Composer Daniel Rojas discusses the music of Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts

Photo: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.. Image Courtesy Netflix
Photo: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.. Image Courtesy Netflix /

Composer Daniel Rojas discusses the music and original songs that he wrote for Netflix’s latest animated series Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts.

In case you haven’t heard of it, let me be the first to tell you about the wonderful new animated series Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts that premiered on Netflix on Jan. 14, 2020. Consisting of 10 episodes, the series is set in a dystopian future where civilization has been forced underground to escape the rough wasteland that had taken over the Earth.

Thirteen-year-old Kipo Oak (voiced by Karen Fukuhara) finds herself stranded on the surface world after getting trapped in some water pipes that forced her upwards. On her journey, she runs into sentient mutant animals who rule the land and a pack of new friends who agree to help her find her way home again.

The series is composed by Daniel Rojas, who not only scored the show but also wrote some original songs for it as well. Rojas has written scores, and songs, for a variety of projects, including films, TV shows, and video-games. You can listen to the Season 1 Mixtape on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. Read our interview with Rojas below.

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Hidden Remote: What was it about Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts that attracted you?

Daniel Rojas: It’s honestly one of the most fun briefs I’ve ever received. They didn’t give me a lot of info about the show, but the type of music and the wild variety of genres they were looking for made it extremely intriguing. I’ve always been interested in all kinds of music but it’s rare to find a project that allows you to explore so many at once. I knew I had to be part of it.

HR: I know you’re not the series creator, but what can you tell me about the concept behind Kipo. I know it’s based off a webcomic by series creator Radford Sechrist, but do you know anything about how it came to be?

DR: I know Rad started his comic online and I believe that an executive at Dreamworks saw it and really liked it, so they reached out to Rad. He happened to work at Dreamworks already and was a story artist on several of their feature films, so they had a meeting and the idea for the show was born.

HR: This series is incredibly unique. It takes themes that could easily be dark and twists them around in humorous ways. What was creating the music for such a series like?

DR: It was super fun! The music had to play a big part in lightening up areas that otherwise could feel dark or scary. A lot of action sequences where their lives might be in danger are accompanied by fun hip-hop tracks or trap beats that make it funny and light-hearted.

I think that marriage between scary sequences and fun hard-hitting beats is something that became essential to the show, and it was a lot of fun experimenting with different genres to see what fits best in an unexpected way.

Photo: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.. Image Courtesy DreamWorks Animation, Netflix
Photo: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.. Image Courtesy DreamWorks Animation, Netflix /

HR: The music in Kipo reminded me a great deal of the music in Avatar: The Last Airbender, in that it contained a mixture of different cultures and tribal music. Is this meant to represent the chaotic, coalesced wildness that’s taken hold of the upper world?

DR: In a way, it does for sure. One of the ideas behind it was that everything in this future has mixed and barriers no longer exist. We wanted the music to be highly varied and stay away from clichés by pairing styles that normally wouldn’t go together – much in the way the show presents characters.

HR: The base of the music is very pop-centered but as I said, there are traces of other genres mixed in. How did you blend them together?

DR: Right, we have a lot of hip-hop, trap, folk, EDM, rock, and even some more “classical” music for Scarlemagne. I feel in a way that the large variety of genres became the essence of the sound, and establishing that early on allowed me to go in many directions without it feeling off. I kept some sounds cohesive throughout to help blend it together.

I also treated the orchestra as one more element instead of making it the main. I knew I needed strings and brass as a tool for the more emotional and epic moments, but I tried to always treat it as one more part of the track, and think more as a producer than a traditional composer. Instead of adding a few beat elements to an orchestral arrangement, I tried to build tracks and add orchestral parts to it whenever I could.

HR: How did each character inspire you while composing? Was there any theme or character or genre of music that inspired you the most?

DR: The world of Kipo is extremely rich in character design and largely based on Los Angeles subcultures and street life, so I tried to draw things from their clothing, mannerisms and overall style. That’s why we ended up with a lot of urban influence.

I personally like Wolf a lot, she’s one of my favorite characters and I wanted to make her music feel bada**. I built her sound around big tribal drums and dark synths. Not childish but still fun, something you could dance to. Rad described her to me as a young version of Mad Max – which was pretty fitting.

Photo Courtesy Daniel Rojas
Photo Courtesy Daniel Rojas /

HR: Aside from scoring the series, you had to write some original songs. What was this process like? Was this the first time you wrote an original song?

DR: It wasn’t the first time, but it is the first time that I have gotten the opportunity to do it on this scale. I’ve been writing songs for as long as I’ve been scoring, I just never had the chance to do it on the same project before and on my own. The way we did it was I mostly wrote the original songs to storyboards before animation and then we did all the score afterward (to the animation).

HR: If Kipo gets a Season 2 will you remain the composer? I hope so because I absolutely loved what you created for Season 1.

DR: Thank you! I sure hope so as well. We will see!

HR: Do you have any upcoming projects that you can discuss right now?

DR: I am on a new project but I can’t disclose it at this point. I’m happy to update you as soon as I can share the news though! Sorry, I know that’s a lame answer but you know how this is.

Photo: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.. Image Courtesy Netflix
Photo: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts.. Image Courtesy Netflix /

HR: And last, just out of curiosity, what’s your dream project? What kind of series or film would you lunge at the chance to work on?

DR: I love futuristic sci-fi movies grounded in reality… things like Inception, Children of Men, Gravity, or Arrival. I’d love to score a film like that one day. But I also have a soft spot for animation, and I’d love to do something like Kipo again where I get to mix songs with the score. It’s really dynamic and fun, which is the main reason I love what I do. Animation allows you to be creative and experimental!

Next. Altered Carbon Season 2 and more coming to Netflix in February 2020. dark

Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.