Speaking of Mulan in the MOB! post below, I see that over on MovieWave, James Southall has put up a review of Jerry Goldsmith's score to that film. Southall is a decent enough writer, if you're looking for a film music review site, but in the course of reviewing every Jerry Goldsmith score in existence (in conjunction with the composer's seventy-fifth birthday two months ago) he has proven so over-the-top in love with nearly every note to emerge from the pen of Jerry Goldsmith that for me it has totally compromised the usefulness of his site. His Mulan review provides yet another example of this kind of thing, when in the course of lamenting the small amount of Goldsmith's music present on the original Disney Records CD release, Southall writes this:
"Unfortunately, the score is given scant time to prove itself on the album, with just 25 minutes of running time in addition to an orchestral suite of the song melodies; this is particularly unfortunate given that it's probably the finest score ever written for an animated movie." [Emphasis added.]
Mulan is a perfectly nice film score. Good melodies, solid 90s-era Goldsmith action music (although, frankly, 90s-era Goldsmith action music tends to all sound the same to me). But the finest score ever written for an animated film? Give me a giant, colossal break here. Just off the top of my head, I can name a bunch of animated films that boast scores that are superior to Mulan's.
Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away -- in fact, any Joe Hisaishi-scored Hayao Miyazaki film has a better score than Mulan. Among Disney movies, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Bambi and The Rescuers Down Under all boast better scores than Mulan. (To be fair, these scores are generally more integrated with their songs than Mulan is, but that is part of their strength, especially in the case of Peter Pan, which is a score of such charming complexity that its CD never fails to delight me.) Atlantis and Dinosaur both had really good James Newton Howard scores, and both are better than Mulan's.
How about the brilliant Pixar movies? Randy Newman's work on the two Toy Story films is outstanding, and Thomas Newman's score to Finding Nemo most definitely outpaces Mulan.
Among non-Disney animated films, The Prince of Egypt has an excellent score by Hans Zimmer, who actually can write good music when he's not outsourcing his own duties. Michael Kamen's score to The Iron Giant is one of the high-points of that man's career (sadly cut short last year by the Damned Grim Reaper). The much-derided Ralph Bakshi animated version of The Lord of the Rings has a score by Leonard Rosenman that is generally very highly praised by film music lovers (although, admittedly, I have never warmed to it). And then there's the great Carl Stalling: pick just about any of the many five-minute Looney Tunes cartoons for which he provided his wonderful pastiches of classical repertoire, and you'll hear music superior to what Jerry Goldsmith did for Mulan.
I've read MovieWave for years, and I knew Southall when we were both regulars on rec.music.movies. For me, he started going around the bend when he posted a rather mean-spirited review of Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, a review in which he relentlessly complains about other people liking Shore's work more than he does (at one point, calling such people "masturbatory"). And he's thrown out similar digs in more recent writings, such as his more recent review of the score to Legend, again by Goldsmith: "A more recent trilogy of film scores that go with hobbits and elves does not even approach the ambition or scope of Goldsmith's Legend." This statement is so deeply at odds with what I hear in the LOTR scores that I'm not sure the gap can even be bridged; and besides, few things irritate me more than when someone adopts the "Here I am, the Voice of Reason which you are so fortunate to have!" kind of tone.
I've mentioned before, in passing, the fetishizing of Jerry Goldsmith's music among filmscore fans. (Just go look at the FilmScoreMonthly message boards these days. One would almost think that a requirement of the shipping process for Varese Sarabande's recent limited-edition Goldsmith CD box set was that people buying it have to post a message to the FSM board upon delivery of the set.) Southall is one of the biggest, loudest voices in the Goldsmith cheering section, which is fine, but he seems to think his voice should drown out all others, which is not. Especially if he's going to take others to task for "masturbatory praise" in one review and then pronounce Mulan, a score which I think unlikely to be remembered in future years except by die-hard Disney or film music fans, "the finest score ever written for an animated film" in another.