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POSTMAN PAT: THE MOVIE – Rupert Gregson-Williams

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

postmanpatOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat. Early in the morning, just as day is dawning, he picks up all the postbags in his van.

As a six year old, I used to watch the classic British children’s animated TV show Postman Pat fairly regularly, content to accompany the cheerful postman Pat Clifton as he delivered the mail to the inhabitants of the village of Greendale, and got into the occasional adventure with his ever-present feline sidekick, Jess. It was an uncomplicated show for youngsters, with simple stop-motion animation, gentle humor, and a memorable theme tune written by the late Bryan Daly and sung by Ken Barrie. The show was rebooted for new audiences in 1995, and then again in 2004, with Pat having acquired a family and been promoted to a new position with the Special Delivery Service, which affords him the use of a helicopter, amongst other things! Now, Pat transitions to the big screen in the animated feature Postman Pat: The Movie, in which Pat comes face-to-face with the temptations of money, status and a shiny new suit when he enters a national TV talent show competition that threatens to tear him away from his home town, his family and friends – and leads to robots taking over his postal service while he is away. The film stars Stephen Mangan as the speaking voice of Pat, Ronan Keating as Pat’s singing voice, and David Tennant, Rupert Grint, and Jim Broadbent in supporting roles. It was directed by Mike Disa, and has an original score from an unlikely source – Rupert Gregson-Williams.

There have only been a few occasions in my life when I have been embarrassed to purchase a soundtrack CD in a record store, handing over an item to the cashier, and having her (it was invariably a her) do a double take, look at me, and wonder why a grown man was buying such a clearly inappropriate CD. The first time this happened was when I bought Ralph Schuckett’s score for Pokémon: The Movie in 1999. The second time was when I bought Hummie Mann’s score for Thomas and the Magic Railroad in the year 2000. On both those occasions my embarrassment was justified by the fact that both those scores were excellent, and I’m sure the same would have happened had I been required to purchase the score for Postman Pat: The Movie in person, because yet again the quality of the music significantly over-achieves, when compared with the apparent childishness of the film itself.

Rupert Gregson-Williams has been quietly working away in Hollywood for many years now, scoring a plethora of $100 million box office hits such as Over the Hedge, Click, and Just Go With It, popular TV shows like Veep, and contributing additional music to dozens of Hans Zimmer projects, but without ever really receiving the attention and acclaim his music deserves. Commercial releases of his scores are as rare as hen’s teeth, and so it comes as a pleasant surprise to see his score for Postman Pat being given such comparatively lavish treatment. Despite its brevity – the entire thing runs for just a shade under 40 minutes – the score is unexpectedly delightful, light and sunny, filled with themes, a few decent action cues, and recorded with a full orchestra in London.

Scoring children’s movies is always a challenge, musically speaking. It’s one of the few times when the emotional content has to be overt, steering younger viewers in the right direction and allowing them to experience the film properly, but this can also mean that the movies can be over-scored from a more sophisticated point of view, to the point where it all comes across a bit Mickey Mousey. Thankfully, Gregson-Williams avoided all the potential pitfalls a film like this can often present, and wrote a pleasant, entertaining score that telegraphs everything, has a subtlety rating of zero, but thankfully eschews the Carl Stalling approach, instead coming across as something someone like John Debney or David Newman might have written.

The score has two main themes. The first is a lovely, inviting theme that first appears in the “Opening”, and follows Pat through many of his adventures thereafter. Subtitled the ‘Greendale Theme’, it has a pastoral, identifiably English sound, and combines lush strings with gentle acoustic guitars, solo piano, lilting woodwinds, and occasionally an understated choir. Further performances, in cues such as “Hotels”, the upbeat and whimsical “Pickups and Deliveries”, the sweeping “Pat Nailed It”, the heroic “Greendale Into Action”, the emotional “Pat Alone”, the gorgeous “What’s Important”, and the pretty finale “Sara Arrives”, keep the score rooted in its own thematic integrity. The theme is also occasionally re-worked into a piano-and-oboe variation for Pat’s relationship with his wife Sara, most notably in “Sara Needs to Talk” and the second half of “Megalomaniac”, which are quite touching.

The second theme, for the film’s primary antagonists, is the sinister-sounding “Megalomaniac Theme”, a four-note motif for brass which is hinted at during “SDS Corporate Office” and “Pat-Bot 3000”, before receiving its fullest renditions during the first half of the eponymous “Megalomaniac” cue, at the very end of “Rooftops and Cat-Bot”, and in the surprisingly powerful pair “Pat’s a Robot” and “Robot Takeover and Defeat”.

The rest of the score is a series of gentle orchestral textures, often highlighting flutes and guitars, combined with several sequences of more frantic action writing, some of which are really quite good. “Pat-Bot Into Service”, the whirligig “Scooter Chase”, and the frantic duo comprising “Postman Pat is Back” and “Rooftops and Cat-Bot” all pick up a decent pace, combining stirring brass fanfares with vaguely comedic textures such as hooting saxophones and xylophone runs, to generally very enjoyable effect.

The only thing missing from the score – and this is really quite scandalous – is a performance of the famous Postman Pat theme from the original animated TV series. The Greendale theme does have some subtle allusions to its melody – the last six or seven notes of the statement sort of match up with the ‘and his black and white cat’ part of the song, but it’s a stretch, because the tempo is so different – but beyond this, there are no further hints or statements to be found. As nostalgia plays such a large part in this project overall, I can’t believe the creative decision not to include a full orchestral statement of the theme was taken. It would be like if they had made Star Trek, The Simpsons Movie, or something like The Jetsons, without including their iconic themes.

This one issue aside, Postman Pat remains a charming little score. It’s never going to set the world on fire, and unless you grew up watching the show, it’s not going to have the same nostalgic appeal as it does for someone like me, but for those of you who enjoy uncomplicated, straightforward children’s orchestral scores with plenty of heart, there will be enough to keep you happy for a while. I hope the trend of making 80s British animated TV shows into movies continues, and as such I eagerly await the big-screen versions of Dangermouse, The Flumps, Bananaman, Trap Door, Count Duckula, Camberwick Green, Button Moon, Mr. Benn, Roobarb & Custard, and Bod.

Buy the Postman Pat: The Movie soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Opening (1:52)
  • Hotels (1:43)
  • Pickups and Deliveries (1:59)
  • Pat Nailed It (1:38)
  • SDS Corporate Office (1:19)
  • Pat-Bot 3000 (2:58)
  • Pat-Bot Into Service (2:44)
  • Sara Needs to Talk (2:07)
  • Scooter Chase (3:34)
  • Greendale Into Action (1:08)
  • Megalomaniac (3:19)
  • Pat Alone (1:07)
  • Oh No (2:09)
  • Postman Pat is Back (1:56)
  • Rooftops and Cat-Bot (3:07)
  • Pat’s a Robot (1:23)
  • What’s Important (1:09)
  • Robot Takeover and Defeat (2:50)
  • Sara Arrives (0:55)

Running Time: 38 minutes 48 seconds

Lakeshore Records (2014)

Music composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. Conducted by Alastair King. Orchestrations by Rupert Gregson-Williams and Alastair King. Additional music by Gerrit Wunder, Tony Clarke and James Roberson. Recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage. Album produced by Rupert Gregson-Williams .

  1. Victor
    September 10, 2014 at 12:03 am

    “I hope the trend of making 80s British animated TV shows continues,”

    Since Pat didn’t exactly do “The LEGO Movie” business at the UK box office, it’s unlikely. (By the way, most of the shows mentioned in the last sentence weren’t from the ’80s…)

  2. September 10, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Well, I watched them in the 80s, so…

  1. September 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm

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