Alice Cooper Channeled Tommy Chong for 'Peter & the Wolf in Hollywood' Album

Alice Cooper to narrate "Peter and The Wolf in Hollywood"
Dave Meyer

Alice Cooper to narrate "Peter and The Wolf in Hollywood"

This Friday the 13th, Alice Cooper gives voice to what he describes as “a souped-up version” of the children’s symphony classic Peter and the Wolf, which releases as an album and an app.

The story, with music by famed Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, has introduced generations of young people to the sounds of an orchestra. Now, it's been updated to the present and relocated to Hollywood. Cooper narrates the newfangled tale and gives voice to all of the characters, including Peter, now cast as a lonely Russian boy in Los Angeles who becomes a media celebrity after capturing a wolf that escapes from the zoo. He also plays Peter’s grizzled grandfather, a laid back SoCal gardener who takes Peter in after he is orphaned in Russia.

“I kept picturing Cheech and Chong,” Cooper says of the grandfather character, which was his favorite to portray in the story. “You know, an old hippie. I kind of channeled Tommy Chong and gave him that voice: 'Hey man, cool.'”

In an interview with Billboard, Cooper also noted he felt a kinship with Peter himself. “When you are that age you invent a lot of drama in your head about what's going on, so I related to it,” the theatrical rock legend confessed. “It’s the fascination of being a little boy, the fascination with wolves, the fascination of being alone, inventing your own story.”

Recalling times when his grade school teachers would close the blinds, quiet the class, and put on a recording of Peter and the Wolf, Cooper said that the classic story might have helped inspire his career.

“I’ve always worked in concepts,” he explained. “I very rarely do an album that’s just songs, that doesn’t have some beginning, ending and a story line. And so I probably related to this way early in my life and it came out later on. Maybe Peter and the Wolf had something to do with why Alice Cooper told a story.”

With this 21st Century addition to the Peter and the Wolf tradition, Cooper follows David Bowie and Sting, who narrated previous recordings. Asked to explain the Peter connection with music stars, Cooper chalked it up to age.

“I think we might have been the first generation raised on media and it just fits in somehow with the way we were brought up,” he says. “Our babysitter was the television. The whole thing of going in your room and listening to music by yourself really started with us.”

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The Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood album on Universal Music label Deutsche Grammophon, with music performed by The National Youth Orchestra of Germany, includes all of the familiar music from the original Peter and the Wolf. In addition, the new story is conceived as a “prequel,” set to additional music by Wagner, Schumann, Mahler and other great composers.

At one point, even a snippet of Cooper’s “School’s Out” is heard, playing in the grandfather’s vintage car. 

“That song is one of those national anthems,” Cooper comments. “It does find its way in a lot of places. I think it’s realistic that would be on the radio.”

The New York-based production house Giants Are Small is behind both the album and the iTunes app that tells the familiar Peter and the Wolf story “reinvented as an interactive musical adventure.”

“What we are trying to do is take classical music and turn it upside down,” Giants Are Small’s Edouard Getaz says of his work with partner Doug Fitch. “We don’t want to go strictly for the classical music audience, we’re trying to broaden the market.” 

Giants Are Small has previously been known for live shows, creating “big theatrical extravaganzas at the center of which you have a symphony orchestra,” Getaz explains. Using a fantastic mix of puppetry and live filmmaking, Giants are Small has produced events for Lincoln Center and London’s Barbican, among other major halls, that bring the hipster crowd to classical music.

The Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood app features hand-drawn illustration and 3D objects made out of papier mache and other materials, creating a kind of animation that will appeal to both kids and their parents. The app intersperses pure narrative with interactive features, like one set in a cool giant robot-building workshop. The app also includes additional musical features.