Written by Jon Chau

When I got the call telling me I’d be the composer for Nickelodeon’s Baby Shark’s Big Movie, based on the children’s song featured in the most-watched YouTube video of all time, I knew two things right away.

One, the song would never leave my head again.

And two, that I’d have the rare opportunity of harnessing a global phenomenon to help tell a story.

The pieces were already there, I just had to figure out how to glue them together. When the world has a prior connection, how can I present it in a way that’s still fresh? How can I steer a pre-existing narrative and use it to invite an audience to fall in love with this story and its characters?

Baby Shark's Big Movie | OFFICIAL TRAILER | Paramount+www.youtube.com

In early conversations with director Alan Foreman, he emphasized how crucial it was to embrace the heart of this story. Revolving around the theme of friendship, it’s wonderfully written in a way that everyone can connect back to their own lives, thanks to writer Whitney Ralls.

In the film, Baby Shark moves away from his beloved home in Carnivore Cove with his family to the big city, leaving his best friend, William, behind. Alan and I discussed the idea of a recurring motif for the moments when Baby is learning valuable lessons while adjusting to his new life, and it’s the first piece of the puzzle I set out to solve. Sitting at my piano with no picture in sight, breaking down the story to its core emotions - this is the way I prefer starting every project if I can.

I had just returned home from a family dinner and was thinking about Baby Shark’s journey and the parallels to my own. Just months before, I had picked up my life in Los Angeles, where I had spent the last fifteen years, and returned to my hometown in Northern California, where my family resides. It wasn’t hard to draw a connection. I’m not of the belief that one must go through an experience in order to write for it, but when the opportunity arises to create from a personal place - as a composer, it’s always special.

Baby Shark's Big Movie | Backstage With Sharki B | Paramount+www.youtube.com

With all this in mind, I started writing a melody inspired by the Baby Shark song but reimagined in a heartfelt way that audiences may not have heard before. It begins with the first few notes of the song (“ba-by shark!”) and evolves into a longer passage that rises, falls, then ends where it began. Like many adults, my first exposure to the song was singing along in summer camps as a child, so I experimented with instruments that I associate with these memories like acoustic guitar and ukulele.

Layering a stack of these parts along with warm synthesizers all plucking away, a flowing ocean-like texture materialized that became a bed for the melody to sit on top of. Still, a flavor was missing. It was important to me that it felt like home, someplace safe for Baby Shark to return to when times were tough and he couldn’t make it through alone. Solo cello has always been a sound I gravitate towards; when a story calls for it, I jump at the chance.

Maybe due to its supposed proximity to the human voice, I find it’s effective in evoking the most potent of emotions. With the addition of cello on top of the piano melody, the theme was complete.

Once the heart was established, the rest of the score fell into place. My team and I recorded a 60-person orchestra to underscore the impressive size of Chomp City - as Baby Shark and his family’s world expands, so does ours. We wanted the audience to feel the same blend of excitement, awe, and nervous anticipation that the characters do.

If you listen closely, references to the song are scattered throughout the score in unexpected ways, at times sentimental, other times grandiose, and sometimes purely for comedic effect. Like the story, the music is playfully eclectic, shifting between multiple styles in a matter of seconds, but always returning to its soul.

Yes, Baby Shark’s Big Movie is a film for children based on a viral video, but at its core, there’s something in it for everyone to hold close - and I’m honored to have helped tell that story.