- Composed by Mark Mancina
- Walt Disney Records / 2013 / 53m
Pixar’s two Cars movies were both massive financial successes despite being the least critically well-received movies from the studio to date. Now, Disney has decided to produce a spinoff (without Pixar), which instead of focusing on racing cars focuses on racing planes. It’s called Planes. The early reviews have a certain theme running through them, which is “If you thought Cars 2 was bad, wait till you see this.” Also having a certain theme running through it, in a much more pleasant way, is Mark Mancina’s nice score. Mancina was very popular during the 1990s before having a much later profile in the new century; for Planes he has plugged in all his drum machines from 1995 and written a score that is largely indistinguishable in style and technology from those he wrote around that time. I haven’t seen the film yet so can’t say whether it was a deliberate decision to write in a cheesy, outdated style, or that’s just how Mancina still writes (which would go some way to explaining his lower profile if so); but cheesy or not, it’s certainly fun.
So, that main theme – it’s a warmhearted (but – sorry – extraordinarily cheesy) piece of Americana, in a style which will be familiar to Mancina fans. It’s memorable, too (especially after you hear it for the 75th time during the course of the 40-minute score). You hear it in two different forms – the warmhearted but cheesy Americana form, and the action form, which is essentially the same as the warmhearted but cheesy Americana form, with drum machines accompanying it. There are also some nice little vignettes – a Life of Pi knock-off in “Dusty and Ishani” is really lovely and the a capella choral finale “Skipper’s Theme” is actually quite touching. Much of it sounds so dated it’s hard to take it especially seriously, but you don’t need to take something seriously in order to enjoy it – and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in Planes, which seems to have a certain innocence to it that you don’t often hear in scores for animations these days. In fact I feel guilty for not liking it more than I do, but I can’t pretend it’s something it’s not – Mancina’s own enthusiasm is palpable, but it’s obviously keyboard music which has been transcribed for orchestra. That “synthonic” approach was hugely popular a couple of decades ago and those who loved it then will love it now. For me, yes it’s disposable, but there’s a charm running through it and some decent tunes, which do entertain.