INTERVIEW: Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts Composer Daniel Rojas

Kipo And The Age of Wonderbeasts is an animated series from Dreamworks that premiered on Netflix in January and features the voice acting of Karen Fukuhara (The Boys), Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), and legendary musician Joan Jett to name a few. Creating the soundscape for this fantastical world is composer Daniel Rojas.

Fukuhara is the voice of Kipo Oak, a young girl traversing the world in search of her people. Kipo lives in an underground city, but when she’s forced to flee, the young girl faces a trip across a strange, post-apocalyptic surface ruled by “mutes,” animals that have not only physically been mutated but are also sentient. The show’s creator, Radford Sechrist, compared the series to The Wizard of Oz, “but instead of ruby slippers [Kipo] has Converse on.”

PopAxiom spent some time talking with Daniel about his career as a musician, his diverse tastes in music, and scoring for Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.


Musical Family

Daniel is Costa Rican, and his musical journey began before he was even born. “My parents are both musicians, so I’ve been in the world of music for most of my life. My parents are classical musicians, and I got an early start because of that.”

Without hesitation, Daniel says, “I wanted to pursue music in high school. It’s what I wanted to do for life.” Daniel pursued this path with a “… jazz degree in college …”

After the education, the young composer “… moved out to L.A. to pursue film and television scoring.”

City Of Angels

Daniel arrived in L.A. with a degree and a lifetime of musical experience. It was time to put it all to work. “I started off with ads. It’s such a short form, and there are so many of them. There’s rarely any story. It’s hard to develop in 30 seconds or a minute. It’s good practice.”

After a “couple years” of scoring ads, Daniel began doing short films which helped “… to train more on the storytelling aspect. I was also an assistant to several composers, for instance, I worked for Klaus Badelt, and I worked some time at Han Zimmer’s Remote Control.”

Rising through L.A.’s competitive creative market saw Daniel “… bounce around doing all kinds of things. Little tech jobs; orchestration; programming.”

Kipo Came Calling

Daniel’s agent came across a potential new gig for Daniel. “Dreamworks was looking for someone who was not just a traditional composer but also a songwriter and song producer because of the style of music that they had in mind.”

Working his way through L.A. afforded Daniel a wide range of musical elements to work in and around. “During the time I’d been scoring, I also had a double-life doing a lot of song sessions and song production. My agent thought I would be a good fit for the show based on the description of what they were looking for.”

Outside of some basic information, Daniel says making the right demo for Dreamworks involved slight moments of doubt. “When I was putting together the demo for Dreamworks, I didn’t know much about the project. I was thinking to myself, ‘Man, my demos are all over the place.’

The final version included “… a couple beats, a rock tune, some pop songs, a couple more folky sounding things, and some score cues.”

Dream Fit

As it happens, Daniel sent over the demo and “… that was what they were looking for. It was the right fit at the right time.”

Dreamworks was creating a dynamic show with beautiful animation, lovable characters, and a robust soundtrack. “They wanted to have one person to do the songs and score so that it would be cohesive. It was challenging, but we worked to get there.”

Daniel teases, “We want to release the score, but nothing has been set.”

Kipo is a cartoon for all ages. “That was the goal to have a larger appeal and not just kids.”

Scoring for live-action film and television is challenging enough. Doing the same for animation is a whole different [wonder] beast. “When I was working on the songs, I was working with the animatics, which are basically storyboards. The script was still changing, so revisions were being sent to me.”

Wrapping Up

Of his musical tastes, Daniel says, “It’s all over the place.” He continues, “I was classically trained early, so I was a pretty nerdy conservatory kid. But then I got into jazz in high school; Coltrane, Miles, Barker … all the jazz guys. I went to college in North Texas to study jazz.”

Daniel’s music interests don’t stop there. “I’ve always liked all kinds of music. Hip hop, rock, pop music, etc.”

In the age of remakes, what would Daniel love to be a part of? “I’m really excited about Space Jam and … the sequel. But Hans Zimmer is doing it according to IMDB, so I’m out of the picture on that one.” Daniel laughs.

Kipo is out on Netflix with a 10-episode season. So, what’s coming next from Daniel? “At the moment, I’m pitching for another animated show that I can’t really talk about. There’s talk of more Kipo. In the next month or so, I’ll be working on a live-action feature film.”

Did you watch Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts?

Thanks to Daniel Rojas and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

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Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.