Emmy-nominated composer Amanda Jones is drawing on her rich musical background to create out-of-this-world scores as the composer on Cartoon Network’s new Adventure Time: Distant Lands special “Obsidian.”
The deluxe soundtrack for the special—featuring 32 tracks, including new scores from Jones, demo songs, and covers and remixes of original songs from other artists—dropped on December 4. “Obsidian,” which premiered exclusively on HBO Max on November 19, follows a pair of characters who travel to the Glass Kingdom and journey through time to prevent a catastrophe. There is now another special in the works, with Jones once again on board as composer.
From playing live gigs in her indie rock band The Anti-Job, to honing her composing skills on documentaries, Jones has forged a career blending her experience in multiple genres to create a unique sound. These diverse experiences came together for her work with Cartoon Network.
Jones had previously been focused on adult-skewing projects and was just beginning to dip her toe into the kids space with projects including How to Train Your Dragon 2 and a 30-second spot for DreamWorks’ Trolls 2: World Tour when she got the offer to work on Adventure Time.
Creating music for an established property, which already had music the fanbase knows well, was a worrying prospect to start with, she says. But showrunner Adam Muto gave her free rein to originate hew own sound. And because the the special explores new times and places, she felt able to compose something unique to reflect that.
Muto wanted the special to have an “otherworldly” vibe, and he also wanted Jones to be herself, she says. So she took the opportunity to blend a variety of styles together and create something completely new. For example, when the characters explored a desert, Jones started with the idea for a western theme, but then wanted to make something surreal so she added in orchestral sounds and guitar.
Jones is a guitarist, singer and songwriter, so she was able to layer tracks of herself playing guitar and singing on a few songs to add an indie rock feel to the whole album. The score throughout the special moves from orchestral to EDM, which kept audiences engaged, she says.
“[Obsidian] was a culmination of all my musical history, from playing guitar, mandolin, writing songs and using my voice as a texture in scores,” says Jones. “I could bring that indie rock-and-roll vibe into the special, while also drawing on my time studying film scoring and orchestration at Berkley.”
Jones also drew on her ability to play a variety of instruments to help represent the different characters in the special, she adds. For example, the character Marceline plays bass, so Jones used bass to connect songs to Marceline and her love of music within the world of the special.
Before working with Cartoon Network, Jones spent time on HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, where she had to write a different song for each sketch. Her other experience includes Apple TV+ documentary Home, which earned her an Emmy nomination earlier this year in the outstanding music composition for a documentary series or special category. She’s the first Black woman to earn that nomination, and she’s looking to keep experimenting and growing in her craft.
Jones is still finding her way in the kids space, and moving forward she’d love to work on more animated kids projects—especially on properties like Trolls and How to Train Your Dragon, she adds.
“My growth in the industry has been incremental where I’ve progressed to working on longer and longer projects,” she says. “This has been one of the busiest years for me, and I’m excited to try new things and keep finding new sounds in my future projects.”