‘Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts:’ Interview of composer Daniel Rojas

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts . Image courtesy Netflix
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts . Image courtesy Netflix /

Show Snob’s interview with Daniel Rojas, musician, and composer for DreamWorks Animation/Netflix series Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts!

With all three seasons currently available on Netflix, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is an action-adventure fantasy story that’s easy to binge. In addition to featuring the voices of The Boys‘  Karen Fukuhara, it has a musical side, thanks to composer Daniel Rojas.  Here are 8 questions we asked the composer about the series and his work.

Show Snob: You have composed music for non-musical projects, but Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is more like a musical at times.  What unique considerations go into creating a musical scene in an animated series?

Daniel Rojas:  This was actually my first show with “musical” moments. I have produced songs for a long time but had never before written songs that would be performed by the characters on screen. The main difference I think is that when writing those on-screen songs, I had to work very closely with the script-writers.

All of them are co-written with the writing staff because they were part of the script. We did them even before the storyboards so that the artists could board to the songs. Other songs that aren’t sung on-screen like “Don’t Stop Now” or “Fight The War” were done much later, after animation.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts composer Daniel Rojas. Image courtesy  Amanda Sayeg /

Show Snob: Silence is often considered an important aspect of music, including for film and tv scores.  How do you decide when to relent or when to make things raucous?

Daniel Rojas: Totally. Silence is super important! In animation, there’s a ton of music but the timing of silence is crucial to the comedy and dynamics in general. To determine where and when to have music I had a spotting session with Rad and the rest of the music team.

We watched the episodes with no music at all, which allowed us to talk about creative choices and what sections to leave dry (without music). In general, I think playing the jokes dry or cutting the music abruptly right before a punchline helps a lot. Or giving a little bit of silence right before a big cue also helps give that music more space to grow and make an impact.

Show Snob: Are there any genres that would be a challenge to implement (such as heavy metal-style music)?

Daniel Rojas: We did all kinds of things in Kipo, which was really fun and pushed my boundaries in the best way. But in general, I think the only real barrier we had was that the show had to stay family-friendly at all times, which is quite a challenge lyrically when you’re implementing so much hip-hop and rap-influenced music. Something like death-metal would have been hard too I think because of the violent connotations of that type of music… although I did include metal elements for the snakes, but nothing crazy heavy of course.

Show Snob: You have played or recorded with artists such as Bryan Adams and Jason Mraz, and composers like Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt and Alan Menken.  Did any of these artists teach you anything in particular that you now use in your everyday work?

Daniel Rojas: Before composing full-time I did a lot of session work as a guitarist here in LA, which is when I had the chance to record or perform with all these great musicians. I learned a ton from that time because I got to see how people at the top of their game work, and take note for later on when I’ve gotten to be on the other side of the glass.

Klaus once told me that when you’re scoring an important scene, the melody is visual and the music should accompany that, taking visual cues as your lead and simply respond to it. That’s something that stuck with me and I try to keep in mind when scoring important scenes, especially with plot points.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts season 3 mixtape album. Image courtesy Back Lot Records
Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts season 3 mixtape album. Image courtesy Back Lot Records /

Show Snob: Thematically, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts deals with certain monsters, warlords and neighboring post-apocalyptic fiefdoms, as well as destroyed ruins, an underground city and mutants.  Certain moments remind me of the Duke of New York from Escape From New York. What are your thoughts on these classic sci-fi elements?

Daniel Rojas: I love sci-fi films! I’m a film junkie in general so I love every opportunity to implement or hint at something classic. Kipo gave me a lot of place for that, starting with the very first scene on the pilot when Kipo looks up to the fallen buildings and it’s all very apocalyptic – the music is synth-heavy with sounds similar to Blade Runner or films like that. The Deathstalkers also have sounds inspired by John Carpenter’s movies, which was an idea James Cartwright (one of our music supervisors) had that I thought was great and very fitting.

Show Snob: Kipo starts off as an underdog character.  To what extent did her attitude influence the music in the series?

Daniel Rojas: Quite a lot! I knew the whole story all along, at least from the rough scripts. So from the very beginning, I’m teasing themes and sounds that we get later. Kipo herself doesn’t have a specific theme because she appears so much that I think it would have been very tiring, and Rad agreed. But that allowed us to keep her always changing musically as her character evolves. It basically starts sparse and light, and keeps getting more and more epic as she gets stronger.

Show Snob: Aside from Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, what are your favorite TV shows and/or movies?

Daniel Rojas: So many out there… but I would say Jurassic Park and Inception are some of my favorite movies. And I was a giant Game of Thrones fan up until season 7.

Show Snob: Are you working on any new projects?

Daniel Rojas: Yes… I have a couple, but the one I can finally mention is Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. which is a stop-motion animated show for Hulu created by Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum, based on the original comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s really funny and looks fantastic, I can’t wait for it to come out. It’s rated R though, so very different to Kipo in that respect! It’ll come out early next year I think.

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What are your thoughts on Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts?  Let us know in the comments!