Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts might officially be done on Netflix, but the animated series from DreamWorks Animation Television remains available in full on the streaming platform, and there is always the chance, however slim, that more comes down the pipeline in the future. Whatever the case, one of the highlights of the show was its music, and ComicBook.com actually had the chance to speak with composer and songwriter Daniel Rojas about his work on Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.
And before you get too bummed out by the fact that Rojas' work has concluded on Kipo, he actually has another high-profile project coming down the line: Marvel's M.O.D.O.K on Hulu. "It's a Marvel stop-motion show starring Patton Oswalt. I'm scoring that show as well. I'm doing a couple sung moments, but it's mostly score," Rojas says. "Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum are the showrunners and creators and it's really fun. It's rated R so very different to Kipo, but still in the animation world. Musically, it's been pretty fun because it's superhero mixed with comedy."
As noted above, all three seasons of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts are now available to stream on Netflix. You can check out all of our previous coverage of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts right here. And keep reading to check out our full interview with Rojas!
The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
ON COMPOSING AND SONGWRITING FOR AN ANIMATED SHOW
ComicBook.com: For people who maybe don't understand, what does the composer and songwriter do for a show like Kipo?
Daniel Rojas: It's two different parts. Kipo is an animated show, for those who don't know, but it also has a musical element to it. There are songs that are performed on-screen by the characters and it moves the story forward. I basically did both the underscore, which is everything that was added after animation to kind of complement the scenes and help the storytelling and dynamics, and then I also wrote most of the songs on the show, the original songs that are part of the script, so the ones that were performed by the on-screen characters as well as some of the songs that were added afterwards, but the ones that are original, not licensed ones.prevnext
ON HOW HE GOT INVOLVED
Now, how did you get involved with Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts?
I basically auditioned for it. I mean, we call it demoing but it's... The process was from scratch. My agency sent me a brief. This was back in I'm pretty sure November or October of 2017 so three years ago, I got a brief for my agency and it looked really fun. What they were looking for was a bunch of different styles. I knew it was an animation for DreamWorks and I'm a big animation fan and DreamWorks fan so that sounded really good to me.
I sent some demos and then we ended up having two or three rounds of spec, which is basically demos done to picture. You sign an NDA, they send you some storyboards and then you kind of write to those animatics. I did three or four of those little theme from the animatics and yeah, the whole process took several months and it wasn't until maybe February or March in 2018 that they told me that they had chosen me to do the music for the project. It was obviously awesome and, at the time, the biggest gig I have had so it was really... It's been very meaningful to me.prevnext
ON COMPARING TO PREVIOUS WORK
I was going to say Kipo, your music is such an integral part of it but obviously, this is not your first rodeo. How does it compare to work you've done elsewhere?
I've been working in the film and TV industry for almost a decade. Well, now it's been more than decade but by the time I got Kipo, it had been about nine years since I was in LA already working in film and TV. But I had been mostly working for other people, which is very common here how composers start. You start doing arrangements or what they call programming, which is basically making all the samples and synths sound good in the demo or recording or orchestrating, all the different types of jobs that assistants do for composers.
I did that for quite a while and I also did a lot of songs on my own that I ended up placing on movies, but that was kind of my... The bulk of my work and my income at the time was that, either working for other people or doing song for sync. Kipo was the first major, I would say mainstream show that I got on my own under my name. That's why to me, it's very meaningful like I said on the previous one.
But yeah, I mean I've had the honor to work on a lot of projects and some of them pretty big, but never in the main role. I have been behind the scenes of a lot of big project, which helped me learn a lot, but it's never the same as it being your own project where you have the full creative control and you get the credit and everything.prevnext
ON THE RESPONSE TO THE MUSIC
Has the response to the show changed anything for you professionally? Are you getting more offers? Have you found new doors open, that sort of thing?
Yeah, for sure. No, honestly for me, it's been definitely a before and after for Kipo for many reasons. Well one, the show has been very well-received, luckily, by both fans and critics. It hasn't been maybe as popular as far as viewership goes... but it's getting there and it's getting traction and people keep liking it so that's been very positive.
And then on the professional side, for me, it was great to kind of graduate into the studio level and being able to work with a team of music supervisors that do really big projects. Kier Lehman and James Cartwright, they've done Into the Spider-Verse and a ton of big... I mean, they do Insecure on HBO and... As well as the music department of DreamWorks that now knows me pretty well and I've done some work for them in other projects now, too.
So no, definitely has been a project that has meant a lot for me professionally because it's opened a lot of doors. And also, I think it helped me almost prove myself to my agency, too, so that they can trust me to put me up for other gigs and stuff like that, which is always difficult at the beginning because there are so many composers that you kind of just get lost in the sea of ton of people. Project like this helps me kind of stand out a little bit, which is kind of all you need just to get the chance.
Right. Because at this point, you're a name brand. You're associated with the soundtrack to something where the music is considered very, very good.
Thank you. No, I'm glad. I mean, it's a project that had been well-received and thankfully, the music is, as you said, it's very prominent. I got lucky in that sense, too, that my first bigger project happens to be a very music-heavy project because a lot of people get their break on a show that doesn't really get featured as much, as far as the music goes. But for me, I was able to get my first bigger gig in a project that is very, very music-centric. I think that's definitely something that I got lucky with.prevnext
Is there any concern about being sort of typecast for this type of music or do you think you produced enough along a spectrum that you really can just do just about anything you wanted to?
Well, I do like to believe that I'm versatile and can switch and do all kinds of different things. I feel like Kipo, again, luckily, although it's animation and it's for... A family show, it's very diverse musically. Just in Kipo alone, there's so many different genres and there's some.... Obviously a lot of hip hop influence, but there's a lot of orchestral moments, choral. We recorded a bunch of different instruments. And of course it has rock. It has folk music. As a calling card, it's pretty versatile. I can show different facets already, which I think is beneficial. But of course, like any creative, I would hate to be typecast so I hope that the future projects are different enough that in the next few years, I can show enough range that will allow me to take my career in any direction.prevnext
ON DIFFICULT PARTS OF KIPO
As composer and songwriter for a lot of this stuff, what was the most difficult part for you working on Kipo?
I think the post schedule, although it wasn't bad but... Again for me, I did Kipo, most of it. I did all the writing. Well, all the writing I did just on my own. I had a friend that helped me music editing, which is later on when you need to kind of adapt the theme to changes in the picture, but all the music writing I did it on my own so it was a lot of work.
And keeping up with the schedule of delivery, we usually had two or three projects live at the same time in different stages. We would be spotting one, but the other one was already in the middle and then the last one we were doing fixes before the mix kind of stuff. It was quite a bit, especially not being used to having that much workload.
Kipo, I feel like it started very slow for me because it was just a few songs but then once the scoring started, I was doing both scoring and song and it was a good year and a half of pretty much nonstop. I worked every single weekend just to kind of catch up and try to stay afloat with the workload. I would say the biggest challenge was probably the amount of work and the post schedule.prevnext
ON PREFERENCE BETWEEN SCORE AND SONGS
As someone that does both the score and the songs, do you have a preference on which you like to work on more?
Not really. I really love both. That's why I think Kipo was such a great project for me because I think they both complement each other really well. Composing, scoring, it's much more of a solitary type of job. You're just on your own and trying to be creative. Songwriting in general involves a little bit more collaboration, whether it is just with the singer or with the creative or with the script writers, the staff writers, which they all were very involved in the process. It just kind of balances it out so that you can actually interact with some people. Everything was pre-pandemic so we actually were meeting in person and I was going to the studio and sitting with them. It was pretty nice to have a little bit of human contact because during scoring, you're just on your own in the studio in the dark room for hours on end. So yeah, I really enjoy doing both and being able to kind of go back and forth to kind of feed from each other.prevnext
ON FAVORITE PARTS OF KIPO
We talked about the most difficult part of working on Kipo for you, but what was your favorite part? Do you have a favorite song? And if so, which one?
OK, well to do it in parts, I think my favorite part of Kipo really was the team in general, the creative team, working with Rad and Bill early on and the music supervisors James and Kier, as well as the music department of DreamWorks. It was just such a healthy creative environment and I mean that fully. There was no bad blood anywhere, which is rare. Everybody was on the same page just trying to do something fun, trying to help each other in feeding ideas and stuff like that.0comments
That was very unique because although there was pressure from the timeline, like I said on the previous answer, and trying to keep up with the schedule, everybody was trying to make sure that it could happen. Everybody was on the same side, which is great. We didn't have any sort of internal battles, which I know from experience can happen as well in other projects. That was very nice and it's something that I'll... I hope I can get that experience again in my career because it was really super healthy from beginning to end, just fun and positive. I would say that was my favorite thing.
As far as song, oh man, there's many that I enjoyed. It was a lot of fun, but I would highlight "Purple Jaguar Eye" which is on the season finale of Season 1, episode 10 just because it was such a fun visual sequence and the song itself is very trippy and cool and unlike other children's shows. Not that Kipo's exactly a children's show, but it's still family-friendly show but it allowed us to do a... It's an adult song. It's a song that could have totally been on a record so I like that a lot. Sterling K. Brown who sung it did a really great job.prev