THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2 Interview: Composers Mychael & Jeff Danna On Scoring A Crazy Family Road Trip (Exclusive)

The Addams Family 2 composers Mychael and Jeff Dana talk about returning to the animated franchise for the sequel, their approach to scoring a wacky road trip, their collaboration as brothers, and more.

The Addams Family 2 arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday, January 18, and we recently had the opportunity to sit down with composers Mychael and Jeff Danna to discuss their work on the movie. They've collaborated on countless projects over the years (including The Good Dinosaur, Onward, and The Addams Family), while Mychael won an Academy Award for his Life of Pi score.

In our interview, they discuss working together on this animated sequel, shedding some light on their creative process, how the unique approach to this story affected their score, getting to bring some new ideas to the table, and the dynamic they've formed with The Addams Family 2's directors. 

We'll have a few more comments to share from them tomorrow (including their interest in superhero movies and the possibility of an Onward sequel), but there's a lot to delve into here. Everyone knows The Addams Family theme, of course, but Mychael and Jeff get to put a fresh spin on it here. 

The soundtrack for The Addams Family 2 is available to buy, and we'd recommend checking it out! 

The Addams Family 2 is now available on Digital and will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD January 18.
 

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Thanks so much guys for taking the time to talk about the film. It’s a fun family movie.

Mychael: Yeah, we had a great time working on it. 

Jeff: It’s a great family movie about a weird family composed by a family [Laughs].

What makes this film unique is that it takes The Addams Family on a road trip across America, so what sort of effect did that have on your approach to composing the score for this story compared to that first movie being a little more ‘classic’ Addams Family?

Mychael: I think what’s really fun and timely is seeing this odd, dysfunctional family try to find themselves. They’re obviously immigrants and they don’t quite fit in with America. Having them travel through America really sets up those interesting paradoxes and clashes. Musically, we had a lot of fun with that. We set them with Easter European sounds and as they are an odd, dysfunctional family, we brought in all these odd instruments like a musical saw, saxophones, and a church organ. My brother, Jeff, plays all these odd Eastern European strummed instruments. Having those instruments in the middle of middle America on this tour made it fun and helped us set those characters in that place.

As you mentioned, you are family, but how does that affect your collaboration? Do you divide a score like this one between the both of you or are you working on the entire film together from start to finish?

Jeff: We’ll start by dividing what we think are the cornerstone themes. We’ll say, ‘We need something for Fester. We’ll need something for Wednesday. We’ll need an overriding Addams Family theme.’ Then, usually one of us will say, ‘Well, I’ve got an idea for this or I’m feeling a little bit inclined towards this,’ so we’ll then find a scene in the film that seems to be good real estate to try that first version the theme on. We’ll go to work and a couple of days later, Mychael and I will compare ideas and we’ll trade them back and forth. Once we have the themes down and like then, it’s then a case of showing the filmmakers to see if they’re on board. It comes a free for all from there and some of our best results are when we take the other guy’s concept and do our thing with it. That’s actually why we have a true collaboration in our process. 

Amazing. The Addams Family theme is, of course, iconic,  and I’m sure it must be very special for you to work on that. However, as acclaimed composers in your own right, is it but how important to be able to bring some new ideas to the table rather than just repeating what we've heard in the past?

Mychael: Definitely. This is a new take on that story. We’re all familiar with the theme and when I told my wife we were going to be working on this film, she said, ‘Well, you better use that tune!’ [Laughs]

Jeff: [Laughs]

Mychael: I think that was probably the feeling of everyone and people would feel cheated if they went to the theater or watched the film at home and didn’t hear that melody. It’s a great melody by Vic Mizzy from back in the late 50s when he wrote it and we definitely lay it out there. It appears in a few places where you have those special moments, but it’s definitely a slightly different take and a bit more nuanced. Things have changed as far as film scoring goes as there’s a lot of world music instruments and a lot more knowledge about those sorts of things because people are more open to those sounds. That’s the sort of thing I think we really managed to move to the next step through our work here.
 

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Greg [Tiernan] and Conrad [Vernon] return to direct this sequel, so how did your relationship with them evolve as you collaborated with them for a second time on this franchise?

Jeff: You get a shorthand with a filmmaker and the film progresses. That was our first film with Greg and Conrad, but we pretty quickly found a language with them partway into that process, so to have another opportunity, you really just pick up where you left off. Coming into this one, we sort of knew the concept and the sound. The Eastern European, Spanish gipsy music and old school sound we were going to mix with, like my brother said, a musical saw, a sax ensemble, and even an extraordinary theatre organ. That was the Fox theatre organ that was used on The Wizard of Oz and the Sound of Music that Nathan Barr has rebuilt. They were very comfortable with the things we were doing in the first film and said, ‘Give us more of that.’ We had to add some new sounds to this because we had a new storyline with Fester and the whole squid thing [Laughs].

The soundtrack for The Addams Family 2 also includes Dominic Lewis providing Lurch’s singing voice and a song from Christina Aguilera over the end credits; are you involved in that side of things as well and, either way, what’s it like to see that side of things develop from your end?

Mychael: Composers aren’t usually that involved in that side of the music like the needle drop stuff or the arrangements of tunes. Even though there’s two of us, there’s a lot of music to write for animated films - usually a good sixty or seventy minutes. We’re pretty focused and our days are pretty full with that. We’re very close with Conrad. He’s a pal of ours and a neighbour, so we talk all the time about what the thoughts are and what those songs are. Certainly, we’re aware of them, but we’re not really involved with the making of those.

I can imagine it must be interesting for you to see how it comes together and compliments your work?

Jeff: Absolutely! Sometimes, we get surprises too. Even the premiere. 

Mychael: They did such a great job of integrating the music on both films with our score. 

By the time the film ends, it feels like the stage might be set for a global road trip next time. Have you guys given any thought to putting an international spin on these pieces of music for the characters?

Jeff: [Laughs]

Mychael: That’s…wow. I’m gonna pitch that to Conrad as soon as we hang up here. That’s a pretty superb idea, Josh. 

Jeff: We’ll definitely give you the ‘Idea/Concept by Josh Wilding” credit [Laughs]. 

[Laughs] I’ll look out for that credit. Guys, it’s been such a pleasure and I loved your work on the film. 

Jeff: Great questions, thanks, Josh.

Mychael: Thanks so much, Josh!
 

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