Recently, I got to speak with Composer Greg Nicolett, who has worked on a number of Disney shows including “T.O.T.S”, “Puppy Dog Pals”, “Goldie & Bear” and the upcoming Disney series, “Pupstruction”.

During our conversation, Greg Nicolett shared some insights into what goes into creating music for the popular Disney Junior shows, plus stories about what inspired him to get into composing music. Plus, he shares some information on the difference in working on video games, such as the upcoming title, “Potionomics”.

Originally from New England but now living in Los Angeles, Greg started his career and musical education with an apprenticeship with composer Brian Keane (The Chieftains). He worked as an assistant producer at Motherwest Studios and was one of the last students of Disney legend, Buddy Baker (The Fox and The Hound). His past projects also include “Smallville” and “The Vampire Diaries”. His work as a composer at Disney Animation allowed him to explore his childhood love of orchestral music and to continue to push musical boundaries.

Check out the full interview below:


How do you come up with an overall feel of the score for shows like TOTS or Puppy Dog Pals?

That’s the hardest part. The overall feel is thought of when you audition, that’s how you audition to get the show. It’s where all the creative decisions are made. 90% of the work is done in advance, and all the creative, trial and error happens before the show has aired. So, how do I come up with it? It’s a combination of conversations with the creators, considering that the overall tone of the show and the audience is important. Most of my work before I got Disney was live-action, both short films and indie films, with some going to Sundance or airing on HBO. All of which took themselves very seriously. All were for an adult audience. So my instincts working on those films were completely different from what I bring to the Disney projects. The audience for the shows that I’m working on at Disney are two to seven years old. I’m sure there are some older people who watch these shows too, but the main audience are young kids. I remember one of my first meetings, when I presented my first pass on a score. One of the executives looked at me and said, “Well, first you’re not hitting any of the jokes.” And I said, “Okay, well what do you mean by hitting the jokes?” What I found out was I was doing a more adult method of scoring by staying out of the way of a lot of the humor, by pausing and letting the jokes kinda land and carry themselves.

But, for this show, they really wanted me to sort of accentuate the fact that this was a comedic moment. So literally hit them. So when we got to the end of the episode, the executive glared at me and said, “You did not score the moral.” I said, “Wait, what? What’s the moral of the story?” And he said, “You didn’t score it .” And then again it was this moment where it’s like, okay, right, if this were an adult show, I wouldn’t necessarily be hitting the audience over the head with a very emotional piece of music. But for a kid show, you do want to compose that. You do want to tell the kids that this is the wrap up of the story and what you should be taking away from the story as a lesson. In adult shows it isn’t over the top like that. But it’s exactly like that for our kids’ cartoons. So sort of recalibrating those instincts was definitely part of my journey.

What’s been one of your highlights of working with Disney?

On a TV show, you do a lot of work due to a lot of episodes. Each season is 25 episodes long, and there’s often multiple seasons. “Goldie & Bear” had two seasons, and  “TOTS” ran three seasons, so when you get to episode 50, it starts to feel like a job. So one of the ways that I shock myself into realizing that it’s a creative endeavor, is to take a step back, appreciate the animation and the amount of artistry that every single episode that I get a hold of has. I then remember that every episode is a highlight and my whole job is as well.

I always have to fall in love with the series I’m working on. If I find myself getting bored or if my creative ideas are stale, I have to push the envelope a little bit. Maybe use a different instrument or learn how to play a different instrument for that episode.  Maybe work with a musician that might bring a new flavor to it. I make it a special occasion sometimes. And it’s always better for it. But a specific highlight would be the guest stars and the character actor  [Jim Cummings] who played the Big Bad Wolf on Gold and Bear.

Are there any new Disney projects that you’re working on that you can tell us about?

“Pupstruction”, I can’t talk too much about it, besides it having been announced. I am doing the score for it, and Rob Cantor is doing the songs. It’s the same creative team for the most part as TOTS.  It was created by Travis Bra and it’s great. It’s about Vinnie the dog and his all-dog construction crew, including Phinny, a smaller dog. Phinny’s father is  a little nervous, thinking he’s not cut out for this job. Which creates a general story, of Phinny proving that he can do the job. In general, the show is going to be really good. It will get kids excited about building things, and creating in the real world as well as get kids asking a lot of interesting questions from their parents about how something was made and what material something is. All of which  I think are all really positive questions.

What other projects are you currently working on?

One of the biggest projects that I’ve worked on to date is a score for a video game called “Potionomics”.  I’ve been working on it for four or five years and it comes out on October 17th on Steam, as a PC game initially.  The game has a sort of like a Disney Pixar art style to it. The developer really wanted that music to sort of fit into that aesthetic. Even though we’re an indie team, he was willing to give me enough of a budget to work with a live orchestra.  It has a lot of different soloists, so it’s a big project, with a lot of musicians involved, and lots of music.  The soundtrack for that will be out the same day, on Spotify and Apple Music.

You’ll find “TOTS” and “Puppy Dog Pals” available to stream now on Disney+.  “Potionomics” will be available to purchase on Steam from 17th October 2022.

 

 

 

 

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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