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Composer Heitor Pereira Describes The Creative Sounds That Complete His Score To “The Angry Birds Movie”

Composer Heitor Pereira created a musical them that outlined Red’s (Jason Sudeikis) transition from a lonely, angry bird to a heroic character. Photo credit: Columbia Pictures

By Marjorie Galas

Heitor Pereira knows the sounds mockingbirds make at night. An avid birder, Pereira has made travel arrangements dedicated exclusively to fuel his passion for bird watching.  He’s recorded the winged creatures’ tweets, chirps and calls, and has hours dedicated specifically to the nocturnal songs of the mockingbird.  When producer John Cohen, whom Pereira collaborated with on “Despicable Me”, approached Pereira to score “The Angry Birds Movie”, the project seemed like a natural fit.

The main characters in the animated feature are pulled from the “Angry Birds” game, however in the addictive app, each individual, such as birds Red and Chuck and pig Leonard, had little emotional development. Pereira was enthusiastic to lend his skills in realizing their unique personalities and fortifying their universe through his score.  The fact that he had never played the game had no effect on his ability to relate to their new found, feature film personalities.

“The music helps add more depth to the animated characters; establishing who they are and defining the humanity behind them,” said Pereira.   These birds never had a voice, but this is not a game anymore.”

After reading the script and discussing the project with he producers and directors, Pereira began focusing on defining melodies and themes that would carry through the movie. Using instruments found in a full orchestra, the score is grounded on the sweeping sounds of base and brass with woodwind accents. A re-occurring theme hinging on quick paced, bouncy staccato notes featuring rapid fire strings and auxiliary percussion repeats throughout the score.  At times this theme is played on one instrument, such as an electric guitar or a tuba.   Other times It is slowed down and nestled between the gentle notes of a sitar, taking on a sweet, delicate quality.  Periodically it appears as an aggressive thrust played with the power of a rock band.  The malleable theme creates a melody that escorts the viewer through the evolutionary journey of the film.

Pereira also used specific instrumentation and themes for the main characters. For cardinal Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), Pereira focused on creating an arc from the character’s lonesome and angry origins towards his new found heroism and positivity.  Prior to exploring any themes, however, he devoted considerable attention to the animation and voice records.

“I watched the scene without dialogue, then I listened to the dialogue with no picture to fully understand the arc,” said Pereira. “(Throughout the film I discovered) there was an unseen character of friendship and the journey ahead”

To capture the pig’s transition from fun to evil creatures, Pereira used broken and poorly mended instruments to get an off-beat, jilted sound. Throughout the score, the composer incorporated off beat and unique sounds. These ranged from everyday sounds he captured and passed through filters in his recording software to synthesizers, ukuleles, event human vocals.  He also incorporatedhis recorded bird sounds;  he first entered them into his compositing software, then created a percussion toolkit with the distinctive sounds and integrated them throughout the score.

Pereira feels it is important in any project to understand the director’s vision and get a sense of their needs for the score, and adapt to that vision. He also feels it is important the process be collaborative, and is thankful that “The Angry Birds Movie” directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly allowed him to express his creativity.

“I feel at home with this type of music. I wasn’t pigeon-holed.  I could be colorful.  I could use world music sounds for the sound’s sake,” said Pereira.  “Not many movies allow me to do this.”

While Pereira’s filmography contains nearly every type of movie genre and style, animation is something he particularly enjoys scoring. He appreciates the opportunity he has through music to add more complexity to the animated characters, and admires the dedication bestowed by every team member that devoted years of effort on the creation of the film.

“I’m very proud of everybody that worked on ‘The Angry Birds Movie.’ I’m thankful for the opportunity to be part of this project,” said Pereira.