Full Sail Stories
Published Jan 24, 2020
Meet the Grad Whose Songs Are Now Part of the 'Star Wars' Canon
Dan Fontana works with fellow grads at Ty Fy Studios creating original music for Disney Parks.
Dan Fontana, a 1998 Recording Arts graduate and owner of Ty Fy Studios, has spent his decorated career working on countless award-winning Disney theme park shows and scores. He's recorded in some of the world's most celebrated studios and has taken fellow Full Sail grads along with him every step of the way.
Before his time at Full Sail, Dan spent much of his early career working in live sound. Wanting a pivot, he enrolled in Full Sail's Recording Arts program to focus on building a career in a recording studio. "My first day at Full Sail, I considered the first day of the rest of my life," says Dan.
Post-graduation, Dan landed an internship working with the Disney Music Department and built connections that would keep work coming his way. After wrapping up the internship, Dan kept true to his goals of working in a studio and made his way to Miami to work with Outpost Audio, later moving to Los Angeles to work on feature films, including The Thomas Crown Affair and Simpatico.
After his successes in Miami and L.A., Dan decided it was time to build his own studio, though the decision certainly didn't lack hurdles. "The minute you leave an established facility, you have to find the work," says Dan, reflecting on Ty Fy's humble beginnings. "It's not like people are banging on your door." One thing Dan did realize when launching his own studio was the caliber of work he needed from his team. Over the years, Ty Fy has employed many Full Sail grads and trained countless interns through the studio's internship program, which he modeled after his own experiences at Disney. "Inside of Ty Fy is all Full Sailors," he says. "I know the base of knowledge [someone is] coming out of the school with and I can vet an engineer in five minutes."
Little did Dan know that the relationships he cultivated during his own internship would lead him to an impressive career in live theme park audio. The audio produced at Ty Fy has not only appeared in shows throughout the Central Florida Disney parks, but on Disney Cruise Line ships in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, as well as in Disney Parks located in Hong Kong, Anaheim, Shanghai, and Paris. He's even gotten the chance to record at legendary music studio Abbey Road, for several of the park's iconic shows, like "Disney Movie Magic," "Wonderful World of Animation," and others. "It was a real thrill to sit in the Abbey Road control [room]," says Dan. "It's like walking into the Vatican of music."
But that's not all Dan and his team have to be proud of. Ty Fy Studios was given the chance to contribute to the parks' newest addition, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Working closely with Disney Imagineering and Star Wars composer John Williams' team, Dan and his collaborator Roger Butterley composed four original tracks now in rotation at Oga's Cantina in both the Florida and California Galaxy's Edge locations. "Our songs are officially now part of the Star Wars canon... now that's cool," says Dan.
Dan and Roger approached the creation of the four Cantina songs from a stance any serious Star Wars fan would. The Mos Eisley-inspired drinking song "Yoccola Ateema" (which translates to "drink now" in Huttese – that's right, Dan and Roger even wrote the songs in Jabba the Hutt's native tongue), and a reggae track called "Ma Pateesa" were deliberately crafted to fit into the universe loved by millions of fans worldwide. Though if you find yourself listening to the songs on streaming services, you won't see Dan Fontana or Roger Butterley credited at all, since the pair used their self-appointed Star Wars names "Fytee" and "RB Snootles."
As a winner of multiple Thea Awards – the theme park equivalent to a Grammy – Dan may have accomplished a lot in his 20-plus years in audio, but it's clear he doesn't see an end in sight. "The next opportunity will show its face," he says. "We didn't expect to creatively contribute to Star Wars… we never know what's coming."