Yesterday after work, I stopped into one of my favorite NYC destinations for gifts and keepsakes, the Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya. Many an afternoon, my boss and I will lift our spirits by taking a trip to Kinokuniya to browse through the cute novelty t-shirts, the Totoro key chains, and the vast assortment of pens, stickers and Hello Kitty items.
Today my trip there was bittersweet. You see, last month, Robby and I were asked to write a theme song on spec (on speculation, that means we don't get paid anything unless they buy it) for a Major Tokyo Sea-Inspired Theme Park's 10th Anniversary celebration. This would be the week I was prepping for our first Helen reading, working full-time, directing and choreographing a show, and moving. Not the best timing. But, we wanted this, and we wanted it bad.
We got to work right away. I wrote lyrics between unpacking boxes and copying scripts. Robby put music to them between teaching gigs, music directing, and arranging Helen. In about three days we had something to send our American contact at the Massive Corporation That Owns the Major Tokyo Sea-Inspired Theme Park.
Before I let you hear the first version, I need to tell you a little bit about the copy we were sent to work with. There will be no direct quoting here (for legal reasons), but I'll give you the gist. They wanted a song that was bright, cheery, thrilling, and pounding; yet, also, touching so that it lingers in the heart. And of course, they wanted it to be something that all the characters and guests could dance and sing along to. There were some key words that they wanted included: dreams, glitter, adventure, fantasy, thrills, sparkle, magic, wonder, dancing hearts...you get the idea. And the overall theme was, "Be Magical." Oh, and there was an image they wanted us to use as inspiration, which included beloved characters we've all grown up with, clad in sorcerer's hats surrounded by a rainbow tidal wave.
So, we sent this version. And our gatekeeper at the Massive Corporation That Owns the Major Tokyo Sea-Inspired Theme Park really loved it, but thought it needed to be more up-tempo and easier to dance to. Even though they told Robby the same thing during the 5th Anniversary Celebration Song Search (which Robby was very close to getting), and ended up choosing this lovely ballad, we complied.
So, Robby started watching videos like this for inspiration between teaching and music directing, I re-worked lyrics in between my full-time job, my unpacking, my first Helen Reading prep, and rehearsals for the show I was directing and choreographing (I just found an email to Robby with the subject: Another Version--with more Sea References), and we came up with this. I still laugh every time I hear this one. The spelling section gets me every time. And a few days later, we sent off version two.
Again, we got great feedback. Our gatekeeper loved it, but now we needed to bring some of the beautiful melodic lines from the first version back in, and let it "breathe" a little.
Back to the drawing board. At this point, it was mostly in poor Robby's hands, because the lyrics were pretty much set. We were told that both the music and the lyrics captured the spirit of the copy and rainbow tidal wave image incredibly well...they just wanted it...well, different.
So, after a weekend spent in his Studio Studio (the music studio Robby has in his studio apartment), Robby came up with this gorgeous version. (For some reason, this link cuts the song off right at the big finish. If you want to hear the full version, go to our Music Page.) I still am astounded by how he took all the crazy contradictory feedback, the incongruent copy in poorly translated English, and that rainbow tidal wave image and came up with exactly what they wanted: a bright, cheery, thrilling, pounding, touching song that lingers in the heart and makes you want to dance.
Again, it went to our Dis...oops, I mean gatekeeper at the Massive Corporation That Owns the Major Tokyo Sea-Inspired Theme Park. And again, wonderful feedback. This was it. Perfect.
And then...crickets. Nada. Zip.
Guess who got the job? The same superbig production company that writes and produces almost all their theme park musical arrangments and songs; the company that wrote the 5th Annivesary song! They have a clip of Tom Hanks speaking over one of their compositions/arrangments on their home page! They sent the Massive Corporation That Owns the Major Tokyo Sea-Inspired Theme Park a demo with a full orchestra and choir! And I bet their recording studio is bigger than Robby's Studio Studio.
So, our experience writing for this large corporation was not so magical. And the royalties and buyout fee we had hoped to put toward Helen's development, won't be rolling in.
But, the day after we got the news that we hadn't gotten the job, we had auditions for the children's roles in our show. And they were magical and thrilling--much more magical than our song being played during a parade with fireworks (though that still would be cool). And we both agreed that we would take the brilliant day of casting, over getting the Major Tokyo Sea-Inspired Theme Park gig anyday. Especially since everyone we cast accepted our offers and will be joining us in a few weeks to start rehearsing. So, justice does prevail.
But, if you happen to know someone in the Entertainment and Production department at Sea World-- we've got just the song for them.