Glisten and the Merry Mission is not your ordinary Christmas movie. The animated film manages to capture the spirit of the Build-A-Bear universe and marry that with the perennial magic of the Christmas season. The secret ingredient in that charming recipe is the film’s score, from composers and frequent collaborators Meiro Stamm and Antonio Naranjo.

Stamm and Naranjo proved to be the perfect pairing for Glisten and the Merry Mission. Stamm has made a name for himself as one of the most sought-after composers in the animated and children’s media space, scoring hit shows like The Bumble Nums and PBS’ Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. Meanwhile, Naranjo has a proven track record scoring such memorable Christmas films as Christmas with a Prince and A Christmas Exchange.

“Sometimes composing for a film can be a very lonely process,” says Naranjo. “Both Meiro and I come from backgrounds of having played in bands where so much of the creative process is a musical conversation of sorts. It’s been wonderful to have found a way to bring that type of collaboration into the composing realm.”

The duo sat down with Awards Focus to discuss their work on Glisten and the Merry Mission, and pay tribute to some of their influences for the film’s score, including such classics as Looney Tunes and The Brave Little Toaster.

Awards Focus: Glisten and the Merry Mission comes from the Build-A-Bear world. Did you research past stories and content from this universe to inspire your work?

Meiro Stamm: We had very clear direction from the film’s director, Cory Morrison, on what the score should be so we just started working based on that. Cory and the Build-A-Bear team really wanted a traditional adventure score with of course some Christmas magic as well. Plus the film is really visually beautiful so that was very inspiring right away.

Antonio Naranjo: Cory and his animation team really did a great job at bringing the Build-A-Bear world to life visually. Our role was to help bring the spirit of Christmas and wonder to the world. We were given the freedom to develop thematic material for characters like Santa’s Elves and Glisten, which was a lot of fun.

Meiro Stamm

AF: How did you take inspiration from other holiday specials, if at all, in scoring this project?

Stamm: Not so much other holiday specials but rather the fantastic animation that we grew up watching. For me that was the Disney classics and Looney Tunes as well as the Animaniacs. I loved, and still love, Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings film. It has a beautiful score by Leonard Rosenman that has a great balance of sweetness, mystique, and adventure from which I drew a lot of inspiration while scoring Glisten.

Naranjo: It’s a rare treat to be able to score animation in a feature length format, so – as Meiro said – drawing inspiration from our favorite animated films was a great jumping off point. I always loved the films made by Don Bluth Productions, like The Secret of Nihm, The Land Before Time and The Brave Little Toaster. The stories and the music treated these children’s tales with very human, cinematic and often dark undertones. It was fun to try to blend a sense of humanity in with the sparkle and magic of Christmas. 

AF: Are there any unique musical instruments or easter eggs we might hear while watching the film?

Stamm: The score is basically orchestral so there aren’t really unique or unusual instruments. I think one thing that is noteworthy in the score is how much of it we based on two musical themes – what we called “Glisten magic” and “happy elves”. Those themes are introduced right at the beginning of the film and reappear many times. Sometimes very overtly and obviously but many times hidden and woven into the inner fabric of a cue. If you listen closely you can pick them out throughout the film.

Naranjo: Working in a feature length format afforded us the luxury of thematic variations. We could weave all our elements into a tapestry that evolved alongside our main characters as the story unfolded. So not so much easter eggs as a richer music universe.

AF: You each have collaborated on scores in the past. What is the secret to collaborative success in composing?

Stamm: I think much like any collaboration the main thing is that you like and trust each other. You need to feel comfortable putting ideas out to your collaborator in a very raw and unpolished form. And you also need to be okay with the fact that your partner may take those ideas and turn them into something completely different than you intended. But that’s often where the magic happens. One of us takes the other’s idea and builds it into something wonderful because of a different and fresh perspective on that idea.

Naranjo: Sometimes composing for a film can be a very lonely process, and both Meiro and I come from backgrounds of having played in bands where so much of the creative process is a musical conversation of sorts. It’s been wonderful to have found a way to bring that type of collaboration into the composing realm. It keeps ideas and momentum moving forward and makes for a very gratifying writing experience.

AF: How does composing for animation differ from live action?

Stamm: Mainly notes per second! Animation really thrives on exaggeration so all the music can be bigger than it might have to be for a live action project. Plus animation is often for a younger audience so generally speaking emotions aren’t implied but rather spelled out. You can, and often have to, lead the audience more.

Naranjo: The notes per minute is a huge difference! And as Meiro said, every emotion is exaggerated. Big emotions and many emotions that change from moment to moment. I’ll also say – and this might pertain more to an animated series – but the breadth of music styles used in animation can be very broad. Whereas in live action you will have established your tonal palate and those brushes will typically stay the same throughout, in animation, from episode to episode – or even scene to scene – you might be working in completely different musical styles!  A pirate themed episode and then a cowboy episode, etc. The sheer variety required forces you to constantly be learning. It broadens your knowledge and makes you a better composer.

Antonio Naranjo

AF: If you could score for any iconic character, IP, or storyworld, what would it be?

Stamm: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Looney Tunes, and Lord of the Rings were the things I loved as a kid and still love. I’m not sure I’d want to score any of them though because they’re iconic and of a time and constellation of people that can’t be reproduced. They’re special because of when, how, and by whom they were made. And the ones that are still being made are something different now in terms of spirit…not necessarily better or worse but very different in tone. The only thing maybe would be if someone did a proper adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers. Those books haven’t yet been done justice in the film world. A limited series of those should be made. Then the stories could be done properly with real depth. That said, I’m actually very happy with who I work with and the projects we do. Whether any of them become iconic only time will tell but the work is creatively very satisfying and there are so many talented writers, directors, and artists that the future is very inspiring to me. There’s no need to look back and wish to be part of something from the past.

Naranjo: Batman. If only because those were my favorite movies as a young boy. Particularly Tim Burton’s versions. Batman Returns is a marvel and the first movie score soundtrack I ever bought. Every rendition of the franchise has been so different from the next, it would be fun to have a crack at it!

AF: What is next for you both and where can we find you on social media?

Stamm: I’m currently working on the second season of the PBS series Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum which will begin airing in early 2024 as well as the fourth season of The Bumble Nums. I’m also scoring two beautiful animated short films which will both be released in 2024 – Sam Chou’s The Death of James and Joe Murray’s Fiego and the Magic Fish. I just finished a live action thriller called Hunting Housewives starring Denise Richards that will air on Lifetime in March. Plus Antonio and I will begin scoring a really fun animated series at the end of January. It’s top secret at the moment so we can’t say more but stay tuned! You can find me @meiro_stamm_composer on Instagram and on my website at

Naranjo: I’m about to start a horror feature film for Tubi TV that will be released in 2024. I also have a thriller indie feature I scored this summer called Self Driver that will be on the festival circuit in 2024 and will be released by Mongrel Media. And of course, very excited to begin the top secret animated series with Meiro at the beginning of the new year. You can find me at @tones85 on Instagram and on my website at