Behind the Music: Interviewing Muppet Babies music duo


2018 has seen the revival of an old Muppets spinoff, Muppet Babies, which premiered this past March. Now, we have the music duo of Andy Bean and Keith Horn here to talk about their experiences in composing music for the Disney Junior show!

Behind the Music is an ongoing series that seeks to interview and gain an introspective on both established and up-and-coming composers. These composers, who have worked for everything from television to film to commercials, share their experiences, work ethic, and more, here on Hidden Remote. For this edition, we interview the composer/songwriting duo, Andy Bean and Keith Horn, who help create the music for the Disney Junior show, Muppet Babies.

The popularity of the characters known as The Muppets should not have to be explained. Their influence on family-friendly comedy that appeals to children and adults is undeniable. Blending self-aware humor with enough friendliness to appeal to children, The Muppets have become a staple in the vast land of the entertainment industry. Being as big as they are, it’s understandable that various spin-offs based on different concepts for them have come to fruition, one of the most popular of them being the 1984 spin-off, Muppet Babies.

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The show focused on the beloved characters as children living in a nursery. It blended fantasy and reality, making for endless possibilities for the show to tackle. Now that same concept has been updated for 2018, as a reboot has premiered this year.

The reboot, much like the original and keeping with the spirit of the characters, relies heavily on music to help drive its narrative and tone forward. For this recent incarnation, the team of Andy Bean and Keith Horn have taken the task of composing music fitting in with the show. The duo shared their humble beginnings, their songwriting process on the show, and more with the next edition in this series exclusively with Hidden Remote!

Hidden Remote: To get this started out, I will pry a little bit into your humble beginnings, if that’s okay! When did you two first start devoting yourselves to music?

Keith Horn: Totally okay! I would say around 12 years old. By then I had realized that music was something that came easy for me and I loved everything about it. I learned piano and guitar by ear but learned how to read and write music properly in school.

The Muppets. Photo: ABC
The Muppets. Photo: ABC /

Andy Bean: I played guitar in bands in high school and college but didn’t really devote myself to music fully until after I’d finished graduate school (in Mathematics of all things).  It was then that a buddy of mine and I started a retro-y street-performing swing duo and made a full-time run of it. We played marathon sessions in NYC’s parks and subways for few years before taking the act on the road for the better part of a decade.

HR: What would you say were your influences that have affected you the most as you’ve developed your own styles?

KH: My influences changed as I changed. As a kid I wanted to become a guitar shredder and was influenced by Steve Vai and Eddie Van Halen. By the time I was a composer in college I was influenced by Stravinsky and Frank Zappa. Once I chose film music as a direction I was influenced by John Williams, Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, Bruce Broughton, Joel McNeely, and countless others.

AB: Yeah, lots for me, too.  Roger Miller, Randy Newman, Allen Toussaint and lots of 20s and 30s tin pan alley songwriters like Hoagy Carmichael are probably the biggest influences on how I’m writing songs these days.  

Miss Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo in The Muppets. Photo: ABC
Miss Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo in The Muppets. Photo: ABC /

HR: Since you have developed careers in the music industry, have you developed any favorite sounds or songwriting styles over the years?

KH: I’m definitely partial to writing orchestral music. But I love writing riff rock and metal when the opportunity arises (once a metalhead, always a metalhead).

AB: One of the fun things about writing songs for this show is that we get to tackle so many different genres – showtunes, muppet-y ballads, hair metal, disco, western, 80s dance music, all sorts of stuff.  I love doing ‘em all.

HR: Onto The Muppet Babies, the television series reboot of the original 1984 version with the mini-versions of the Muppets. How did you first get involved with creating music for the series?

AB: Disney TV does blind auditions for songwriters on a lot of their shows.  Meaning a bunch of songwriters submit demos based on a brief scene description and the execs on the show listen to them without knowing who wrote what.  Because I’ve done a few shows for Disney, I was invited to submit and they picked my demo!

KH: Pretty simple! I was contacted by Andy to partner with him on the show.

HR: Would you say that you were always fans of the music from The Muppets, as well as the rest of the show, or is that a recently developed interest?

KH: I was always a fan of the Muppets in general, including the music. Some of my earliest memories were singing “Manah Manah” and “Rainbow Connection” in the early eighties.

AB: Like most kids who grew up in the 80s, the Muppets were definitely a presence in my life.  I’d say I was always somewhat aware of the music from the Muppet world but didn’t really dig deep into the whole catalog until I started working in music for animation 5 or 6 years ago.  But once I got into it, man, I really loved all of it.

HR: The music of the show certainly feels modern, but the nostalgia is strong with the tracks on the Muppet Babies soundtrack. How did you go about in creating music that both paid homage to the original, while having its own flavor?

AB: The feel of the songs happened pretty naturally.  Like with a lot of the music from the muppet world, my songwriting and production styles skew a little retro, even when I’m working in a more contemporary genre.  When I started writing songs for the show, they all just came out sounding appropriately Muppet-y to me and the crew. So, we ran with it without dissecting the process too much.

KH: I defer to Andy.

HR: Since the show is about the Muppets as their younger selves, the intended appeal for an audience of children is there. But while checking out the songs on the soundtrack, there’s an air of slickness that feels mature and old-school. The segment, ‘Sir Kermit the Brave’, for example, plays up the mystery of what the Muppets are investigating in the closet of their daycare. What do you intend for audiences to feel when listening to the music of the show?

KH: I intend for the audience to feel exactly what the characters are feeling. That episode deals with Kermit’s fear of the dark and learning how to face that fear. The MBs are at times nervous, terrified, lonely, lost, but in the end, they use their imaginations and friendship to resolve these feelings.

AB: Some of the songs in the show happen when the kids are having a sweet, poignant friendship moment.  So I try to hit those moments as best I can with an appropriately sweet and sincere song. But my overall goal is for the song sequences is for them to be fun, joyous, and a little goofy; like the Muppets themselves.

HR: The creation of the music is very clearly a team effort between the two of you. What is the music creation process like with the two of you on the show?

KH: Andy takes care of all the songs on the show and I do the underscore. We collaborated in the beginning of the show to establish a sound that coheres between those two elements. Andy incorporates the orchestra into his songs and I incorporate some of his sound into my orchestral template by adding drums, guitars, banjo, electric bass, etc.

AB: Yup, our respective busy seasons on the show happen at different times, too.  I write all the songs when the scripts are being written, and start producing the final mixes soon after we record the characters.  By the time Keith starts scoring to final footage 6 to 9 months later, most of the song work is done.

HR: Have you both collaborated on previous projects before or is this the first time?

KH: This is our first time working together.

AB: What he said!

HR: Short, simple and to the point! I like it! Before we end this, I’d like to ask a couple of more personal questions. The passion for the music business shows in the music for Muppet Babies. Would you consider working on the show again for future seasons?

KH: Of course! I love working on this show. It’s a blast.

AB: Yup!

HR: Are there any projects, such as potential television shows or filmmaker collaborations, that you would consider doing in the future, should the opportunity arise?

KH: I feel well suited for animation so anything animated, whether it be TV, film, games, or shorts, is right up my alley. You have to be able to cover every style or genre so it lends itself to a lot of variety. I get the pleasure of being a hundred different composers in one season of animation so there is never a dull moment. Having said that, I wouldn’t be mad at a Star Wars project!

AB: Are you asking if we’d ever like to work again, or if we’re retiring after Muppet Babies?  (Just kidding) Yup!  I’d definitely like to make more music, for animation especially.  Figuring out the sound and musical universe for a new project is one of my favorite parts of this job.

HR: Why should audiences and readers check out Muppet Babies on Disney Junior? There’s plenty of children’s shows out there. What makes Muppet Babies stand out?

KH: What makes Muppet Babies stand out for me is its heart. It’s such a sweet show and does a great job at showing kids how to value their friendships and use their imaginations. It’s not meant just to entertain, it’s meant to teach and uplift.

AB: Also, unlike any other shows for kids out there, Muppet Babies has muppets in it.  

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HR: Indeed, that’s true! Lastly, do you have any advice for people attempting to break into the music industry?

KH: First, move to LA and stick around a while. It takes time to get established. If you want to compose for TV animation specifically you have to have a deep knowledge of the language of music, starting with theory, ear training and piano skills. Knowing the technology is crucial but it’s pointless without an understanding of the language of music. Also, you need to understand storytelling and how music can support that. Another important thing is to leave your ego at the door. It’s not just about you and your art when you work in television and film. You are part of a huge collaborative team and you have to be a team player.

AB: On top of what Keith said, my advice is to write music all the time.  Songs, instrumental stuff, anything. It’s good to have as much music under your belt as you can, so you’re ready when an opportunity comes up.

Muppet Babies is airing now on Disney Junior!