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"Geek culture meets high culture" in "DreamWorks Animation in Concert" with the Grand Rapids Symphony

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DreamWorks Animation films are fun for everyone. But they're even better with live music from your Grand Rapids Pops
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20 years of films from DreamWorks Animation

  • Shrek, released in 2001, is ranked No. 8 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre of animation. The film voiced by Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz, was directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, who is a sister-in-law of Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Laureate David Lockington.
  • How to Train Your Dragon, released in 2010, garnered a 2011 Academy Award nomination for composer John Powell for Best Original Score.
  • Rise of the Guardians, released in 2012, features the character of North, who, whenever he’s surprised or alarmed, shouts out the name of a famous Russian composer. When North, voiced by Alec Baldwin, falls down the rabbit hole, he cries out, “Shostakovich!” and in Bunnymund’s warren, he yells out, “Rimsky-Korsakov! That’s a lot of eggs!”
  • Kung Fu Panda, released in 2008 was intended to be a spoof of martial arts movies. But director John Stevenson opted for a blend of comedy and action to make the film an epic. It became the first DreamWorks Animation film to be released in IMAX.
  • Madagascar, released in 2005, as well as its sequels, is filled with nods to Rod Serling’s 1959 TV series, The Twilight Zone. In this movie, a lemur spoofs the cookbook scene from the 1962 episode To Serve Man.
"Shrek" from DreamWorks Animation

"Shrek" from DreamWorks Animation /Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

"Kung Fu Panda" from DreamWorks Animation

"Kung Fu Panda" from DreamWorks Animation /Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

"Bee Movie" from DreamWorks Animation

"Bee Movie" from DreamWorks Animation /Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Animation

The tales told in films from DreamWorks Animation are some of the best in contemporary cinema.

An unexpected friendship between a hapless, young Viking and a dragon; a surprising romance between an ogre and a princess; and the unexpected adventures of animals who have spent their entire life in New York’s Central Park Zoo, suddenly thrust back into their native habitat, all are told in "How to Train Your Dragon", "Shrek" and "Madagascar".

“At the heart of DreamWorks Animation is the desire to tell great stories and inspire audiences,” according to the company mantra.

But the drama of the Bridge scene in "Kung Fu Panda" or the intensity of the Calling the Guardians in "Rise of the Guardians" wouldn’t be as dramatic or intense without the music illuminating the action.

As good as it is to see in the theater, it’s even better when the music is live.

"DreamWorks Animation in Concert" comes to Grand Rapids this week with highlights from a dozen movies plus live music by your Grand Rapids Pops. The one-night only performance is at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, in DeVos Performance Hall.

Tickets start at $18. Go online to the Grand Rapids Symphony’s website or call (616) 454-9451 ext. 4

The combination has been called an “intersection of geek culture and high culture,” according to

“The intersection of geek culture and 'high culture' has had some mixed results. However, the trend of taking beloved geeky films and having full orchestras play the music live? I think we can all agree that’s pretty awesome.”

The brand-new show, which premiered in June by the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap, also has been seen in major cities of Houston and San Diego.

“It’s something that you really have to see to believe,” conductor Justin Freer told the Deseret News prior to a show in Utah in July.

“It’s a really, really fun, exciting event that you really have to see to believe,” said Freer, who is producer of CineConcerts, which created the show. “From a musical side of things, (it is) the opportunity to truly feel — in a very physical way — feel, see and experience the power of live music and what it does for film.”

Scenes from DreamWorks Animation films including "Puss in Boots,""Monsters vs. Aliens," "The Croods" and "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" by composers including Alexandre Desplat, Hans Zimmer and John Powell will be performed for one-night only by the Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by Freer.

Powell was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for his music for “How to Train Your Dragon,” a musical score praised as “unabashedly sweeping, dramatic and varied,” according to The Wrap in Hollywood.

“It's grand and stirring and jaunty and fun and bombastic and gleeful – music that draws from a broad range of influences to create the kind of epic soundscape you need when you've got a film full of dragons and Vikings.

An Oscar nomination is an uncommon honor for a musical score for an animated film. It’s also an especially challenging project for a composer because animation is precise process of deciding the tiniest gesture.

“Everything has to be really perfect for them, so when it comes to the music, you have to be willing to join them in that madness,” Powell told The Wrap. “And I enjoy that.”

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