The attraction Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast puts Guests at the very heart of an incredible battle to save the galaxy of toys from the Evil Emperor Zurg. In this immersive and interactive adventure, music plays a key role to take new recruits to the heart of this epic battle.
To compose the original soundtrack of this iconic attraction at Discoveryland, Imagineers called upon the services of a musician who is used to composing music for Disney Parks – George Wilkins. Succeeding the pioneer Buddy Baker – who arranged and composed some of the very first songs that could be heard at Disneyland – he made himself known thanks to the music he created for several pavilions and attractions at Epcot in Florida, including Horizons, The Land and The Living Seas. He also composed music for Roger Rabbit’s and Car Toon Spin at Disneyland and several original attractions at Disney California Adventure.
Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast’s soundtrack was initially composed for the Japanese version of the attraction, at Tokyo Disneyland, while making it sound very much like a movie score.
The musical score is based on the melodies of two songs written by Randy Newman for the Toy Story movie – the iconic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and “Strange Things”, which make it possible to link the attraction to the Disney Pixar franchise that inspired it, by offering a trip down memory lane for our Guests. Thus, although Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast’s soundtrack is completely instrumental, Space Rangers who are familiar with these movies can still hear echoes of the original lyrics of these songs – which perfectly fit into this new adventure. “Strange Things”, which can be heard as soon as people get into the line, give them an idea of the “strange things” they will discover during their journey, whether it comes to Zurg’s robots (by using the song’s chorus), or the creatures of Planet Z (by using the verse this time). As for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” – which is played at the end of the ride – it naturally celebrates the cooperation between Buzz, the Aliens and new recruits that made it possible to defeat the Evil Emperor.
George Wilkins’s challenge was to adapt these famous melodies to the attraction’s specific story. For the original movie’s songs, Randy Newman had planned to use a jazzy/New Orleans and rock style, which was perfectly in line with the spirit of Buzz and Woody’s first adventures. But as part of our laser battle, they had to be arranged in a completely different way – at a crossroads between a sci-fi movie and a video game.
To do so, George Wilkins opted for a combination between live instruments and electronic sound samples. In this unusual orchestra, strings are played on a synthesizer, while brass sounds combine synth sounds, as played on a keyboard by the composer, with acoustic piccolo trumpet. For the waiting line, the song “Strange Things” was turned into a dramatic and catchy space march, as strengthened by the use of a snare drum, played by none other than Don Williams, a renowned percussionist and brother of the famous composer John Williams. With regard to the song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, it has been composed for this attraction in a version inspired by “marching bands” and other military brass bands so as to celebrate the victory of Star Command over Zurg and his evil agents. Besides, to add a touch of humor that is typical in these movies, the composer included theremin sounds. This instrument was very popular in sci-fi B movies in the ‘50s and ’60s, which brings a very enjoyable “vintage” aspect to our battle against Zurg’s robots, in the first part of the attraction.
To create his arrangements, George Wilkins also wanted to take into account the attraction’s sound effects, and in particular the lasers’ high-pitched sounds. Consequently, he opted for lower frequency sounds not to interfere with the Guests’ shot sounds and therefore, to preserve the audio clarity. In addition, in order be transported from one world to another in the most natural way possible, all musical sections were written using complementary keys and tempos. Fulfilling Buddy Baker’s legacy, it was important for the composer that the music remain “transparent” – that it contribute to the development of the storyline, that it trigger emotions, without it being the center of attention so that nothing can affect the Rangers’ focus during their mission, and they can therefore achieve their best scores!
Now that Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast’s soundtrack holds no more secrets for you, you are ready to embark on a new adventure. “Battle stations! Report to the Flight Deck for immediate launch
To infinity and beyond!”