Originally released 1989-1995, the Wallace and Gromit claymation shorts were utterly charming and original. They helped the Bristol-based studio ink a distribution deal which would see it produce several motion pictures over the next several years, including Chicken Run and Flushed Away. In between, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the cinematic debut of the previous shorts’ stars earned rave reviews did swimmingly at the box office, despite the amount of time that had passed since the original short cartoons debuted.
Following the pair to into theaters was composer Julian Nott, who scored the original three Nick Park shorts, giving them a bouncy theme and plenty of manic slapstick energy. However, Nott was not the only composer attached to the project: the movie posters (and, somewhat disgustingly, the film’s main titles) also carry the “music produced by Hans Zimmer” credit, with no less than four of Zimmer’s Remote Control/Media Ventures collaborators listed as co-composers. DreamWorks, which has a long-running relationship with Zimmer’s studio, had turned to them to score Chicken Run and exercised its control over Aardman by having Nott write themes and motifs which were then passed to a team of RC/MV composers to be fleshed out into a full score.
This process is similar to the one employed by Zimmer himself, but luckily, the score for Curse of the Were-Rabbit steers clear of the pitfalls that normally affect Remote Control/Media Ventures scores: there are no watered-down themes, and no inappropriate over-reliance on synthesizers and male choirs. This has been true of several other animated films with an RC/MV pedigree, like the aforementioned Chicken Run or The Simpsons Movie; it seems that, with a strong thematic backbone and a studio mandate to produce old-fashioned thematic orchestral music, the RC/MV process can produce strikingly lively music for animation.
In fact, despite some confusion over what Nott did and did not write for the score, the music is remarkably true to the spirit of the original shorts, and even retains their theme while introducing a bevy of new secondary motifs. Were-Rabbit deftly moves from rousing, bouncy action cues to full-blown gothic music, complete with pipe organ with ease, incorporating a choir as well. Despite the cross-genre movement, the album is consistent in its light tone, and there’s little mickey-mousing. A highlight is the rousing “Dogfight,” which whips up a full-blown orchestral ruckus, supporting performances of the score’s themes with excellent brass and percussion.
Despite the pre-release fears, there’s nary a Remote Control/Media Ventures fingerprint to be found in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The album is a consistent, infectious listen from start to end without falling prey to the clichés that can infest animation or slapstick writing. Highly recommended for anyone seeking a fully orchestral and choral expansion of the fun and lighthearted music for the Wallace and Gromit shorts, especially considering how rare the promotional albums with scores from the original shorts are.