Lost Ollie is a hybrid live-action and animated, four-part series on Netflix about a boy and his toys from director Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse) and creator Shannon Tindle (Kubo and the Two Strings) featuring the voice talents of Mary J. Blige and Tim Blake Nelson and starring Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin). Scot Stafford of Pollen Music created the score by blending two wildly different musical genres.
Ollie is a rabbit toy with a country twang who wakes up at the lost and found of an antique shop. Vague memories remind him that he was separated from his best friend, Billy. So Ollie decides to take a journey, following the little clues offered by his fractured memory to guide him. But he has helpin the form of Zozo (Nelson), a toy clown, and his friend Rosy (Blige), a pink, sword-wielding teddy bear. During his adventure to find his family, Ollie remembers his life with Billy, his parents, and the hard times they faced. Billy’s also searching for his friend despite the troubles happening to and around the young boy.
PopAxiom spoke with Scot Stafford about making the music for Lost Ollie.
Split In Two
Scot’s story starts, in part, because of a musically talented older brother. But the skill was a mystery. “It was nowhere to be found in our family before him. I have no idea what possessed him, but he was obsessed with music at a very young age,” Scot explains. They took piano lessons, and by the time Scot was five, and his brother was eight, he was writing songs.
They had a cassette recorder that recorded a bit too fast. “When we’d play it back, it would sound slow. So we’d sound like older people,” Scot continues. “Farts would sound funny.”
Scot and his brother “became obsessed” with recording themselves, including creating a fake radio station. “We’d write these songs about disco but in no way remotely influenced by disco. It was what we thought disco was from watching all these cool people on TV.”
When asked about his earliest influences, in addition to disco, Scot references going to church as a child. He was amazed by the impressive sounds of a choir and the immense pipe organs.
Scot studied classical music but only played it half the time. “I was always in a rock band or some experimental noise band. So by day, I was a classical musician and this mischievous rocker by night.”
Scot attributes his wide range of interests early on to his ability to adapt to the ever-changing nature of film and television music production. “Every project is different,” Scot says. “I think Lost Ollie brought a lot of different things together. We all have different interests, and when a project can bring those together, that’s unique and precious.”
In his 20’s, Scot focused on songwriting and playing in bands. “It didn’t fully pan out, at least regarding a career,” Scot laughs. However, his early musician years led Scot to meet and befriend a number of incredible creatives.
One such creative was animator Doug Sweetland, who had been coming to Scot’s rock shows for some time. Pixar was gaining acclaim as an animation studio, and Sweeland had just finished up on Bug’s Life when Doug approached Scot with ideas for a collaboration on an animated music video for one of the band’s songs.
“I was fed and nourished by animation, but at that age, it wasn’t what I was paying attention to,” Scot says. “I also thought at the time that computer animation was more about the death of art than creating a new one. So I was one of those guys.”
Doug and Scot started talking about doing a music video together. Doug pitched a few ideas for some songs, and then Scot’s perception of Doug completely flipped. “It’s hard to describe, but I realized this person I thought I knew was a complete genius,” he recounts.
Years later, Doug was directing a Pixar theatrical short called Presto and asked Scot to come on board as a composer. “It evoked a lot of nostalgic cartoons,” Scot says of the score. “It was an incredible opportunity to dive into the golden era of cartoon scores.”
“I went deep into Carl Stalling who was probably, along with John Williams, my biggest influence,” Scot says of the legendary composer. “I spent a month trying not to rip off Carl, but the people that influenced him.”
About Lost Ollie
Scot met with show creator Shannon Tindle. “The first thing he said was that he wanted it to sound like an Appalachian Lord of the Rings,” he remembers. “That’s a very evocative thing to say. Sometimes these broad strokes are a strong idea. I knew I had to work on Lost Ollie.”
It was the “perfect prompt” for Scot, even if most others might balk at that strange combination. “Not only do I have family roots in Appalachia, but it’s also something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I grew up for a big part of my life in West Virginia. That region is a special place culturally in terms of music and instruments.”
Scot also grew up as a big Tolkien nerd. “I memorized Elvish poetry when I was 12 years old,” he recalls. To have a project like this that brought together Appalachia and folk music with the implied epic orchestral music was intriguing.
He asked himself, “How do I find a family of instruments that would speak those two languages to get to that level of emotion?” The answer to his questions came in the form of a fretless mountain banjo, which he learned how to play, as well as a mountain dulcimer. Both instruments are heard frequently on the score.
There’s no doubt that it was a challenge for Scot to blend orchestral and Appalachian folk together harmoniously. “We had some talented musicians in the recording studio,” Scot explains. “I worked with Stephen Spies, a staff composer at Pollen. He’s a talented fiddle player. I got him to record some of the fiddle parts, which became one of the central sounds of the score. Subtle changes would push things to sound more orchestral or more Appalachian.”
Also key to the score was the technology used to capture the sound. On Pollen’s JJ Wiesler’s recommendation, they recorded the orchestra in Atmos in Budapest. “We captured the front, back, and height of the hall, placing microphones according to common Atmos speaker locations. Most of the time, when you mix music, you never provide Atmos to the mix. It can be hard to preserve that throughout the process. But because JJ was mixing the music, and long-time collaborator Jamey Scott was doing the final mix, we were able to pull it off,” Scot says.
In the future, Scot’s excited to push formats creatively for more impactful, immersive experiences. Fans of a beloved Japanese franchise will also be excited to learn about Scot’s next project. “I’m working on Shannon Tindle’s next big project, an Ultraman feature,” he reveals.
Is Lost Ollie on your watch list?
Thanks to Scot Stafford and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.
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