Composer Jim Dooley Discusses His Score to Netflix’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’

Review Ethan / 2023-03-27 03:27:09

For the last three seasons, the wicked Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris) has been trying to gain control of the vast Baudelaire inheritance in Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, failing miserably episode to episode.

The creators released the final episode of the series, and wanted to end the story with lessons that would help children deal with the hardships in today's world.  An older generation might remember shows such as Punky Brewster and the original Full House taking on this task too, but it’s rare to see this on TV today.

At first glance, the show looks like an animated dark comedy, but it’s a lot deeper than that. A Series of Unfortunate Events is different from other entertainment available today.

The Emmy-winning composer Jim Dooley's score is another aspect worth mentioning.  Jim also composed the music for Pushing Daisies' finale, which he co-created with Barry Sonnenfeld.

The score is constantly changing with the episode's settings. It can go from orchestral to island musics while still being driven by an underscore.  Jim talks more about the score in the interview below.

Jim Dooley at FYSEE

A Series of Unfortunate Events continued the story and ended with Season 3. Was it one of the most memorable moments you had while working on the series?

There are so many wonderful memories while working on ASOUE but one day we were in a spotting session and Barry Sonnefeld’s phone started ringing.  Barry was asked to answer the phone by the ringtone, which was an angry man.  The voice was Werner Herzog.  It was a hilarious moment for all of us.  It’s always a hoot to be around Barry!

Neil Patrick Harris played many characters on the show. Which one was your favourite?

The End's Olaf rescues Kit Snicket is my favorite scene.  I was able to play the Olaf Theme in a beautiful and positive version.

In a past interview, you mentioned that you tried some yodeling in Season 3. Could you expand on this? Did you do the yodeling yourself?

No, I didn’t do the yodeling myself.  We try to use unique colors in each book.  Slippery Slope was up against a lot of challenges. Barry giggled when I suggested yodeling during our spotting session.  It goes in if he has a good laugh!

Did the fact that A Series of Unfortunate Events is now available on Netflix, allowing you to watch it all in one sitting change your approach?

Although this can have an effect on the score, it is not as significant as you might think.  Everyone is watching the ratings when you do a traditional television show that runs week to week.  Music is the last thing to go on a show and it’s a relatively inexpensive portion of the budget.  So when the ratings start to slip on a show a lot of the time they criticize the music since it’s really the only thing you can change at that point.  Netflix requires that you commit to a show regardless of the number of viewers.  There’s no second guessing after you finish it and that allows us to focus on our job.

A Series of Unfortunate Events has a very animated feel, similar to Pushing Daisies. Never settling for less. Did you learn anything particular from each project?

Every project is an opportunity to learn.  ASOUE taught me how to use operatic themes to create a narrative for an animated series.  This was an exciting challenge and a lot of fun.

Many songs are performed by different characters in the series. Did you write any or do you contribute?

All the songs for the Volunteers at Heimlich Hospital were composed by me.  It was great fun.  I used ‘It’s A Small World’ as a template to find something that would hurt your brain if you listened to it enough.

In Penultimate Peril: Part 2 there is a scene where everyone is getting ready for court and a gong-like sound goes off on each of the character’s close-ups.  Which instrument was that used?

Paul Ottosson, our sound designer led the brilliant team.  Paul's amazing work is a credit to me.  He’s a supreme talent that makes the whole show sound amazing.

Was there any tune that you created for the series that didn’t make it in?

One tune I composed at the beginning was my favorite.  It should be long and swell when children are at risk.  It turned out to have a little too much ‘whimsy’ in it and every time I used it I had to take it out.  I’ll keep that one handy for the next one!

All three seasons of A Series of Unfortunate Events can be viewed on Netflix now.


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