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Manic Moondays

by Rettward von Doernberg

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Music for the award-winning animated short film

The filmmaker MARTIN SCHIFFTER (youtu.be/sJOhXxZeRYE) and I have known each other for a very long time. Since our school days, to be exact. Then we lost track of each other – until I suddenly got an e-mail from him asking if I would like to do the music for his animated film. Of course I would!

I have to say, of all my film music projects, “Manic Moondays” was probably the most enjoyable. Martin approached the project in a super easy-going manner. The story and the characters of the film have a lot of charm and heart, while being minimalistic and masterfully realized. In addition, Martin put a lot of emphasis on professionalism, e.g. he made it a point to hired a real foley artist for his film.

In general, animated films are a dream come true for film composers. Music plays a big part and the individual scenes are very multifaceted. It is, however, also always a balancing act for the film composer to figure out how much “Mickey-Mousing” is used – in other words, how much you comment on the things happening on the screen: do you only comment on the big events or also on the very small ones, such as winking, tripping, etc.?

The so-called “dubbing” was done in a professional studio in Hamburg, Germany. Dubbing is the process of mixing all the elements of a film’s soundtrack together (dialogue, sound effects, music). You have to imagine such a studio like a regular cinema with a screen in front and speakers everywhere — except there are no seats. Instead, there’s a mixing console in about the middle of the room.

I had the privileg to sit in with the sound designer and mixer for days as he mixed the soundtrack. That was also beneficial to the movie, because then I could make sure the music didn’t get lost with all the sound effects, which can happen. At the same time, I learned a lot about the process of dubbing and sound design.

And finally, we had a premiere in a big movie theater, packed with viewers. What more could you ask for? Other talented filmmakers were also there who I had the chance to meet.

After that, the film was shown at festivals all over the world and on Dutch television. It also won several awards, including first prize once.


Films without music are often ambiguous. Some scenes you actually only understand with music. For example, there is a scene in STAR WARS with the character JAR JAR BINKS. In that scene, he’s got his tongue stuck in a machine that’s about to go off. In test screenings, children in particular were concerned that something might happen to JAR JAR. But actually this scene was supposed to be funny. So the music was changed afterwards to be much more lighthearted and funny, so that the audience would understand that everything was okay: “Hey guys, this is supposed to be funny!”

In our film, the music could have been approached from different angles. For example, you could have used adventure music. That would have given the film a completely different feel. Or you could have played against the film by using old music from the thirties – for contrast.

I felt, though, that the music should tell us to have a good time: “Just enjoy, relax, this is fun here!” For the sound palette, I chose a contemporary film orchestra sound. Quite traditionally, I used leitmotifs, meaning that individual characters are given a recognizable melody or perhaps just a short, succinct sequence of notes — a motif. This approach was made well-known by the composer RICHARD WAGNER.

The main theme represents the two little guys, especially the very active, smaller one – playful, oblivious, innocent:


The longer guy also gets its own melody. It is introduced during the tea scene – serene, self-indulgent, feel-good:


The moon also has its own motif, consisting of four chords — timeless, mystical and awe-inspiring:


And finally, for the meteors, there are short, low, accented stabs — dangerous, large and unpredictable:



For the re-release of the music, I went back and did a proper mix and a good master. In doing so, I took inspiration from the mix for the film. This had less reverb than my music had originally. The balance between individual groups of instruments also differed. However, I couldn’t adopt everything one-to-one. A cinematic mix is still quite different from a soundtrack mix: a cinematic mix can have a lot more dynamics and bass. A soundtrack mix, in contrast, has to be denser and more balanced to still sound good on the kitchen radio and cell phone.


released July 4, 2022


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Rettward von Doernberg Berlin, Germany

Just like the great explorers in times past, I'm on a very personal, musical voyage of discovery.

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