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  • Writer's pictureEsther Bae

Pixar's Favorite Composer Michael Giacchino and his music in 'Up'

American Composer Michael GIacchino has been a well-known collaborator with Pixar movies including Inside Out (2015), The Incredibles (2004), and Coco (2017). Today I'd like to talk about his third feature film for Pixar after The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007). It is Up! I think it's one of the most significant scores that he has ever written. Please enjoy the following Q&A that I created for the movie Up and its scores.

1. What are some important points about Michael Giacchino's career?

In addition to his works for Pixar movies, he has written scores for a number of acclaimed movies including Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Star Trek Franchise. His music has been on TV as well such as Lost, Alias, and Fringe. He has won an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and three Grammy Awards.

2. Was the music for this film well written and conceived?

Oh yes! The theme is beautifully written and flexibly transformed. The theme has so many variations for different scenes and different emotions. Sometimes the music does very obvious Mickey Mousing, which does bring up laughter.

3. What kind of instruments did he use in the score?

He used a lot of piano along with a full orchestra. The score reminds us of the style of the 1920s and 1930s as we hear a muted trumpet and muted strings. Piano is often used for sentimental moments, and bassoon solo is often used for comical effects.

4. Let's talk about the famous montage scene that tells the story of Carol and Ellies' life together.

The montage scene is done entirely with music. He consecutively plays the theme about 9 times during the scene. In spite of a lot of repeats in short time of period, he did an extraordinary job not making it repetitive or monotonous. The score constantly changes the solo instrument to represent the mood as well as their age. A muted brass starts the theme, which gives a sense of antiqueness. When a pitched percussion takes over in the middle, it creates a feeling of youth and happiness. When it gets sad, piano plays the theme with simplified notes in a very slow tempo.

5. Which scene from the film that is of particular interest to you and why?

My favorite scene is at the beginning of the movie where Carl starts his day. Carl gets out of bed, and the music starts. The music plays Habanera from Carmen, Bizet's opera. Although it's not an original score from Giacchino, I thought it was a brilliant insert for the scene. The scene follows the romantic montage, so it was perfect timing to get lively and comical. The music nails the transition and brings comedy at the same time. It makes an ironic parallel between Carl's slow, old behavior and the bouncy strings.

6. If you were the composer of this film, is there anything that you would do differently?

Mostly no. There are some hit points that I would not have done or done a little less because it felt a little too exaggerated for such small moves. But at the same time those kinds of decision also depend on the filmmakers, and we sometimes need that for animated movies.


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