Glisten and the Merry Mission is a newly released animated Christmas movie with a classic sense of story. There’s a toy shortage in Santa’s Workshop, sending young elf Marzipan on an adventure to find and bring back Glisten, the magic snow deer.
The movie was directed by Cory Morrison, and written by Temple Mathews and Sharon Price John. The voice cast is high profile, and comes from both the acting and music worlds. That includes Julia Michaels, Chevy Chase, Freddie Prinze Jr., Billy Ray Cyrus, Trinity Bliss, and Michael Rapaport.
Glisten… is currently playing in Cinemark Theatres across the US, and will be available on Apple TV on December 1.
All of the music for the movie was written by Toronto composers Antonio Naranjo and Meiro Stamm.
Meiro Stamm is a composer, known for Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum (2019) and A Christmas Dance Reunion (2021), among others.
Antonio is a Canadian Screen Award winner and Banff Centre for the Arts alumnus. He’s a former resident at the prestigious Slaight Family Music Lab at the CFC. His background in films includes a wide range of movie, TV and commercial projects, including three seasons of the Canadian Screen Award winning kid’s show Detention Adventure (HBO Max, CBC), and the animated children’s series Glowbies (CBC), among others. He toured the world with his pop rock bands Boys Who Say No More and Future peers.
We spoke to them to talk about the project, and writing music for cartoons.
Getting Into The Movies
Meiro had known producer Rick Morrison of Big Jump Entertainment for some time. Based in Ottawa, they hit it off, but never had an opportunity to work together before Glisten… He was already working with Antonio on the CBC cartoon Mittens & Pants, and both had other projects in the works. Still, there was room for one more just at the point when Rick called with the offer.
A diverse background, including Western classical music, is a good base for a film composer.
Antonio grew up in household with two very different backgrounds. His Spanish father was very classical music oriented, and loved opera in particular. “It (was) downloaded to my palate,” Antonio laughs. His mother introduced him to North American pop. He went on to study at the RCM.
“And I decided I wanted to be a rock star.” He finds both approaches to music came together when he made the move to visual media and film, which requires a broad skill set.
“I found my space,” he says. “It’s puzzle work. It forces you to be curious.” He enjoys delving into different genres, and learning about them to become a better storyteller.
Meiro’s background is European, with parents who were Hungarian and Swiss. “My mother was very involved in the classical music scene in Austria,” he says. That included having a lot of listening material available in the family home.
His real musical epiphany, however, would come via rock ‘n’ roll. “When I was about 12 on a Sunday afternoon,” he recalls, “I saw the film Monterrey Pop.” When Jimi Hendrix came on, the spell was cast. Meiro spent several years playing both rock and classical guitar. That’s not where his experimentation ended – he also played with a now defunct gamelan orchestra in Toronto.
Still, the life of a band musician doesn’t appeal to everyone. “It just wasn’t really me,” he said. His music had brought him into contact with people who made a living as composers, and it was suggested to him. The idea took root in his imagination, and in 1999, he won his first pitch for a commission.
The technology was very different when he began, when cable was just taking hold, and streaming was a distant innovation. “But fundamentally, it’s the same thing. We’re storytellers,” he says.
Antonio says that he enjoys the discussion about movie music and how it underpins the emotions of the movie. It’s a composer’s job to figure out how to evoke those emotions.
Dionne Warwick sings Merry Mission from the film:
Writing For Cartoons: Glisten And The Merry Mission
All in all, writing music for cartoons is a pretty good gig. “I think we had a good time,” says Meiro.
“It’d be pretty hard not to have a good time,” Antonio agrees. “The magic gets into it.”
As expected for a family-friendly holiday movie, the mood is upbeat, and a 90-minute project gives the score a chance to shine. “There are moments where there are there or four minutes where the music carries it,” Antonio says.
After working on the major themes for the film together, the pair divide up the different sections to work on separately. It’s a process that allows for an efficient work through, while still ensuring a cohesive approach.
“We develop them independently,” Antonio explains, “a cohesive score from two minds.”
He began working with Meiro years ago on live action feature films, and the TV series Glowbies. “It was a pleasure to work with a man who had so much experience,” he says.
The composing duo had previously worked largely on shorter animated projects. Writing for animated film offers different parameters than live action stories for adults. The emotions are broad, and often change on a dime. “It’s a real test of your musical vocabulary,” Antonio notes.
Stamm adds that emotions have to be writ large for younger audiences. “Nothing is implied, everything is stated,” he says. Combined with a quick pace of action, it provides an interesting challenge for a composer. “You’re turning the Titanic on a dime,” he says. “There’s a lot of notes per second.”
“It was a breath of fresh air,” says Antonio of the opportunity.
Get the daily arts news straight to your inbox.
Sign up for the Ludwig Van Toronto e-Blast! — local classical music and opera news straight to your inbox HERE.
- THE SCOOP | Toronto Summer Music: Voices Within Runs From July 11 To August 3 - March 1, 2024
- PREVIEW | The Toronto Mendelssohn Singers Takes On A New Arrangement Of Schubert’s Winterreise & Women Composers Of The Era - February 29, 2024
- INTERVIEW | Kora Virtuoso And Composer Sona Jobarteh On Modernizing Gambian Music - February 29, 2024