Ken Thorne, Composer • 1924-2014

Yesterday word started fluttering about Facebook amongst film music fans that Ken Thorne passed away. Ken’s name may not be well known outside of film score aficionados or die hard film buffs, but his contribution is no less important, and he couldn’t have been a nicer guy.

I only had the opportunity to meet Ken once. He attended the Fans of Film Music event back in 2011 where he sat on a panel of great composers such as Brad Fiedel, David Newman, Brian Tyler, Nicholas Pike, Christopher Young, and Lee Holdridge. At 87, the elder statesman of the group not only charmed the audience with his gentlemanly ways, but he also charmed his fellow panelists.


Ken Thorne
Ken Thorne, taken during the 2011 Fans of Film Music event at Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA.


Since you were wondering, Ken’s contribution to film began in 1948 with British fare that later included Help! starring 4 lads from Liverpool which later led to his work on Head, a movie starring the Beatles influenced band The Monkees (a film co-written by Jack Nicholson no less). He could do comedy like Alan Arkin’s Inspector Clouseau, he was a master at adaptation taking John Williams’ themes to build new scores for Christopher Reeve’s Superman II and Superman III, and he could do action with Tom Selleck’s 1980s film Lassiter. Somewhere along the line (1967) he managed to win an Oscar for his work on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

That day I met Ken, I sat in the audience caricaturing each of the panelists. This drawing of Ken was posted back then along with the other panelists (which you can revisit by clicking here), and I thought I’d share it once again here today.

Seek out Ken’s work. You’ll find a treat waiting for you!


Ken Thorne
At 87, Ken Thorne was the eldest of the composers on the panel, and also was the only one with an Oscar which he won in 1967 for his work on the movie “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.”


…From the Flat File: 2003 – Aquarium

Ten years ago my good friend and composer Nicholas Lawrence asked me to design a CD for him that was to feature his original compositions inspired by his love for sea life. Titled Aquarium, the concept lent itself to fun graphic possibilities, so I accepted!

I first met Nick when he was just a student in the film music program at the University of Southern California (USC) where some of his professors were Elmer Bernstein, Leonard Rosenman, David Raksin, Jerry Goldsmith and Christopher Young. He and I both attended the same church, and with his interest in composition and my love for film music, we had an instant common ground. Friendship had to ensue.

While I am an illustrator first, it seemed that Nick’s new concept album should be given a stripped-down minimal graphic treatment to the art. He performed his music for the album on electronic instruments in what could be considered a New Age instrumental style. So, using my illustration abilities, the cover art was created completely as a gouache painting just hinting at the variety of sea life the music evoked.

Nicholas Lawrence - Aquarium
This is the front cover of Nick’s CD called “Aquarium” (in case you couldn’t tell).


For the rest of the album design, I dusted off my old college graphic design training and played around with hand drawn art and digital type composited with Photoshop. Here is a sampling of what the CD itself looked like.


Nicholas Lawrence CD
This is the design of Nicholas Lawrence’s actual CD.


If you’d like to see the rest of the album art, and would like to hear Nick’s music, CD Baby is offering the CD for the low price of $4.99 right now. CLICK HERE to listen to free samples and to order your very own copy. This is the only CD art I’ve done for a commercially available item – unique in my artography!

Danny Elfman

One week ago today I had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session at Warner Bros. Records with the one and only Danny Elfman. Noted film score historian Jeff Bond sat on a makeshift stage in the woodsy outdoor setting and conducted an interview with Danny for almost two hours including a generous amount of questions from the rapt audience. Danny’s latest film score, Dark Shadows, was released by Warner that day on CD and marks the 14th big screen collaboration Danny has had with film director Tim Burton that began twenty-seven years ago with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

As a genre, I am enamored with film music. It is music that tells a story – quite literally. As an illustrator and artist for animation, my drawings are also used to tell stories. There’s nothing more appropriate to draw to than a great film score. In fact, I created this little caricature illustration of Danny from the Q&A while listening to his hauntingly beautiful new score.


Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman at Warner Bros. Records on May 8, 2012


I first became aware of Danny when I was in high school. Tim Burton’s gothic Batman was unlike anything we had seen before of the Caped Crusader on screen, and that music with the swirling moody melodies and the creepy chorus was just exhilarating. Mr. Elfman has continued to carve out a most unique voice in the world of film music, a few of my favorites being Edward Scissorhands, the rapturous Black Beauty, Good Will Hunting, and Standard Operating Procedure. He is having a busy 2012 – still to come will be Men In Black III and his 15th Burton movie, the black and white stop-motion animated Frankenweenie.

Thank you, Danny, for all the auditory enjoyment you have summoned from the shadows thus far, and yet to come. Whether or not you agree when looking at this piece, my drawings truly ARE better for it.

Fans of Film Music 2011 – Part 2

A few days ago I shared with you a few sketches I did last weekend of several composers I had the privilege of seeing at a panel discussion about their line of work. Their line of work helps put me in the frame of mind to do MY line of work (which is drawing if you didn’t already know), so why not do some doodles of these musical artists the only way I know how – in CARICATURE!

I stress the word “caricature” because with my last posting, there seemed to be some who missed the fact that I’m a CARTOONIST when responding to my art. I don’t do flattering portraits. My hand can only draw how I really see the world, so be afraid – be very afraid.

Seriously though, I have the utmost respect for my subjects. I LOVE their music, and really appreciated their insights brought forth by moderator Daniel Schweiger last Sunday afternoon.

So, I present to you today images from my sketchbook of David Newman (Hoffa, The Affair of the Necklace, The Spirit), Nicholas Pike (Parasomnia, Return To Me, Star Kid), Lee Holdridge (The Tuskegee Airmen, Splash, Secret of Nimh 2), and Ken Thorne (Superman II & III, Lassiter, Help!). Enjoy!


David Newman, film score composer
David Newman composes wonderful music for many comedies including quite a few of Eddie Murphy’s movies, but some of my favorites have been for dramas like “Hoffa” or the Oscar nominated “Anastasia” or for action-adventure like “The Phantom” or “The Spirit”.


Nicholas Pike
The first CD I ever picked up by Nicholas Pike was his score to “Return to Me”, a movie starring Minnie Driver. That great CD also introduced me to the musical stylings of funnyman Jackie Gleason who conducted really great (forgive the term) “elevator music” that I just love.


Lee Holdridge
While Lee Holdridge has composed many great scores for movies and television, he also was good friends with John Denver and had arranged many songs for the Country Boy.


Ken Thorne
At 87, Ken Thorne was the eldest of the composers on the panel, and also was the only one with an Oscar which he won in 1967 for his work on the movie “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.”


Thanks again to the great Peter Hackman for getting film music fans together for such a great event! Looking forward to next year’s!!

Fans of Film Music 2011 – part 1

I have a confession to make. It’s not something that I talk about much here, but it’s something that is a part of my daily life. It’s an obsession really. I’m not ashamed of it, but I’m also not sure how common my obsession really is. So, here goes….

Hi, I’m Chad, and I’m a film musicaholic.

Whew. Felt good getting that off my chest. Really, though, I love orchestral film music – especially while I am doing my drawings, and living here in the Hollywood area there are multiple opportunities to feed this hobby of mine. This past year I met a fella from the midwest named Peter Hackman who shares in this passion. So much so, that he formed a group called Fans Of Film Music, and this past weekend Peter put together a terrific event that film music fans across the globe should know about.


Brian Tyler film composer
Here is the youngest of the composers on the panel, Brian Tyler, whose recent score to “Fast Five” actually makes me draw faster.


First, Friday evening about 30 film music enthusiasts gathered at a restaurant in Silver Lake, CA just to swap stories and get to know each other. I had never been to anything like it, and was amazed to meet these folks, many of which work in the film business or in the music industry. It was amazing hearing tales of being at James Horner’s first film scoring recording sessions, or about encounters with legends like Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams.

film scoring

Many of these folks attended the John Williams concert held at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night, but quite frankly, the icing on the cake is what went down Sunday afternoon at the Dark Delicacies store in Burbank. Mr. Hackman was able to gather together some amazing composers for a panel discussion open to only 45 attendees: Brad Fiedel (Terminator, T2, True Lies), Lee Holdridge (Old Gringo, Mists of Avalon, Splash), David Newman (Nutty Professor, Hoffa, Ice Age), Nicholas Pike (Return To Me, Sleepwalkers, Star Kid), Ken Thorne (Help!, Lassiter, Inspector Clousseau), Brian Tyler (Fast Five, Battle: LA, Rambo), and Christopher Young (Priest, Love Happens, Spider-man 3). Aaron Zigman (The Proposal, The Notebook, Flash of Genius) was scheduled to attend, but had a family emergency that prevented his attendance. Wonderfully moderated by film music critic and historian Daniel Schweiger, the hour and a half panel was riveting with these maestros telling tales of their experiences in their chosen profession.

I had a great seat, and sat there with my sketchbook in hand working on quick sketches of the panelists. Once at home, I finessed the drawings a bit. Anyone could show you photos of the day’s events (which you will probably be able to see on the Fans of Film Music Facebook page very soon), but I thought I’d share with you a few drawings instead…


Film Composer Brad Fiedel
Brad “I’ll be back” Fiedel who first really caught everyone’s attention with his score for “The Terminator.”


Christopher Young film composer
I first met Chris Young probably over 10 years ago when I visited a class he was teaching at USC, and have always found him to be a generous man.


If you like these, perhaps I’ll show you some more sketches of the other panelists later in the week. And if you’d like to see other art of mine related to the world of film music, CLICK HERE!

John Debney IS Iron Man

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have a great interest in film music. I grew up in a musical family, but while my siblings were off having lessons and practicing their instruments, I sat at my little drawing board practicing my skills with pencil and brush. I think the first soundtrack I ever bought was John Williams’ Raiders of the Lost Ark on cassette tape when I was in high school. The collection has grown over the years, and is all CDs these days.

Back in 1995 I first became aware of composer, John Debney. He wrote a brilliant score for the less than brilliant movie Cutthroat Island, and it remains one of my favorites of his to this day. First impressions are lasting I guess. I got to meet John years later when I worked on The Emperor’s New Groove at Disney. John is really wonderful with comedy scores, and his work on that film really injected something special into the storytelling.

Well, this past weekend John’s latest work was heard by the many ticket holders who caused Iron Man 2 to bring in almost $134 million in the United States. The score won’t be available for purchase until July 7th from what I hear, and I, for one, can’t wait. So much so, I felt inspired to do a little piece this weekend.

Breaking out the watercolor paint and colored pencils, I present to you this caricature of John Debney as Iron Man (click on the image to enlarge it):

Iron Man Debney imparting some musical justice.
Iron Man Debney imparting some musical justice.

So, if you are the casual film music fan and aren’t aware of some of John’s work, here are a few scores I’d recommend you start with before enjoying the rest of his oeuvre:

  • Cutthroat Island
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Liar Liar
  • Elf
  • Dreamer
  • Zathura
  • The Stoning of Soraya M.

To see a larger list of John’s filmography, you can CLICK HERE!

LOST Scoring Session with Michael Giacchino

I had a unique opportunity today to do some life drawings in an unusual setting – a recording studio!  Perhaps I should explain.

Over the past few months, I have been working on a charity auction with my friends and fellow animation colleagues Tony Bancroft and Tom Bancroft. We’ve been acquiring donations of original art and other cartoon related items to sell on eBay to help the family of Tim Hodge, an animation artist whose teenage son has been in a state of a coma since August 2009 due to an accident involving a train.  Several directors from Pixar, Brad Bird and Pete Docter, sent down some DVDs and a poster of their films that they signed, films that composer Michael Giacchino wrote the music for.

I contacted Michael to see if he would also like to sign these items since he worked on the projects, which he was happy to do.  So, today I was able to go see Michael at work at the world famous Capitol Records building in Hollywood where he happily signed the goods. Since I love film music, and I love to draw, my sketchbook managed to pop out of my bag and into my hand for a few quick doodles capturing the action in Studio A, the room where Frank Sinatra recorded many of his hits, and was recently used by Michael Bublè.

Michael Giacchino in a rare moment of conducting his orchestra at a January recording session for LOST.
Michael Giacchino in a rare moment of conducting his orchestra at a January recording session for LOST.

I have seen Michael at work before (you can see other drawings by clicking on the Film Music category), and do not usually see him conducting the orchestra.  Usually he leaves that work to Tim Simonec while Michael remains in the booth making sure the music sounds correctly through the speakers.  But today, we had the treat of seeing him at work at the podium for  few cues.

The recording booth is a magical place of concentration and activity. The composer usually has his team of orchestrators, arrangers, and other technicians making sure everything is being done the way it should. The orchestra contractor is there, the music preparation people, and the union representative. It’s a flurry of activity.

One of the key guys in the booth today was recording engineer Dan Wallin. Dan has recorded over 600 scores over the years, having worked with the likes of Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North and many more.  Dan records all of Michael’s work, and does a beautiful job of it.  He also has such an interesting visual presence that I always like to get in a sketch of him when I see him, too.

A sketch of legendary recording engineer Dan Wallin.

A sketch of legendary recording engineer Dan Wallin.

Well there you have it.  A few new random drawings from the sketchbook of Chad Frye • Illustration Guy.  And what did Michael sign for the auction you say?  Glad you asked, he autographed a copy of the Up movie poster that was signed by actor Ed Asner and included a drawing by director Pete Docter, he signed a DVD of The Incredibles that Brad Bird had also signed, and he signed a copy of Ratatouille on DVD signed by Brad Bird, and actors Patton Oswalt and Lou Romano (Remy & Linguini)!  To see approximately all 150 of the items that will be sold on eBay beginning JANUARY 21, please visit!

This DVD signed by Brad Bird, Lou Romano, Patton Oswalt and Michael Giacchino will be listed on eBay on January 21, 2010, as a part of the NCSF charity auction.
This DVD signed by Brad Bird, Lou Romano, Patton Oswalt and Michael Giacchino will be listed on eBay on January 21, 2010, as a part of the NCSF charity auction.

Beamed Aboard the Star Trek Scoring Sessions

Earlier this year when I first started this blog, my very first post was to share with you my “courtroom sketches” of a scoring session with composer Michael Giacchino and the music crew for the upcoming Star Trek movie directed by J.J. Abrams. The drawings were originally shown on the website At the time, Paramount didn’t want a lot of press that far in advance of the film, so the photographs had to be held back for awhile. Thus the reason for the less sensitive artist renderings that appeared on that site, and later on this blog.

Well, those photographic restrictions have been lifted, and Dan Goldwasser over at has posted his wonderful photographs of the Star Trek crew hard at work. I’ve posted one here to wet your whistle – and yeah, I chose it because I’m in it, too.

Orchestrators Chad Seiter and Chris Tilton, director J.J. Abrahms, music editor Steve Davis and composer Michael Giacchino. Illustrator Chad Frye is all the way over on the left side in the background.
Orchestrators Chad Seiter and Chris Tilton, director J.J. Abrams, music editor Steve Davis and composer Michael Giacchino. Illustrator Chad Frye is all the way over on the left side in the background.

To see the rest of the Star Trek recording sessions images, along with Dan’s great commentary on what was going on in the shots, please visit his website,, by clicking HERE!

And if you’d like to see my “courtroom sketches” again, you can see them HERE on, or HERE on my blog.