Music has always been instrumental in displaying emotions and tone in art, and it is no different for cartoons. The Queen’s Cartoonists pull from over 100 years of animation around the world and seamlessly bring these animated films to life through their performances. The project matches the energy of the cartoons through calm or chaotic tones. The band recreates original soundtracks and writes their own original compositions to enhance two iconic American art forms: jazz music and classic animation. Newberry Opera House conducted an exclusive interview with the composer and pianist of The Queen’s Cartoonists, Joel Pierson, to give a better insight into what the project is all about.
The Queen’s Cartoonists Project originated through discovering ideas for expressing music. Pierson states, “I was looking for a way to expose new audiences to Jazz and Classical music without alienating the older, more traditional concert-going crowd. I noticed one day that there was some overlap between the Golden Age of Animation and the Golden Age of Jazz, and the project was formed.” This idea eventually manifested into something more refined, The Queen’s Cartoonists group. Joel elaborates on this inspiration by stating, “As I thought about the cross-section of these two American art forms more, I became convinced that I could perform a multimedia, theatrical concert combining Jazz and classical animated films.”
The primary choice of animation that inspired Joel and the other members of the project has a greater layer to it that allows it to resonate with audiences. Joels explains, “We focus on classic characters in the public domain and contemporary films that might be unknown to an audience but are engaging and beautiful.” Characters used in the public domain are often attached to people’s memories and nostalgia which gives the group a deeper element to their performances.
Joel Pierson’s background played a substantial role in the creation of The Queen’s Cartoonist Project. Pierson says, “I started my musical training in Classical piano, but moved onto Jazz, and eventually into composition. The project hits on all three points. I have also always been a professional musician and an amateur cartoon lover. The project is a great way to express both passions to a wider audience.”
The group does face challenges with their performances, especially when incorporating two different art forms together seamlessly. Joel explains, “The pieces we play are highly synchronized to the films. We achieve this with a click track that only the drummer and I can hear. You will notice that we have earpieces, and the other members follow our lead. This is to ensure that the tempo of the music stays in sync with the animation being portrayed.” Integrating animation and music requires a delicate balance of both visual and auditory aspects to create a cohesive and entertaining experience. Pierson’s way of balancing this is by “planning the films accordingly.” He states, “I think of our concerts as almost a piece of theater and try to lead the audience through a series of emotions.”
Joel and the other members of the group have a creative process for creating their performances. “Every piece we perform has a different set of problems and solutions,” Joel states. “For example, sometimes we want to recreate a film score note-for-note—in that case, I am basically not composing at all, but simply adapting the music for this ensemble. However, sometimes I decide to completely rewrite the music from scratch. Oftentimes, there is a balance of both.”
Audience experiences and reactions are important for the group, especially from how they respond. Pierson explains, “Audiences who don’t know us are always surprised at what the concert is. It’s an unusual combination of music, film, comedy, and clowning…where else are you going to see that?! Some audience members like the old films with the well-known characters, but many people comment that they were surprised at how much they liked the contemporary pieces.”
The project’s music has a certain goal in mind when conducting their music for audiences. “Our goal is for an audience member to leave their problems at the door, and to be constantly surprised by what they will see on stage,” says Pierson.
The project shows no signs of slowing down. The Queen’s Cartoonists discussed their plans and visions for the coming years. Pierson explains, “We just released our first studio album, “Mozart’s Jazz Requiem.” We would like to collaborate with more living animations around the world, and even some animation studios. We are well on our way, so expect exciting things!”
Do not miss this exceptional performance that embodies the lighthearted energy of classical cartoons through the usage of Jazz and Classical music on March 12, at 8:00 pm. The Queen’s Cartoonists promises to captivate and excite audiences through their combination of music, film, and comedy. Get your tickets today from our Box Office or our official website to witness this exhilarating performance.