Zooey Deschanel finds music a (Pooh) bear necessity

Sun Jan 1, 2012 1:38pm EST
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By Steve Pond

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Writing a song for a Disney animated film puts a songwriter into a long and legendary line that has produced 30 nominations and 10 wins going back to "When You Wish Upon a Star" in 1940.

And writing a song for a "Winnie the Pooh" movie is just as daunting a task, because it requires a songwriter to follow in the footsteps of Richard and Robert Sherman, who penned the well-known "Pooh" theme song and also wrote "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "It's a Small World" and "I Wan'na Be Like You," among many others.

"The tradition of music in Disney animated films is pretty spectacular. But I tried not to think about it, because I might be overwhelmed if I did," said actress and singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel, who couldn't exactly ignore that history when she was drafted to contribute to this year's Disney version of the A.A. Milne stories.

Her initial task, after all, was to record a new version of the Sherman brothers' theme song. When that went well, she was asked to write and record an end-credits song, which turned out to be "So Long," one of the film's two Oscar entries. And after that, she was asked to contribute vocals to other songs in the film ... all while finishing a tour with her band, She and Him, and getting ready to begin filming her new TV series, "The New Girl."

"It kind of happened in little bits and pieces over the course of the year," Deschanel told TheWrap.

"That's the thing with music for me. Songwriting was always something that I did in my private time as a release, very much on my own. It didn't come out into the world until later in my life. But now, as my schedule has gotten so weird and so busy, I feel like I need to keep going back to it."

Deschanel first got involved with "Winnie the Pooh" when music supervisor Tom McDougall showed her a 10-minute segment that had been cut to a She and Him song, and asked if she'd record the title song. She enlisted bandmate Matt Ward (who goes by M. Ward) to produce, and settled on an approach to a song whose original version was recorded by a large chorus of anonymous singers.

"I think there was something that Matt and I saw in that song that we could pull out, that wasn't really focused on in the original recording," she said. "That was the warmth and the intimacy of the song.   Continued...