[Exclusive Interview] Jon Chau on Scoring for Baby Shark's Big Movie

Ciera Reeves
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Interview with Jon Chau on Baby Shark's Big Movie
 


Inspired by Pinkfong's “Baby Shark” video with over 13 Billion views on YouTube (making it the most viewed video on the internet in 2022), Baby Shark’s Big Movie follows Baby Shark and his family as they leave their home to relocate to the huge metropolis of Chomp City, The family-friendly movie features the vocal talents of Cardi B, Ashley Tisdale, Luke Youngblood, and the titular character played by Kimiko Glen. The movie was released on Nickelodeon and Paramount+ on December 8, 2023. 




The multi-talented, self-taught producer and composer Jon Chau, was the lead composer for Baby Shark’s Big Movie. In his creation of the score, Jon explored themes and melodies for various characters and cinematic moments. Viewers of the film will be able to recognize the iconic melody which Baby Shark is known for, yet hear it reinterpreted in new ways to express the dynamics of the film. KpopWise had the pleasant opportunity to sit down with Jon to learn about the creative process while working on the soundtrack for the film. 


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Baby Shark’s Big Movie has premiered on Paramount+ congratulations!

 

Thank you! I’m really excited for people to see it and be so surprised by how much heart there is. There is really something for the entire family or anyone to enjoy like, if they are a fan of the pop stars featured in the film.

 

You play multiple instruments from the guitar to the violin. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in music composition and soundtracks?

 

Thank you for checking out my music. I started playing music at a young age, I started with piano, and violin and I love music and film. The first film I remember being obsessed with is The Land Before Time. I used to watch that movie and listen to the soundtrack on loop. I became fascinated at how powerful music in film can be. I could listen to the soundtrack and be transported back to these emotional scenes or magical landscapes, early on I became captivated by that. As time went on, I was always writing music, and performing at a young age. I started creating content for YouTube back when YouTube was first created.

 

I went to school for music and that’s when I really started to look at the possibility of film scoring. Everything clicked when I started film scoring and collaborating with film makers. That’s when I really understood I love to help someone tell a story and how much I love to build this sonic landscape or worlds. So, I really started to fall in love with it. 

 

In the industry, I got started working for Bear McCreary, the renowned television composer. I got the opportunity to work on shows and films like The Walking DeadTen Cloverfield LaneBlack SailsAgents of S.H.I.E.LD, all of these amazing projects. Being mentored compositionally by him was incredible and invaluable, but also learning how to function in the industry, how to work with a client, and just be passionate out there. 


I really pushed myself to stay well-rounded and continue creating my own music. I love hip-hop and making beats. I’m always trying to find ways to combine cinematic soundscapes and hip-hop beats into ways many haven’t heard before. 

 

I usually hire people to perform for me when I record scores, but I always try to improve myself when learning instruments. I think it is fun and keeps me on my toes creatively and helps keeps my passion alive. 

 

Baby Shark’s Big Movie was my first credit as a lead composer on a feature film and I love animation. I love writing for children’s content. I think these stories are really special. Just being able to reach that age group is really fulfilling. 

 

How does it feel to have scored a feature length film?

 

I’m so grateful, so honored, especially for an internationally known franchise such as Baby Shark. That song may be one of the most recognizable songs in the world. It is such an honor to be able to create a musical background for this entire world and harness something people already have a connection with. The entire process was really a dream gig. Our director Alan Foreman and our writer Whitney Ralls were just amazing during the entire process and were amazing leaders and communicators. They let me put my style in it but also knew what they wanted. It was a smooth and rewarding collaboration. 

 

What was your creative process like when composing music for a children's movie? Did you approach it differently than other projects?

 

The styles are so different, but in the end, it always comes down to the story, what the story needs and where the director’s vision is. So that’s where I start. Speaking with the director and anyone creatively involved as in, what are our intentions here? What do we want people to feel? What is this world that we’re trying to build? It’s whatever serves that story. Baby Shark was interesting and different for me. We had to align sometimes on how far we wanted to take the emotions for young children. We didn’t want to scare them too much, but we did want to have that dramatic impact of a villain or an intense scene. We want them to feel the emotion of a sadder moment, but we don’t want them to be too sad. So that balance was a little different than what I’m used too from Horror or Sci-fi, where it’s lets make people feel as intensely as possible. I think there is a lot of duty that comes with the restraint, and I’m really pleased with the final product that we collaborated on and came to together.

 

What’s fun about Baby Shark is that we’re able to jump between styles and genres so quickly. It’s kind of like how I enjoy music as well; I can be a little eclectic and have a bit of a short attention span sometimes, because I enjoy so many styles of music. So, it was a joy to be able to write in that way.

 

What kind of musical instruments, software, or techniques did you use in the creation of the soundtrack?

 

The main palate was using a full orchestra. I was so fortunate to be able to record a full orchestra for this. We recorded the Budapest Scoring Orchestra. Early on, when speaking with our director Alan Foreman, we knew we want to create a score that is larger than life and huge cinematic and dramatic to really help the audience know we’re not in the T.V show any more. The film takes us to locations and emotions that are bigger than what we see in the show, so we need the music to reflect that. A full orchestra was such an effective way to do that. It was so fun to write for that many instruments.

 

I recorded a lot of instruments on my own here in my studio. I recorded the ukulele, acoustic guitar, electric bass, and bongos, because there were a lot of moments where we needed some more intimate heart-felt emotions, so that was a lot of fun to be able to create that on my own. Something more unique for this score, In San Francisco there is something called The Wave Organ, it is this structure PVC pipes built off the pier, that go into the ocean and waves hit the pipe to create an interesting texture of noise. Before I started writing, I recorded the sound of the wave organ and I made that into one of the signature sounds you hear in the film.

 

Without spoiling the film, the villain of the film, Stariana mesmerizes different characters using the powers of the siren stone. The sounds I created from The Wave Organ is spooky, mystical, and a little alluring. That unique sound was perfect for this theme, you’ll hear it throughout the film. 

 

What was the overall vision or theme you aimed to capture in the soundtrack?

 

I knew right away that I wanted to use the Baby shark song we all know and love as much as possible, but reimaged in ways people haven’t heard before. There are emotional themes throughout the film, like anytime baby shark is learning valuable lessons about friendship, growing up, life there is an emotional theme that is based off the baby shark melody, but it grows and evolves in a way we haven’t heard before. I think there is something so powerful about a song that people already know, whether they know it or not they have an emotional connection to the song. I really wanted to harness that, I think that is so powerful to do that I wanted to use the song in a larger-than-life way in a breath taking and huge soundscape. 


 


Were there any particular musical elements or styles you intentionally included to connect with the target audience?

 

The classic rhythm of the doo doo, doo doo, doo doo sound, I really tried to fit that in, in fun ways whether it be more subtle, sometimes not, just a way for anyone watching to have that ah-ha moment when they recognize that rhythm. I mentioned that I recorded some instruments myself such as the ukelele etc. I really wanted to help those watching to connect to those heart-felt moments where there are lessons being learned. I really wanted to help those emotional beats as much as possible in a way kids could easily understand. 

 

Were there any memorable moments or challenges in the collaboration process?

 

One of my favorite scenes to score is a moment where Baby Shark is going on a mission. Kimiko Glenn, the amazing voice actress for Baby Shark, in the scene, she is humming a little melody to herself, while Baby Shark is running around. That was recorded first before I came in to write the music. When I started writing for it, when speaking to the director, if possible, we knew we wanted to base the score around the actress Kimiko Glenn humming in the film. It ended up becoming one of the biggest moments in the film. There’s a lot of music happening in the scene fun, lively, and intense, it was all written around this intense humming that the voice actress had come up with on the spoke while she was recording. It was a special moment how it was able to come together that way.

 

Do you have a favorite track from the Baby Shark's Big Movie soundtrack? What makes it special to you?

 

There is a moment in the film when the first enter Chomp City. When they first enter Chomp City, there is this breath-taking and beautifully animated moment, that suddenly the world of Baby Shark is opening up in a way that Baby Shark and the audience hadn’t seen before. That was where I was really able to stretch my composting chops and just write something grand and beautiful. It’s one of the first scenes I wrote, I knew right away, this is the scene right here, this is a special one. That was definitely one of my babies, that scene. 

 

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to become a composer?

 

Remember to stay passionate about what you’re doing and find the space to stay creative. Just really love what you’re doing and that will help you push through and to work hard. Find people to work with, who you really get along with on a human level, that’s really important. 

 

What is some advice that would help you personally? 

 

That is something I think about a lot. I think defining balance in my own terms is really important for being happy and successful. Decide how much you’re willing to sacrifice to be able to enjoy your career and be happy with what you’re doing, and I think it’s important to understand your own boundaries as well so that you can stay focused passion and keep your energy long term which is one of the best ways to stay successful. Be self-aware of how to keep yourself inspired and enjoy what you do. 

 

Are there any upcoming projects without spoiling too much? 

 

Right now, its Baby Shark for me, right now I’m focusing on creating some behind-the-scenes content breaking down things we were talking about like, like breaking down the instruments I used, what my writing process looked like, I love his project so much, I’m so passionate about what we created, so I’m excited to share a little more about this process and hopefully in the way people enjoy.

 

Are there any genres you'd like to explore in your future work?

 

K-pop, I haven’t done too much K-pop. I really enjoy K-pop, but it’s not something I produce so much on my own. K-pop in a way is a fusion of many genres that I do enjoy, and I do enjoy jumping from style to style quickly, like K-pop likes to do. Hopefully, I do get to do some more work in that area. I also really enjoy a lot of these groups like Enhypen, there’s almost like a cinematic lore to their writing and to their image that they put out there and I really enjoy that. I think there is room for a lot of unique storytelling and collaboration there.



Follow Jon Chau 


https://iamjonchau.com


YouTube | Instagram | Spotify | TikTok

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