Anatomy of a Scene: Frog and Toad with American Composer Mark Evitts

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

In our latest anatomy of a scene interview, we chatted with American Composer, Mark Evitts, on his work in Frog and Toad.

PH: Which scene was your favorite to work on in Frog and Toad?

Mark Evitts : There’s a scene in the episode “Dragons and Giants” in which the two titular characters, Frog and Toad are climbing to the top of a mountain. By reaching the “tippy top of Mount Gloom”, they are wanting to prove their bravery to each other and themselves. To give this scene context, the episode starts as a story-within-a-story. Frog is reading a book to Toad and the animation switches to a medieval fantasy environment. After reading the story, they go on their own adventure and the climax of this adventure is where this scene begins.

PH: Describe this scene and the significance it has to the rest of Frog and Toad.

Mark Evitts: As the composer, this scene was significant to the series because I was able to expand the orchestration to be a bit bigger than the intimate, singular, jazzy, and folky instruments heard throughout the rest of Frog and Toad. The story itself was significant because it was all about working together to overcome fear and challenges, which is such an important lesson.

PH: What tools, plugins, or instruments did you use in your production of this scene?

Mark Evitts: Typically, I use singular instruments to form a smaller orchestration. There are acoustic guitars, mandolin, fiddle, clarinet, upright bass, and a drum kit. For this scene, I used more traditional orchestral instruments. For brass, I had 2 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, and a tuba. I used Aaron Venture’s brass. For winds, I used a flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, a bass clarinet, and a bassoon. I used Berlin Woodwind Soloists. For strings, I used Spitfire Chamber Strings, Eventone’s Joshua Bell Violin, and Cinesample’s Tina Guo Cello. For percussion, I also used a Hans Zimmer Spitfire timpani. I made the reverbs a bit longer using Valhalla’s Vintage Reverb for each section of the orchestra.

PH: What technical challenges did you encounter while working on this scene?

Mark Evitts: It’s a challenge any time you encounter a massive tonal shift. While you want to have fun with it, you don’t want it to sound like a completely new show. My challenge was “How big do I make this?” I decided to use closer mic positions in the library settings for all of the instruments since the rest of the show has a “close mic” feel with the jazzy instruments. This seemed like the best possible solution to this problem. I also never went huge with the sound. I kept the entire cue building and rising but never maxed out my dynamics.

PH: What was the dialogue like between you and the Frog and Toad director regarding this scene?

Mark Evitts: In the original spotting session, the showrunner, Rob Hoegee and I discussed playing with the fantasy genre but not straying too much from the original palette. This is by far the scariest scene in the entire season, but it’s still a show for young children. I wanted a musical theme that read “overcoming potential danger with bravery” but didn’t want it to be scary or boring. I took this theme and passed it around the orchestra while modulating and finding ways to incorporate the action of the wind blowing in their face and sticks falling down the mountain at them. When they finally arrived at the top of the mountain, I had a choice to make: Do I give a huge Lord of the Rings-style epic resolution or something quite different? In the world of Frog and Toad, friendship and working together are key elements. I knew I wanted that to be the focus, so I went full original Frog and Toad palette. The long build of the full orchestra with a rolling timpani resolved into a New Orleans’ Dixieland street band sound. I wanted the jubilation of victory and a familiar sound that our two best friends exude when they work together. I thought the scene turned out great and Rob, the studio, and myself were really proud of the final outcome in the mix!

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