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African Safari 3D
  • Composed by Ramin Djawadi
  • Studiocanal / 2014 / 37m

A wildlife documentary which does what you might expect it to do, African Safari 3D has been making its way around European cinemas since late 2013, recently broadening to South America (but has yet to find its way to any English-speaking territories).  It’s directed by Ben Stassen, whose slightly unusual career has seen him alternate between films like this and kids’ animations – the most famous example of the latter being 2008’s Fly Me to the Moon, which received a score by Ramin Djawadi, who reunites with the filmmaker here.  George Fenton has set the bar so high with his music for this type of project, his elegant and sweeping music providing high-class accompaniment to various high-class BBC projects; and with the greatest respect to Djawadi, it was unlikely that he would do anything approaching either that style or quality, and so it proves.  Fortunately, his charming music is perfectly nice and makes for a pleasant little album that will set few pulses racing but certainly passes the time in an inoffensive manner.

Predictably, he takes his cue from the Hollywood view of African music expressed in films like The Lion King and to some extent Dinosaur, percussion and cheery vocals all over the place, the sampled orchestra done nicely so its limitations are never exposed.  It is completely generic-sounding, but it’s a hard genre of music to do badly – put the raw ingredients together and the result is likely to be engaging, and so it proves.  The music is frequently uplifting (appropriately enough, given five cues are all called “Danny’s Balloon”) and has such an easy-going charm, it’s hard not to be drawn under its spell.  There are two exceptions, a couple of truly bizarre cues full of mickey-mousing and sound effects which must be avoided at all costs, but otherwise it’s a very pleasant listen, repetitive yes but also innocent and exuberant.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Kevin (Reply) on Sunday 5 October, 2014 at 13:06

    I’ve seen the term, micky-mousing, used a few times. What exactly does this mean?

  2. mastadge (Reply) on Sunday 5 October, 2014 at 14:51

    It’s when the music plays exactly to the action. It can be done effectively but is often overdone leading to music that literally and immediately just emphasizes what’s happening onscreen without much thought to musicality or structure. Compare to, for instance, James Horner’s approach of writing lengthy, long-lined music that plays above the action and punctuates the feeling and meaning of a sequence as a whole rather than just accompanying the motion on-screen.

  3. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Sunday 5 October, 2014 at 20:35

    The best examples of this musical genré is to be found in cartoons – Donald Duck, Tom & Jerry AND, naturally, Mickey Mouse. Before the advent of Multiplexes, a cinema experience included CARTOONS, adverts, news items & a documentary before the Main Feature. Cartoonese or Mickey- Mouse music exaggerates & over-emphasizes the interplay and action of the characters and situations, and is often dismissed as unsophisticated & unconsequential…but it was rousing & cheerful music and had children enthusiastically rooting for their favourite cat, canary, mouse or dog. These cartoons were the forerunners of our 3-D Animation movies, that now boast sophisticated scores by composers such as NEWTON-HOWARD, ZIMMER & POWELL who might briefly introduce a Mickey Mouse musical stylization to underscore a sequence > I don’t do animation Kevin, but reviewers or some of this site’s readers could give examples. I recall a CD release devoted to Cartoonese scores > Google for info, then check U- tube & Amazon.

  4. D.V. (Reply) on Monday 6 October, 2014 at 22:55

    There were also many wonderful silly cartoons way way back when television was in it’s infancy.. Lots of classical music and silly stuff, like the kitchen utensils being animated and running around, creating mayhem or other such themes. They seemed to be prewar and the music was excellent. Especially over the top classical music. I had quite a musical knowledge thanks to those cartoons.