Theme Park Connections: the music of John Williams

in Disney, Entertainment, Events, Harry Potter, Movies, Music, Star Wars, Television, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

John Williams & George Lucas

Composer John Williams is second only to Walt Disney with regards to Academy Award nominations (a total of 51). He’s earned numerous other accolades, including 24 Grammy Awards, and has composed scores for many of the movie industry’s most successful movies.

While many recognize his marvelous motion picture music, much of it has also made its way into theme park attractions and experiences.   From “Star Wars” to “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” John Williams’ scores serve to set the tone for many of the adventures found at many Disney and Universal Studios attractions.

A note-worthy past

John Williams and music seem to have always been friends.  He played jazz in high school, arranged music for the U.S. Airforce Band, as well as play piano and brass instruments during his military service, all while continuing to study music. That education was further honed at New York’s Julliard School, and as a jazz pianist during his time in New York.

After Julliard, John returned to his home in California and continued to compose music, this time for Henri Mancini (including contributing to the “Peter Gunn” theme – even playing the opening riff of the popular jazz number).

Television shows like “Lost in Space,” “the Time Tunnel,” and “Land of the Giants,” as well “Gilligan’s Island and “Bachelor Father” all can claim John Williams as a composer.

His big break and first Academy Award came from scoring “Fiddler on the Roof,” in 1971. Scores for  “Valley of the Dolls,” and host of disaster films (“The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno,” “Earthquake”) are all Williams’ creations.

Stephen Spielberg relied on John Williams to compose music for his directorial debut.  The two would team again for Spielberg’s second film, “Jaws,” and also for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

On a recommendation from Spielberg, George Lucas turned to the composer for scores of several of his popular films.  From “Star Wars” to “Indiana Jones,” the Lucas/Williams pairing provided perfect pitch for the film franchises.

John Williams was in high demand by now. “Superman,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Jurassic Park,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “E.T.” were all scored by the tremendously talented musician. Early movies in the Harry Potter franchise, including the signature “Hedwig’s Flight” are cleverly crafted by Mr. Williams.

Theme Park Connections

As many of the motion pictures scored by John Williams made the transformation into theme park experiences, Williams’ music gave these attractions life.

Disney Hollywood Studios’ (DHS) Indiana Jones Stunt Show wouldn’t be the same without Williams’ theme music; “Star Tours” without familiar orchestral music made by John Williams would be incomplete as well.  It’s a good bet that this same mastery of music will be prolific in the forthcoming Galaxy’s Edge experiences as well. DHS already relies on more recent “Star Wars” scoring for guest encounters with Captain Phasma and her troops.

At Universal’s theme parks, John William’s ties to the movies of Stephen Spielberg are easily recognized when visiting attractions like the ET Adventure.  A visit to Jurassic Park within Islands of Adventure will give guest’s ears a familiar John Williams theme. The former Jaws experience also relied on another famous score from the composer.

Even after Jaws and the Amity area departed Universal Studios Florida, William’s magical music remained, this time in a more enchanting form.  John Williams himself was on hand to conduct his music for the opening of  the Harry Potter powered experience!  Music composed by or inspired by compositions of John Williams gives both Hogsmeade Village (Universal Studios Florida) and Diagon Alley (Islands of Adventure) casts its spell, lending to the whimsical wonder that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

From outstanding orchestrations for the silver screen to putting a “theme” into theme park audio, the prolific powers of John Williams’ amazing arrangements provide a pitch perfect and essential element to the experience.  As a powerful part of to the adventures listed above, Williams’ sixty year career composing spellbinding scores will live on through the adventures enhanced by the magic of his music.

What John Williams theme adds excitement to your favorite attraction?  Please make your notes in the comments below.

Source and images: Wikipedia, ITM Archives, YouTube




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