In Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Niander Wallace has built a gigantic technology coorporation Wallace which has created among other things, a holographic companionship program seen through the character of Joi played by Ana de Armas. Anytime K turns the system on or off it plays the first few seconds of the Peter theme from Peter and the Wolf.

What is the significance of this theme to Niander Wallace? Is there any out of universe symbolic significance to the usage of this piece of work to the story or it's characters? It seems like a deliberate choice and I'm wondering what the reasoning behind it is as such details tend to add greater insight into understanding the themes and messages of the movie.

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    There's a few references to classic literature and children's stories, like Pinocchio and Treasure Island, so I wonder if it's part of a larger theme. From reading the Wikipedia page, Peter and the Wolf had as one of it's themes ".. the triumph of Man (Peter) taming Nature (the wolf).". So maybe it's Wallace triumphing over nature?
    – abetusk
    Oct 6, 2017 at 23:14
  • It's not significant to Niander, it's significant to JOI.
    – Möoz
    Oct 30, 2017 at 0:32
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6 Answers 6


According to the film's Sound Designer Theo Green, the aim was to differentiate the emanator from real world tech from companies like Apple. They wanted all the music and noises to be anachronistic.

“Initially I thought the emanator should make a little beep and whoosh, these Apple-like noises, but Denis [Villeneueve] was clear that this was the wrong path,” Green says. “It couldn’t sound like an Apple device, or like any of the devices of today. We tried all kinds of things, then we decided to have a little melody of Sergei Prokovief’s ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ I synthesized the orchestra and for some reason it stuck, and it didn’t feel like your iPhone would sound. I love that when we hear sourced music, it’s always something before our timeline here, or even the first Blade Runner film. Elvis, Sinatra, Prokovief.”

Love & Other Illusions: How Blade Runner 2049‘s Sound Designer Played With our Heart Strings


I was wondering the exact same thing after leaving the theater. Maybe it's meant to highlight Joi as an instrument that provokes and expresses emotions and personalities, just like the musical instruments in Peter and the Wolf that give an expression of the characters.

Also, the character of Peter is the most joyful and optimistic one in the story. Unlike the grumpy grandfather, the tragic duck, the pragmatic cat, and the bird that picks up an argument with the duck and dodges the cat. Joi makes her appearances in the movie, announced with Peter's strings with buoyancy and delight - breaking the rather estranged atmosphere.

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    Interesting take. I probably would've equated K with Peter and Joi with his bird companion. Also of note: Deckard's shaggy dog is a bit wolf-like.
    – Walt
    Oct 7, 2017 at 21:55

There's a connection to the author of Pale Fire here.


"All art is deception [...] Do you know how poetry started? I always think that it started when a cave boy came running back to the cave, through the tall grass, shouting as he ran, "Wolf, wolf," and there was no wolf."

  • I had wondered why the movie called that book out. (For others: it's the book Joi suggests K read to her, when he comes home on the first day.)
    – Tom
    Apr 4, 2022 at 3:24

Here was my take on it.

First, review the story:

In the story "Peter and the Wolf", many suggest that the wolf represents a darker-side of Peter himself. As the story goes, Peter lives alone with his grumpy grandfather who tells him to be wary of wandering too far from the house or the wolf might get him. Peter says "boys like me aren't afraid of wolves". Peter's theme (the song used for the ring tone for Joi) is intentionally light-hearted and vivacious. And Peter's lack of fear is somewhat representative of his youthful ignorance and naivete -- as well as his youthful vigor and zest for life.

Disobeying his grandfather, he strays too far from the house only to witness the wolf chasing, catching and eating the duck in one gulp. (same as K sees Luv, who embodies the dark potential of a replicant intent on working for evil crushing the device that holds Joi)

Seeing this brutality, Peter -- without fear -- sees the wolf cornering the cat up a tree and while it is distracted, solicits the help of the bird to distract it further. He then fashions a lasso and catches the wolf by it's tail as it's trying to snap at the bird and ties it firmly to the tree.

Hunters then arrive [plodding along wrecklessly and shooting aimlessly in all directions] looking to kill the wolf, but Peter convinces them to instead help him to parade it to town and put it on display in a Zoo to show off that he managed to catch and restrain it.

As they march off to town, Peter and the hunters leading the wolf with the grandfather grumpily plodding behind, the grandfather asks "but what if Peter had not caught the wolf?"

Given the assumption that the wolf represents a darker side of Peter as well as a realization of the Grandfather's ploy to keep him from straying to far, the [story of the] wolf might be said to represent the false memories used to keep the replicants from acting out against their slaveholders.

The duck, perhaps might represent Joi (the bird that cannot fly, obviously looked down upon in comments from the other replicants. "he doesn't like 'real' girls", stated by another replicant. Early on in Peter and the wolf, the duck argues with the bird, the bird asking "what kind of a bird are you if you cannot fly?" the duck responding "what kind of a bird are you if you can't swim?").

The wolf again represents the darker side of the replicants and the grandfather those such as the police chief or even Wallace who only see the negative that can come from replicants being allowed to roam free and risk being exposed to their darker side if given such free choice and reign. And the Hunters are the blade runners and the system that keeps them in place.


Firstly – this is not a ‘ringtone’! It’s a brand identifier for the Wallace company. If you look closely, the three bars form a W logo. The best real-life example I can think of is Intel. Whenever you see an ad for a computer with an Intel chip inside you hear a little 5 note refrain as the logo is displayed. So Peter and the Wolf does not directly relate to K and Joi but to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his tech company.

Once that’s clear, so too is the meaning behind the music. Peter and the Wolf is a ‘symphonic fairytale for children’, telling its story through the clever use of characterised instrumentation. The particular piece used in Bladerunner is ‘Peter’s Theme’. Not the wolf's, the grandfather's or any of the other characters. So Niander Wallace is branding himself as Peter.

Here’s the story when interpreted through the paradigm of Blade Runner 2049: A young boy, Peter (Wallace), is warned by his Grandfather (Eldon Tyrell) not to stray from the fenced garden (Tyrell’s view of how replicant technology should be used) lest he encounter the Wolf (more of a concept than a direct character, the ‘wolf’ represents replicants acting outside their slave-like parameters). Peter (Wallace) ignores this warning, goes exploring (experimenting) and encounters a cat, a duck (replicant) and a bird (human). There’s a whole conversation between the duck and the bird about what makes a bird a bird (or what makes a real human a real human). On a supplementary visit outside the garden, a wolf (the replicant with free will) does indeed appear and eats the duck (the submissive replicant). Peter responds by capturing the wolf with the aid of the bird. Hunters (Bladerunners) who were pursuing the wolf arrive to kill it but Peter instead persuades them to harness the wolf and parade it through the town (showing the dangerous can be tamed without killing).

The story is a parable of humans triumphing over nature (or Wallace triumphing over the replicant technology and harnessing it for his own desired world domination). He takes the known threat and proves it can be used for good (or at least that’s what he believes he is doing by improving the replicants so they can reproduce). There’s also a little thing at the end of the Peter and the Wolf story about how the duck was actually swallowed alive and if you listen closely you can here it fluttering it’s wings in the stomach of the wolf. Not sure I need to explain that one…!

So all that makes it a very clever theatrical device. But add to it these interesting overlays: in the composition, instruments are chosen to represent each character in the story, like replicants replace the roles of humans; it’s a children’s piece, which Wallace likely heard as a child, bringing up memories of the past (and we all know how important memories are in this movie franchise).

And here’s the most compelling reason why I love this whole Peter and the Wolf thing: in 1978, an album was released with David Bowie narrating the story over the symphony. Apparently, Director Denis Villeneuve originally wanted Bowie to play the role of Wallace, but he sadly passed in January of 2016, ahead of the filming which seems to have started later that year. Boom!

When searching for Bowie’s version of Peter and the Wolf online, you can also find a reference to lyrics from the symphony. Here’s a section – interpret it as you will:

How to avoid a damage? Or how to survive one? His thoughts burn my fucking mind Don't lose the hope! Please don't lose, I never understood the life! Do not be like them Empty! Unsafe! Like them I can help you to see the light, Or perhaps I will try!

  • Did somebody call it a ringtone?
    – sanpaco
    Jan 27, 2018 at 23:17

This is one of my all time favorite pieces of music as it combines lightness with soured notes of despair. This is what Joi represents to me - on surface the perfect companion but one seeking something Pinocchio realness.

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