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July 21, 2014
DreamWorks Under the Stars
The Hollywood Bowl tributes music from 20 wondrous years of animated films by Marilee Bradford
HOLLYWOOD—More than 30,000 fans gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of DreamWorks Animation Friday and Saturday nights at the Hollywood Bowl with a concert featuring music from many of the studio's biggest hits.
Jack Black, the voice of Po in the winning Kung Fu Panda film series, made a perfectly gregarious host, earning laughs and prodding conductor Thomas Wilkins to let him sing (which he finally did at the end of the concert, with The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" that had enjoyed a revival in the first Shrek film). Black then introduced DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg in the audience and comically shamed him for not getting better seats.
The two-hour, 20-minute concert opened with a seven-minute montage of clips from all 29 DreamWorks Animation movies, set to music from How to Train Your Dragon (by John Powell), Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Danny Elfman), Over the Hedge (Rupert Gregson-Williams) and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (Harry Gregson-Williams).
Kung Fu Panda co-composers Hans Zimmer and John Powell joined the orchestra for the first suite (Powell on drums, Zimmer on gong), based on the "training" sequence from the original 2008 film. Zimmer remained on stage to introduce the second film, The Prince of Egypt (1998), and its powerful parting-of-the-Red Sea sequence. He was joined by vocalist Judith Hill, who sang the film's Oscar-winning song "When You Believe," written by Zimmer with lyricist Stephen Schwartz (present in the audience).
Music by Zimmer and co-composer Lorne Balfe from the three Madagascar movies followed, as did Henry Jackman's colorful, Spanish-flavored score for Puss in Boots whose amusing "Dance Fight" sequence was screened to the rousing delight of the audience. Wilkins closed the first half with a touching 15-minute sequence from Powell's Oscar-nominated score for How to Train Your Dragon and an action sequence from the still-in-theaters How to Train Your Dragon 2.
Three of the four pieces in the second half were conducted by their composers. Alan Silvestri led The Croods, which featured the USC Trojan Marching Band and host Black, fully attired in Trojan uniform and clowning for the audience with flag and sword. Alexandre Desplat flew in from Paris to conduct an eight-minute suite from his lavish symphonic score for Rise of the Guardians, and Harry Gregson-Williams in black T-shirt and sneakers conducted an enchanting new orchestral suite from the three Shrek films.
Black introduced composer Danny Elfman in the audience, after which Wilkins conducted Elfman's music from the humorous and educational Egyptian sequence of this year's hit Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
Coming together for the finale were Black, Hill, Powell, Zimmer, Balfe and some of Zimmer's frequent rhythm players, who joined the orchestra in a lively jam session featuring "Hallelujah" from Shrek and will.i.am's "I Like to Move It" from Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa. Amidst the lively music and the booming fireworks overhead, the audience was taken by surprise when the stage became overrun with giant costumed beasts from the DreamWorks stable of animated characters.
All of the evening's composers and performers joined Wilkins, choir conductor Edie Lehmann Boddicker, the 81-member Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the 24-voice mixed chorus for a group bow that was met with a lengthy standing ovation.
©2014 Marilee Bradford