Caleb and Brian Chan, composers and brothers from Vancouver Canada, have recently made waves in the entertainment industry with their incredible work on The Thundermans Return, a superhero film that has captured the hearts of both new and long-standing fans.

In this candid discussion, we dive into their creative process, explore the nuances of composing for a beloved franchise, and discover what it's like to bring a musical vision to life for a new generation.

From their early discussions about joining the project to the intricacies of crafting themes for heroes and villains, Caleb and Brian Chan share their journey through melody and motif.

Join us as we discuss the challenges, the triumphs, and the excitement of scoring for The Thundermans Return, as well as get a sneak peek into what the future holds for the duo in the world of television and film music.

“The Thundermans Return Suite” | Music by Caleb Chan & Brian Chan | Recording

Editor's note: the following interview is edited for length and clarity.

No Film School: Can you share with us the early discussions that led to your participation in composing for The Thundermans Return, and describe your initial thoughts and feelings upon being approached for this project?

Chan Brothers: Our agent Arbel Bedak first brought this project to our attention. Admittedly we weren’t too familiar with the original show at the time, but after diving into the material, the prospect of imagining new possibilities within a well-established series and adding to the Thundermans canon had us intrigued.

The superhero-sitcom format was also something we hadn’t worked with before so that was exciting territory to venture into. Having grown up in the late ‘90s to early 2000s, it was a bit nostalgic and attractive to score a show with a laugh track!

NFS: What initially inspired the musical direction you took for The Thundermans Return, and how did you balance the need for a new sonic palette with the nostalgia of the original show?

Chan Brothers: Sonically, we had the luxury to go bigger so we took on a more cinematic approach by scaling up the orchestral presence, adding some maturity to the sound, and contemporizing it with edgy electronic elements.

To channel our love for big extravagant orchestration and incorporate our modern sensibilities was one of the gifts of this project. The original theme song has a great charm and is so well-loved by the fans that we had to honor it in our score. We extracted a few melodic ideas and weaved them into parts of the score, particularly as the opening logo appears.

The sitcom transitions were also a nod to the original series and longtime fans may recognize the ones that are almost melodically identical.

Caleb and Brian Chan

NFS: Can you talk about the process of creating new or refreshed themes for the hero family and the villains, and what were the key elements you wanted to capture in their musical motifs?

Chan Brothers: For our audiences, the elements had to be unabashedly thematic, clearly defined, and appropriately dichotomized. Most of our excitement was in the opportunity to try for something that felt melodically iconic, in the classic film scoring sense, inheriting the fanfare spirit of the great superhero scores.

Our hero theme is a five-note motif that opens with an assertive octave leap. More importantly, it represents the heart of the Thundermans family, and throughout the film, there are evolutions of the theme that support the changes and growth in their relationships.

Caleb Chan: The villain theme was originally a subtle part of another cue that served more like connective tissue between parts. Brian had the brilliant idea of making that into the villain motif, and as it developed, it became more thematic and suitably contrasted the brightness of the hero music. With both these themes, it was truly enjoyable to cast subtleties aside and wholeheartedly embrace the boldness the score needed.

NFS: In what ways did you collaborate with the director to ensure the score complemented the vision for the film?

BOTH: The show's creator, Jed Spingarn, was incredibly insightful and instrumental in the development of the score.

In our first conversation with him, we appreciated his love of themes and the idea of reinvigorating the classic superhero sound with modern elements. He knew his audience and the world he built so we relied on him to steer our compass regarding humor, the incorporation of original music, and we acquired a lot of our sensibility to the material based on his thoughts.

He gave us the confidence to be bold with our musical language and ‘go big’ where it mattered.

NFS: Could you describe a favorite scene to score in the movie and what made it particularly enjoyable?

Brian Chan: The moment where Chloe rallies the townsfolk and they transform into superheroes themselves was particularly fun for me. As Chloe inspires, we used our new Thundermans theme to accompany in an uplifting tone. The townsfolk’s fun transformation is then scored with a new momentum that leads into the theme again, this time with added power and the energy that reflects the whole community as they assemble to break a force field. The cue culminates with our heroes and the town being successful, and the melody plays victoriously.

Sculpting the thematic material throughout these three stages gave the scene more meaning and the arc it called for, making it enjoyable to score. I also particularly enjoyed watching Caleb craft together the killer score for the final fight scene, in which the music acts as a moment to moment emotional undercurrent to our hero and villains battling it out in full force.

Caleb and Brian Chan

NFS: What was the most challenging aspect of writing a score suite for the movie, and how did you overcome it?

Caleb Chan: It was an ongoing discussion to have a version of the original theme song bring us into the end credits. In the end, we proposed to open with an instrumental orchestral remix of the original, using our film’s sonic palette, which will then transition seamlessly into our new score themes. There was of course some pressure to get it right for the fans, but it was so much fun finding a new angle for the original theme and adding our fingerprints onto an already catchy pop tune.

A self-imposed challenge was to somehow write a grand finale where both the old and the new motifs come together.

Despite their inherent differences— the original being an upbeat pop tune, and the new themes being cinematic fanfare— with a little orchestration flare, we eventually found the right melodic elements to stitch them together. The suite is really a love letter to fans old and new, and if you’ve been around since the original series, you may find extra satisfaction picking out all the musical easter eggs.

NFS: How did incorporating an orchestra impact the original music’s sound?

Chan Brothers: As one would expect, the live orchestra brought a cinematic brush and size to the score. Nothing beats the sound of real brass in classic superhero movies! Much of the original series’ music was in the style of a traditional multi-cam sitcom, which accompanied the scene transitions and comedic beats very well with instrumentation that you’d find more in a band setting.

With the orchestra, we were able to utilize new colors to paint the emotional moments with maturity and grandeur, and of course the fanfare triumphant moments with lovely burning brass. FAMES Project did a fantastic job elevating the score and bringing it to life, and we’re always grateful for the chance to work with real experienced musicians!

NFS: And finally, are there any other projects or major events on the horizon that you guys would like to share with readers?

BOTH: We’re writing the score for season two of Alert: Missing Persons Unit, which is currently airing weekly on Fox and Hulu—a police procedural with a sonic setting distinctly of music from Philly.

In the works are also a couple exciting projects in the animation space, a TV series that may be familiar to some folks, and the other is a feature that gives us the chance to write adventurous and joyous orchestral music.

You can follow along with their Instagrams; @calebchanmusic and @brianchanmusic