Tags: interview, music
Yu-Gi-Oh! composers Elik Álvarez (left) and Freddy Sheinfeld
On Friday, Elik Álvarez and Freddy Sheinfeld, two members of a team of talented composers for the many Yu-Gi-Oh! series and movies, appeared on the most recent episode of Soundtrack Alley, a podcast that celebrates the love of movie soundtracks. In a 40-minute interview, the duo speak with podcast host Randy Williams about their work in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions and other recent projects. This post includes a few highlights from the interview.
Adding a New Flavor to an Old Favorite
Elik Álvarez and Freddy Sheinfeld are both composers originally from Venezuela who are now working out of Los Angeles. Their involvement in Yu-Gi-Oh! began with the first Yu-Gi-Oh! movie, Pyramid of Light, which led them to work on season 3 of the classic Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters series and, eventually, every season and spin-off since then. For Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, the pair tried to move away from the style of music seen in the TV series in an effort to make the score a little more cinematic, explained Álvarez.
“How [do you] make it more cinematic?” asked Álvarez. “Well, you just do. That’s what you do as a composer. You are able to switch gears when they need to.”
One of the things that the two composers really pressed for in The Dark Side of Dimensions was the inclusion of more choirs.
“That doesn’t mean we haven’t used choirs in the rest of the series, but not as much probably as we do in this one. We really pushed hard for that one,” Álvarez added. But the most challenging aspect of scoring wasn’t actually the composition process.
Álvarez continued: “What is difficult is to have people who oversee the music — the music producer, the producers, the writers, whoever is listening to the score — this movie is a little bit different because even people in Japan were listening to this, people in Konami, I believe. So the difficult part is to convince them, ‘Listen, let’s try to do something different.’ They are so used to listening to a certain style of music. To propose something new takes time and persuasion and things like that. But to switch gears, in my opinion, is something that comes very natural to us.”
Sheinfeld noted that the their experience with Yu-Gi-Oh! has come full circle. The pair began with Duel Monsters, which had a certain style of music. They then moved on to other series, each with their own unique sound; GX was a little more rock-oriented and 5D’s had electronic industrial elements. Now, after more than ten years, they’ve returned to the original Yu-Gi-Oh! and needed to approach it with a fresh perspective.
“We kind of came back to some of the original ideas as far as the themes that we needed to use because those are characters that everybody knows,” said Sheinfeld. “But at the same time, we wanted to do, like Elik said, something fresh, something more cinematic. And somehow, the way it worked, to sound a little bit more cinematic was actually going a little bit old school.
“It’s funny because in the original Yu-Gi-Oh!, if you listen to the music, there’s a lot of electronics going on. A lot of electronic percussion, a lot of techno stuff combined with an orchestra. But [for The Dark Side of Dimensions], we were a little bit more pure. We tried to avoid that just a little bit just to sound a little bit more modern, which is weird but it kind of worked that way. A lot of those sounds [in the original Yu-Gi-Oh!] now sound a little bit dated if we use it, so to sound fresh, we avoided it as much as we could. We were for a more traditional sound. You know, still mixing some of the modern electronic sounds that we use these days to still have that modern feel. But overall, it was a little bit more traditional orchestration approach to this film.”
Getting the Style Just Right
Both Álvarez and Sheinfeld gave a lot of credit to Mike Brady, 4K Media’s music producer, who offers them lots of freedom to compose to picture. Brady doesn’t give the composers a temp track — a sample piece of filler music that editors and producers use to set the mood of a scene.
“We just get plain animation with dialog and rough sound effects and sometimes rough dialog, and we just write music to it,” explained Álvarez. “So that’s a very, very important point I want to make. We’re pretty lucky with this because temp tracks sometimes could be a big help, sometimes they don’t. So one thing for this is we don’t get any temp tracks. He just sends us picture with dialog, and that’s it. There is no music there. So we really create from scratch.”
“I think the producer, Mike, is very good at what he does,” Sheinfeld said. “Like Elik says, he doesn’t give a temp track, but he has a very specific idea of how the show works. It took a long time to understand it but now it’s a matter of trying to understand what is important, what you need to accomplish with the music, and on the other side, what you can add to it as far as being creative. So it’s always that balance. You want to make it work and you also want to make it as cool as possible. There’s a lot of work involved. As far as making things work, it’s funny because it’s even though it’s an animation, I think the level of thought that goes behind each detail is much more deeper than a lot of the dramatic films that I’ve done in the past.”
After working on Yu-Gi-Oh! for more than ten years, Álvarez and Sheinfeld have a good feel for what the producers are looking for and what style of music works well in the anime.
“We understand the language pretty well of these types of animations,” said Álvarez. “I gotta tell you, it’s very, very complex. It’s very complex. Sometimes, on TV, you don’t really listen that much to the music. There is a lot of dialog. They don’t mix the music that loud. But it’s very complex what we do over here, and it took us quite a few years just to nail down the style and not to be afraid.”
And getting the style just right really is the key, since the music dictates so much of how characters and scenes are perceived by the viewers.
“As Freddy said, each of the characters over there, they have their own personality and we need to make sure that people can understand that,” Álvarez said. He elaborated on this point using Kaiba as an example, explaining that when composing for this character, Brady emphasized not to treat Kaiba as a bad, evil guy but also not as a good, heroic guy.
“These characters are complex. And you know, people don’t realize that,” stated Álvarez. “And again, when you see it on TV, and there is a lot of dialog going on all the time. But we’re behind that trying to make sure that people don’t perceive Kaiba as an evil guy because he’s not. So how do you make that balance?”
Teamwork, Inspirations, Future Projects, and More
Elik Álvarez and Freddy Sheinfeld discussed several more topics with Randy Williams, including how they have honed their skills from working together, how they met fellow Yu-Gi-Oh! composer Joel Douek, what types of film music they enjoy, and what some of their future project include. It’s a smart and enlightening interview, so give it a listen! Be sure to listen all the way to the end because they share a few of their full-length pieces from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions and other works.
English-dubbed episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX are at last available on Crunchyroll to viewers in the United States, announced the anime streaming platform today. (Note: See update below.) Both series had long been available worldwide on CR except to the U.S., Italian-speaking Europe, and most of Asia.
With this announcement, Crunchyroll also added season 3 of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL (episodes 99 through 146), completing the series. ZEXAL is still not available to the U.S., Italian-speaking Europe, and most of Asia.
(News from Crunchyroll.)
Update (March 26): Crunchyroll edited its news post. Originally, it announced that Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s and ZEXAL were available to U.S. viewers. However, ZEXAL has now been replaced by GX. Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, including the newly added third season, is not available to the U.S. I’ve updated this post to include the correct information.
Crunchyroll announced yesterday evening that it has expanded the availability of the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters to even more countries. Now, viewers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can watch all 236 episodes of the anime on CR. The series is now available globally on CR except for the United States, Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, and most of Asia.
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans in the U.S. can still watch the dub for free on yugioh.com and other Hulu partner sites like Yahoo! View. The show is also available to subscribers of Hulu (all episodes) and Netflix (episodes 1-97).
(News from Crunchyroll.)
Out today from Cinedigm Entertainment is the complete first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V on Blu-ray and DVD! All 49 episodes of 4K Media’s English dub are available in your choice of a region A Blu-ray box set for $69.97, or a region 1 DVD box set for $44.99. Each set has two volumes and six discs.
Cinedigm initially released the first volume of season 1 in September 2016. If you already own that, don’t worry. Volume 2 of season 1 is also available separately for $29.93 for the BDs and $19.95 for the DVDs. If you would like the box, however, the only way to get it is by purchasing the season set.
The video in volume 2 BDs unfortunately suffers from the same color issues as that in volume 1. (Check out my screenshot comparisons and write-up for volume 1 for more details.) I’ve reached out to Cinedigm and will update this post if a solution is found.
All 49 episodes of season 1 are now also available for download on several platforms, including Amazon, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes, Microsoft Movies & TV, PlayStation Video, and VUDU. The HD download-to-own episodes are free of the color problems seen on the BDs.
Today, Crackle removed the English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s season 1 from its network while at the same time added season 2. The free TV and movie streaming platform, which is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, had only just added season 1 last November.
– Crackle Adds Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Season 1
The English dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters is back on Netflix! Seasons 1 and 2 of the anime are available in English-speaking territories once again after being unceremoniously yanked from the platform last November. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions has undoubtedly brought forth renewed interest in the classic series. Could we soon see seasons 3 through 5 added as well? Let’s hope so!
Also available on Netflix are Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL seasons 1 and 2.
– Netflix Removes Yu-Gi-Oh!
Tags: interview, movie, music
Yu-Gi-Oh! composers (left to right) Freddy Sheinfeld, Joel Douek, and Elik Álvarez in a studio. Photo from Film.Music.Media.
Today, longtime Yu-Gi-Oh! composers Elik Álvarez and Freddy Sheinfeld offered some insights into their participation in writing the music for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions. In a press release coming out of their home base of Los Angeles, California, the duo offered some tidbits about their songwriting process and what they and the directors wanted to impart on the audience.
“The main themes we carried from the TV series were the Yu-Gi-Oh! transformation, the Blue-Eyes White Dragon, and the friendship themes,” said Sheinfeld. “We haven’t used those themes for a while, so it was a lot of fun to use them again, but with a more modern and cinematic approach.”
“We wanted the audience connecting again to those themes and at the same time we needed to adapt them to the tone of the movie and the style of the score,” Álvarez added. “Many times we also found ourselves deconstructing those themes and including them in our cues. Sometimes they were very obvious, sometime[s] they were ‘hidden’ somewhere within the orchestration.”
Álvarez and Sheinfeld have been writing music for the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime since the 2004 film Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie. In scoring Yu-Gi-Oh! DSoD, the duo were joined by fellow L.A.-based composer Matt McGuire and N.Y.-based John Angier, both of whom are also longtime composers for Yu-Gi-Oh!.
For more insights about the music composition process in the Yu-Gi-Oh! series, check out my write-up of a June 2015 live interview that Álvarez participated in, as well as a 2011 Reddit Ask-Me-Anything with Brady.
This week is the final week that Yu-Gi-Oh! DSoD is playing in theaters in the U.S. and Canada. If you haven’t already done so, visit yugiohtickets.com to find your local theater and showtimes. And if you have already seen it, why not see it again?
Opening day for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions is here! You already know that you’ll get to hear the original Yu-Gi-Oh! anime voice actors, like Dan Green and Eric Stuart, reprising their roles on the big screen. And you may also know that actors who have appeared in other Yu-Gi-Oh! spin-offs, like Daniel J. Edwards and Billy Bob Thompson, among others, have become a part of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters family in this movie. But did you know that a few actors are entering the Yu-Gi-Oh! world for the very first time with their parts in The Dark Side of Dimensions? Who are they and who do they play?
Actor and singer Laurie Hymes is the voice of Sera, a young girl with close ties to Aigami. Laurie appeared in the latest Pokemon movie, Volcanion and the Mechanical Marvel, as Prince Rali. Later this year, she will be in the new Pokemon Sun & Moon anime as Lillie, one of the series’ lead characters.
Up-and-coming actor Tamir Cousins is the voice of Mani, a mysterious acquaintance of Aigami’s. Yu-Gi-Oh! DSoD is Tamir’s first professional movie role. On Facebook, he talks about how much he loved Yu-Gi-Oh! when he was younger and credits his teacher and fellow actor Erica Schroeder for helping him land the role.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions Voice-Over Contest Winners
Yu-Gi-Oh! DSoD has the distinction of casting six extras in the movie at voice-over contests held at three events in late 2016. Like Laurie and Tamir, these participants are now forever members of the Yu-Gi-Oh! family with their roles in this movie. Here are the winners, their parts, and their lines.
From the 2016 Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG World Championship in Orlando, Florida:
- Tyler Schmauch plays a policeman: “Don’t you know the speed limit?!”
- Lindsay Victoria Granduke plays Lab Technician A: “A success on every level. You should be proud.”
From New York Comic Con 2016 in New York City, New York:
- Luis Alfonso plays an engineer: “Anything in those scans?”
- Brooke Stocken plays a Bakura fan girl: “I baked these for you!”
From the 2016 Yu-Gi-Oh! YCS Minneapolis, in Minneapolis, Minnesota:
- Ted Kong Yang plays Sanpei: “Sorry, Joey!”
- Bethany Cardinal plays Lab Technician B: “I concur. It was no contest.”
See if you can spot all six of these extras when you go watch the movie!
Tags: interview, movie
Shane Guenego (left) and Arthur “Sam” Murakami
Ah, looks like there’s more behind-the-scenes content for Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions after all! Crunchyroll has posted an exclusive interview with Shane Guenego and Arthur “Sam” Murakami, longtime Yu-Gi-Oh! producers and writers at 4K Media, who describe their excitement in getting to work on a new story that comes straight from Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi. The anime’s original voice actors — Dan Green (Yugi), Eric Stuart (Kaiba), Wayne Grayson (Joey), Greg Abbey (Tristan), Amy Birnbaum (Téa), and Ted Lewis (Bakura) — all make a brief appearance in this video. Check it out.
The number of theaters listed on yugiohtickets.com is still growing. As of this writing there are 579 theaters in the U.S. and Canada screening the movie. Have you bought your ticket yet? Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions opens today, January 27. Don’t miss it!
On the evening of January 24, Yu-Gi-Oh! voice actors, production crew members, guests, and fans descended on the Cinépolis Chelsea Theater in New York City for the U.S. premiere screening of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions. The movie celebrates the 20th anniversary of Yu-Gi-Oh! in Japan and the 15th in the U.S., and the gathering would be filled with a night of fun and lasting memories for everyone who has ever worked on or loved the franchise. This post highlights some of the happenings of the monumental event.
The red carpet festivities kicked off at 6:00 pm. Upon checking in, attendees were presented with some goodies.
The all-important ticket for the screening.
VIP badge and lanyard.
And of course, the gold secret rare promo card Obelisk the Tormentor.
Don’t be surprised if you see photos from the premiere in some marketing materials for the movie.
In the hallway outside the screens, guests mingled and took photos. 4K Media hired some cosplayers to help light up the evening.
Here’s @LiberationMaidN as Téa Gardner posing with Blue-Eyes Alternative White Dragon.
All together, and joined by Yu-Gi-Oh! fan Knightstickexcelladon as Seto Kaiba.
The concession stand. Yes, those are Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links advertisements behind them.
This event was sponsored in part by Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links so there were ads for the mobile game throughout the theater.
There was even a setup in the hallway where you could play the game while waiting.
Naturally, trailers and movie posters for Yu-Gi-Oh! DSoD were also everywhere.
A view of the hallway where the guests waited. Busy, busy!
The gentlemen in suits with their backs toward me in the photo below are the Japanese producers of Yu-Gi-Oh!. They flew in from Japan just to attend this screening.
At 6:30 pm, it was time to head inside and get ready for the movie.
Before the lights dimmed, 4K Media producers Shane Guenego and Arthur “Sam” Murakami welcomed the audience to the U.S. premiere of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions. They then introduced Dan Green and Eric Stuart, the voices of Yugi and Kaiba, who took the stage to warm up the audience in character before the movie began.
It was dark and my photos are all really lousy, but they were there!
“You know what’s really great about tonight?” asked Eric. “It’s that finally, on the big screen, we are going to see me, Seto Kaiba, prove once and for all that I am the greatest duelist ever and the best duelist to ever pick up a Duel Disk.”
“The only thing you’re the greatest of, Kaiba, is being completely duel-lusional,” Dan quipped.
After each duelist tried to one-up the other with his best roar of “It’s time to duel!” it was time to get serious.
“Have a great show, everybody. It’s a great honor and a great privilege to be here. I hope you have a lot of fun,” Dan said.
With that, the lights dimmed. First up was a new trailer for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links narrated by Seto Kaiba, an English-dubbed version of one of the Japanese promo videos. Then, the movie began. It’s very long, clocking in at a tad over two hours. My spoiler-free thoughts about the movie are at the end of this post.
Afterward, VIPs headed one floor down to the after-party.
There, they were greeted by hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Although much of the movie’s cast and crew were present, there wouldn’t be any opportunities for interviews and no one had been briefed for press. Instead, this was to be a celebration of Yu-Gi-Oh! and everyone was just there to have fun. Photography was also not allowed, except at the step and repeat.
To kick off the party, a handful of Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! producers introduced themselves and each took turns thanking everyone for their hard work and for the great show.
And then, a surprise — Kazuki Takahashi, the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!.
I had seen him standing in the corner and almost didn’t recognize him at first. Kazuki Takahashi looked a little different than when I saw him at his panel at San Diego Comic Con 2015. He was clean shaven and his wavy hair was cut a little shorter. He was dressed casually in a sweater. He smiled as he greeted and thanked the crowd.
Murakami later told me that it was Takahashi himself who decided to come to the U.S. premiere. He had seen the movie in Japanese theaters with fans and he wanted to experience the excitement of the show with an American audience too.
After that, the rest of the evening was filled with a whole lot of mingling. Everywhere I turned, there were big-name Yu-Gi-Oh! voice actors and producers chatting it up with one another.
Here’s some Yu-Gi-Oh! merchandise that was on display at the party.
Here’s USAopoly’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Monopoly on display.
A large banner of Yami Yugi greeted the VIPs and a Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links setup kept sober guests preoccupied.
Here are a few photos from the step and repeat.
@KitsuneSqueak posted a much better photo of the shot above.
Check out these rows and rows of Yu-Gi-Oh! lunch boxes, which are one of the many Yu-Gi-Oh! products made by Aquarius.
They were handed out as party favors. What’s inside?
That’s a Kuriboh pin by Grin Studios, the perfect decoration for any bag or cap.
A deck of Aquarius’ Yu-Gi-Oh! playing cards is perfect for learning new card games.
And those cute, cuddly, cuboidal Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl plushies are Kawaii Cubes by The Wish Factory.
There are eight small Yu-Gi-Oh! Kawaii Cubes to collect.
And last but not least is a handsome and ferocious Blue-Eyes White Dragon T-shirt.
My utmost gratitude and compliments to 4K Media for hosting a spectacular screening and a memorable evening!
My Spoiler-Free Thoughts of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions
Going into Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, it’s one thing to know that you’ll be seeing Yugi and his friends once again and that all of the original voice actors have returned to reprise their roles. But it’s a completely different feeling to go in and experience it on the big screen. The movie was far better than I expected. It exceeded my expectations.
If you were someone who had just finished watching the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series yesterday and then headed to the movie the next day, you would never guess that over 10 years have passed since these actors last came together. All of the fun interactions between the characters, all of the music that got stuck in your head, all of the jokes that you laughed at, and all of the emotions that you experienced when you watched Yugi and his journey unfold in the series — you will find them all here one more time in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions. The writers and the actors didn’t skip a beat. There were moments in this movie where my eyes welled up with tears, but I swear I heard people outright sobbing. The nostalgia is there and it is real.
And what about the new villain character, Aigami, who is thrown into a long-running story filled with our beloved characters? Anime movie villains are often throwaway characters who are never given any genuine consideration by writers or viewers, but he is not such a person. Aigami is written and played superbly. His story runs deep in the Yu-Gi-Oh! lore and his importance in bringing Yugi and Kaiba together again can’t be understated. He will not disappoint you.
If, somehow, you are still on the fence about whether or not you want to see this in theaters, go see it. This is likely the last time Yugi and his friends will ever be together on the big screen, or in any anime production.
Congratulations to Kazuki Takahashi for writing and executive producing a stellar film. And congratulations to 4K Media and all of the cast and crew for a job well done. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions is the phenomenal, canonical conclusion that the Yu-Gi-Oh! series deserves.