere. But, except for ‘Captain America’, they’ve all been modern-day. And so there’s all this history to explore: where things came from, where people came from, and who knew who when that has never been explored before. So now you have this situation where you have this really interesting show taking place just after the war so it’s got a good time period feeling to it and then you’ve a great female lead. And meanwhile, you’re getting all this new information and you finally understand how it all ties together. I can’t give anything away, but every episode explains so many interesting things. So Marvel fans, you’re going to be loving all the information you get.
TM: What would your dream project be?
CL: There’s lots of dream projects. I’d love to do an epic, like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Braveheart’. Those are things I haven’t yet been able to do, which I really would love to do. I’d also love to do an animated musical, I haven’t done that yet. I’m a huge fan of all the Disney and Pixar films and musical scores, I’d love to do a ‘Tangled’ or a ‘Little Mermaid.’
TM: How do you feel about composing overall?
CL: I’m happy to be doing it.
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Would you enjoy having a job like Lennertz? How do you think music contributes to the Disney magic? What is your favorite Disney score? Tell us in the comments!