Friday, December 13, 2013

Hoyt Curtin (1922-2000) & Battle Of The Planets Theme

"... The music of Battle Of The Planets is a significant part of the magic to the appeal of the show. The lovely sound of the harmonies composed by Hoyt Curtin and Bob Sakuma transported the children to a world of rousing adventure and uncanny excitement. When the music was compounded with the show's beautiful animation and dramatic storylines, it proved to be an exhilarating addiction. The organic tonalities of the Battle soundtrack gave it scope, and contributed to the epic storyline's romanticism."
-G-Force: Animated- The Official Battle Of The Planets Guidebook (p.60)-

Kicking off both Battle Of The Planets (1978) and Gatchaman (1972) in grand fashion was composer Hoyt Curtin and Bob Sakuma respectively.

Like any unforgettable theme song that does its job and does it right, these themes set the tone for their respective series. Hoyt Curtin (1922-2000) stepped up and in big with his complement to the series for Battle Of The Planets. There isn't a phoned in note to be heard. It's big, bold and memorably brilliant.

The theme song to the series was as powerful, exhilarating and heroically uplifting as they come. The theme itself also speaks volumes about Battle Of The Planets in that the theme actually matched the staying power and original strength of its Japanese counterpart by Sakuma. The Gatchaman theme song, by then young composer Bob Sakuma, was indeed impressive and, equally so, has easily stood the test of time when it comes to theme song classics in its own right. Sakuma relied heavily on horns whereby Curtin turned to synthesizers for a more futuristic appeal. Synthesizers can sometimes prove fatal or date the material wildly, but Curtin managed to walk the line and his theme for Battle Of The Planets holds up remarkably well.

In fact, in designing the theme, Curtin listened to much of the music from Gatchaman before composing his own score which is an approach not always taken. But Curtin was concerned with paying deference to the score of the original composer and wanted to infuse the re-edited Gatchaman series transformed for Battle Of The Planets with compositions that married well to the original Sakuma scoring.

Sandy Frank was also fortunate to land the talents of Curtin who was contracted with Hannah-Barbera producing a long run of terrific theme music to shows like my favorite Jonny Quest (1964-1965) as well as Josie And The Pussycats, Superfriends and other childhood notables like The Flinstones, Top Cat and The Jetsons.

Fortunately for Battle Of The Planets the talent culled for the series resulted in equally stunning music in all its theme song glory establishing a simple narrative setting up the series while also delivering a magnificent theme composition. In the vein of The Incredible Hulk theme opener the narration works for this series too.

For those who enjoy waxing nostalgic here are the few lyrics to the 90 second theme song.

"Battle Of The Planets. G-Force. Five incredible young people with super powers. And watching over them from Center Neptune, 7-Zark-7. Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space. G-Force. Fearless young orphans protecting Earth's entire galaxy. Always five acting as one. Dedicated. Inseparable. Invincible."

And after the initial episode the opening was modified to a new narration as follows:

"Battle Of The Planets. G-Force. Princess. Tiny. Keyop. Mark. Jason. And watching over them from Center Neptune, their computerized coordinator 7-Zark-7. Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies from beyond space. G-Force. Fearless young orphans protecting Earth's entire galaxy. Always five acting as one. Dedicated. Inseparable. Invincible."

As both a fan of Gatchaman and Battle Of The Planets I'm not sure which theme I enjoy more. The fact that I find both to be equally strong speaks to the quality of effort that went into both series. Each theme song sets the tone for the kind of quality production that went into these respective series.

To compare for yourself first listen to the theme for Gatchaman.

And now the theme to kick off the series Battle Of The Planets.  It's also worth noting that the screen scroll doesn't actually get established until Episode 3, The Space Mummy. Before that the logo didn't scroll in Episode 2 and in Episode 1, the logo is altogether different in font.


Roman J. Martel said...

Nice job showcasing the music for this show. Like I mentioned in my lengthy comment, this theme song just stuck with me for many many years. And I wasn't the only one. :)

But as you mention the rest of the score was very fitting to the show (the few full episodes I've seen). Very inspired by John Williams' scores, but that is to be expected.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks Roman and your point about Williams' influence seems entirely fair.