By Sandy Cohen
LOS ANGELES — “Imagine That” director Karey Kirkpatrick had a little more input on the movie’s soundtrack than many directors might: He produced nine of the album’s 11 tracks and performs on another.
The 44-year-old filmmaker began his daily guitar-playing habit at 12. A longtime fan of musical theater, Kirkpatrick wrote his first musical while a student at the University of Southern California, which landed him a job with Disney animation and launched his movie career.
While writing films such as “Chicken Run” and “Charlotte’s Web” and directing his script for “Over the Hedge,” Kirkpatrick would unwind after work with his acoustic guitar in his home recording studio.
He did the same while directing “Imagine That.” But when shooting was done and editing began, his tinkering took on more purpose. Kirkpatrick took to his studio to play and sing material for the film’s temporary score, designed to give the movie a musical vibe before the composer comes on board.
“It was really just me attempting to be helpful,” he said. “And by the way, it is really fun for me to sit down and do.”
Kirkpatrick knew he wanted to include at least two Beatles songs in the film, a feel-good story about a dad (Eddie Murphy) who makes professional strides after taking time to play with his young daughter and her imaginary friends. (The Paramount family comedy debuted at No. 6 with a lackluster $5.7 million at the box office this weekend, according to studio estimates.)
Four Beatles covers — including one by pop star Colbie Caillat and another featuring former Bangles frontwoman Susanna Hoffs — made it into the finished movie. Five more appear on the soundtrack, including an acoustic version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” with the director on vocals and guitar.
“I’ve never been a musician that’s been validated in this way on a record,” he said with a smile in his voice.
Composer Mark Mancina said working with a director who really knows music made his job easier — but he was skeptical at first.
“When a director wants to sit down at the piano and play an idea, that’s usually when I run for the hills,” Mancina said. “Karey is a songwriter. He’s not someone who dabbles with music. He’s a musician.”
Kirkpatrick said his involvement with the film’s score and soundtrack has inspired him.
“I always wanted to trade careers with Cameron Crowe. He’s such a music aficionado,” Kirkpatrick said. “That’s what’s been exciting about this. If it can put me where I can blend my 22 years of filmmaking experience with my music stuff, then I’ll be landing the kind of projects that really excite me.”