Carl Sondrol

Composer and music producer

Alice in Wonderland revisited

[video src=“” poster=“” width=“500” height=“281”]

Above is a project I scored & sound-designed for CollegeHumor last year. Since I’m about to go into a lot of geeky detail I’ve mixed the music a bit higher in the above than CH’s officially released version so you can easily follow along :)

This was a nice challenge, as my goal was to create a score true to the classic cartoon style of the original 1951 Alice in Wonderland score by Oliver Wallace. It required 21 (!) cues in the span of about 2 minutes… just a few seconds each on average. I have to confess I LOVE this kind of music.. it’s so spastic, unpredictable and intricate. Carl Stalling, who did all the classic music for the Warner Bros cartoons, is another hero of mine.  I suggest giving his music a listen without the context of cartoon sometime (you can do this on Amazon here).. it’s amazing how daring and downright bizarre it is!

Anyway, to do a thorough analysis I cut up the audio of the original score into small clips, labeling each with a stylistic description. (e.g. “mouse chase music” or “angry brass staccato” or “confusing rabbit - ascending chords."  Then I placed these snippets into CollegeHumor’s video as a sort of "texture guide”. I also notated some of the chord progressions - not to duplicate them with my own music, but to learn what kind of progressions Wallace was using to generate each mood.

(CLICK to see clips from the entire scene labeled)—

Then I created an original score, using similar textures and instrumentation. The screenshot below is what my project looked like after finishing.. each of those orange/yellow blocks near the middle represent string parts. I’ve got the woodwinds, brass, and percussion parts minimized (each gray/blue block is an entire group of instruments) and the at the bottom you’ll see the three trumpet parts (played by the amazing Gerald Bailey). I recorded him using two mics at once- a ribbon mic gives the bulk of the sound, and then a large diaphragm condenser room mic is used to capture the brassy “bite” of the sound. In a perfect world I’d have an actual orchestra at my disposal, but to keep things simple and within our budget the rest is covered with Vienna Symphonic Library samples… Except for the “jug” track at the beginning, which I made by blowing into beer bottles filled to various degrees.

(CLICK to zoom)—



Now, if you’re really curious, here’s my score + sound design without dialog track so you can hear all the details exposed:[video src=“” poster=“” width=“500” height=“281”]

Finally, for comparison, here’s a clip I found on YouTube of the original cartoon (at least until Disney takes it down)- the “Unbirthday Song” starts at 0:32, and regular score starts at 0:54.

How’d I do?

Kudos to everyone else who worked on this: writer Dan Gurewitch, producer Ben Joseph, my old Chicago intern Josh Sauvageau, and of course Snark Rocket for nailing the animation.