Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"Somewhere Out There" by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2971
Date:  12/20/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  2
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following major successes such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, director Steven Spielberg chose to venture into the field of animation. Working with director Don Bluth and Universal Studios, Spielberg would exec produce an animated feature about a Russian-Jewish family of mice titled An American Tail. Composer James Horner would handle the score and like a good chunk of Disney animated features, Spielberg wanted characters to sing songs in the film and songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were brought in to flesh out four tunes with Horner. This particular song was performed in the film by the lead character Fievel (voiced by Phillip Glasser) and his sister Tanya (singing voice by Betsy Cathcart). Feeling that the song had potential beyond the movie, Spielberg decided to bring in two music stars to do a pop version that would play over the end credits. Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram were tapped to do the duet with Ronstadt's long-time producer Peter Asher on board as well. It was pushed out as a single just before the film's opening in November '86 and it began to get traction at AC radio. After the movie debuted and became a hit, the song crossed over to the Pop chart and began to wind its way up to the Top 10. It would eventually peak at #2 Pop and #4 AC. It was Ronstadt's first Pop Top 10 since 1980's "Hurt So Bad" (#8). The film's soundtrack would reach #42. This song would go on to win two Grammys. One for Song of the Year and one for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. Ronstadt and Ingram would get a nod for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. It would also be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  I remember when An American Tail came out. Disney was on life support and Spielberg thought he and his company could come up and become the new kings of animation. Well, that didn't happen. The film was successful, but it wasn't the Disney-style hit of yore. I saw it and was completely underwhelmed. In fact, I didn't like it. However, I do think the competition really pushed Disney and not long after they started to get their act together. Things came to a head between Disney and Spielberg when the sequel to An American Tail, the perfectly dreadful Fievel Goes West, got released the same weekend as Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Well, we all know what happened there. But I digress. I didn't care for American Tail, but the one good thing that came from it was this song. It was a beautifully written tune that featured lovely performances by Ronstadt and Ingram. The song had a lot of crossover appeal and it did better than I expected nearly topping the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The 80s were a low time for animated features. Disney, Warner Bros., and Rankin & Bass were all trying to score with the G-rated crowd, but most films came and went to little fanfare including Bluth's own post-Disney flick 1982's The Secret of NIHM, which did modest box office. In fact, it was so bad over at Disney that their animation studio almost went out of business. Their last major hit was 1977's The Rescuers. 1981's The Fox and the Hound performed well, but it was nowhere near blockbuster status. Hoping to turn things around, Disney gambled on a darker fantasy adventure tale called The Black Cauldron. At the time, it was the most expensive animated film ever made ($44 million) and it was Disney's first effort to use some computer generated images. It was also Disney's first animated feature to get a PG rating. At initial test screenings, portions of the film proved too intense for younger viewers, some of whom apparently screamed and ran out of the room. Even after a re-edit, the movie still proved to be a bit too dark and got the PG tag. The film premiered in the summer of '85 to mixed reviews. Audiences didn't bite either with the film grossing a very underwhelming $21 million. It was a major loss for Disney studios putting them on the verge of bankruptcy. While this was going on, Spielberg and Bluth were making their attempt to outdo Disney with An American Tail. Disney, meanwhile, forged ahead with the more modestly budgeted The Great Mouse Detective, which got released four months prior to Tail. It was a success with critics and did well at the box office. Tail would then be released and while it did better at the box office, it wasn't a blockbuster and critical reaction was mixed. The Great Mouse Detective would end up being a key film in the turnaround of Disney animation. It afforded them the opportunity to move on and by 1989 they returned to being the powerhouse of animated films with The Little Mermaid.


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