This post was written by Mark Evitts.

Frog and Toad is a series of children’s books that are not just classic, they’re iconic. So many generations have grown up on these stories. While I was obviously ecstatic to be hired as the composer and songwriter for AppleTV+’s newly adapted animation series, Frog and Toad, I also knew that it would be a challenge to meet the expectations of the wide fan base that this series had.

After those initial meetings with the Titmouse and AppleTV+ team members, I saw their heart and passion and it inspired me on various levels. Just as the show is about positivityovercoming challenges, teamwork, and adventureeveryone who worked on this show encapsulates those same values behind the scenes. Rob Hoegee and his team at Titmouse were a tour de force when it came to animation, writing, and overall storytelling.  ­

I grew up in Paducah, KY, a river town about halfway between Chicago and New Orleans. My hometown is a melting pot of music genres with jazz coming down from the north, Dixieland upstream from the south, Appalachian folk, and bluegrass from the rest of the historically rich state. I started playing violin in the school orchestra at the age of twelve and was writing full orchestrations a few years later. I was a music theory nut, but as I grew up, my taste in music evolved.

Markevitts-76765_websize_-_pc_jessica_amersonMark Evitts

Being from Kentucky, violins turned to fiddles and I started playing country, folk, and bluegrass. By fifteen years old, my dad was dropping me off at truck stops to improvise with the old guys who performed there each week. A few years later, I moved to Nashville and started  touring with national and international performing artists, songwriting, string arranging, and producing for all kinds of projects, from NBC’s SMASH toNetflix’s Arlo the Alligator Boy to Nas’ music video, “Brunch On Sundays.” It was these eclectic experiences that definitely helped me create a tonal palette for Frog and Toad.

Early into writing music for the show, I had already planned a family vacation to New Orleans, and when I told the Executive Producer, Rob Hoegee, that I would be taking some time off for a few days, he said he would be, too, because he was going to New Orleans on a family vacation!

Without even knowing it, we ended up staying a block away from each other and got to spend an evening on a balcony drinking gin and tonics and listening to the amazing street musicians below. It became a magical incarnation of a musical “writer’s room” where we fleshed out the tonal sound together that night.

Frog_and_toad_apple_tv'Frog and Toad'Credit: Apple TV

Being a Nashville musician, you learn about collaboration quickly. Almost every story from music creators centers around co-writing in writer’s rooms. Bouncing concepts off of each other, putting ego to the side, choosing the best ideas, and running with them. Composing and songwriting on Frog and Toad was no different for me. I’d watch the entire episode first and make notes about what instruments or tempos might highlight the action and the story arc.

Then, I’d sit down with Rob and the studio and hear their ideas then chat out my own. I was always open to what they had envisioned and then tried to meld my instincts and theirs together.

I also wanted to collaborate with the work of the animators. I paid close attention to Frog and Toad’s walking strides. They have such distinctive gaits, and I wanted to match that musically. As a composer, I have the enviable position to be one of the last people in the production where I get to see everyone’s hard work shine.

Since collaboration and working together is a huge theme throughout Frog and Toad, the scene of which I am most proud is in the episode “Dragons and Giants”.

In this 1:30 cue, Frog and Toad are climbing to the top of a mountain to prove their braveness to each other and themselves. It was one of the most challenging scenes I worked on as well as the most fulfilling. It was a bit of a long scene, and as the title of the episode suggests it strayed away tonally from the folky, old-time, jazzy feel of the rest of the show. I knew that I needed to go a bit more epic in the sound given the medieval story-within-a-story setting.

Frog_and_toad_kite'Frog and Toad'Credit: Apple TV

Frog and Toad are climbing up a mountain with the wind blowing in their faces and chanting, “We are not afraid!” This also happens to be, by far, the scariest scene in the entire season, but it’s still a show for young children so I had to consider how the music would affect the viewer’s emotional state.

In the original spotting session, we discussed playing with a fantastical music feel but not straying too much from the palette.

I wanted a musical theme that read “overcoming potential danger with bravery.” I decided to take this theme and pass it around to different instruments in the orchestra while modulating and finding ways to highlight action during points of dangerous winds and sticks falling down the mountain.

When they finally arrived at the top, I had a choice to make: Do I give a huge The Lord of the Rings style epic resolution to finish the orchestral motif, or do I use folky jazz like I had used in previous episodes to represent teamwork?

For me, it was a no-brainer to go to the signature teamwork sound of a raucous New Orleans’ Dixieland street band for this victorious moment.

Now that Frog and Toad is streaming on Apple TV+, I have been able to go back and watch the episodes. I’m proud, not just of my work, but of the entire team. The animation is gorgeous, the writing is amazing, and the music is good, too!

As Frog and Toad showed us over and over again, we can achieve amazing things through teamwork.

This post was written by Mark Evitts.