To the recording booth… and beyond!
Feb 14, 2020
No film would be complete without a carefully considered, well-curated and dedicated soundtrack. Music can guide us through a narrative with emotion, drama and wit. It can instigate the difference between a scary scene and a romantic one… set us up for a visual punchline… take us back to a place in time, or keep us waiting in the height of suspense. Some of the most iconic moments in cinematic history are those in which music and film form the perfect marriage — and no studio knows this better than Pixar. The home of imagination, creativity and adventure. The talented tour guides who allow us to peek into that little door inside all of our heads, where escapade awaits and anything is possible. Pixar. With 15 Academy Awards, 9 Golden Globes and 11 Grammys to their name, it’s safe to say they’ve conquered the art of storytelling — blending audio and visuals in a way that not many can. So… what’s the secret?
From the depths of the ocean to the Scottish highlands… the underground sewers of Paris to outer space and beyond, Pixar has given us insight over the years into worlds we could only have imagined otherwise, differentiating between each with aesthetic charm and attention to detail. And the film scores and soundtracks for their 21 films offer a masterclass in musical storytelling — led by the likes of Randy Newman, Patrick Doyle and Michael Giacchino.
Toy Story graced our screens all the way back in 1995, opening with the now-classic ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ – setting the stage for what would become one of the most heart-warming buddy movies of all time, and quickly claiming its place as a firm favourite among families around the globe. This, along with two other original songs written and performed by Newman, are the only lyrical pieces in the film — the rest of the tale being sounded out for us with immaculate orchestral work, beautifully tailored to each moment, and packed full of emotional cues and grandeur. The bar for what a Pixar film should sound like was set high, topped only by Newman himself with the scores for A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc. and Cars. In the same way that the animators dig deep to the core of what life for an ant might feel like or how a family of superheroes would behave in a restaurant, the composers behind these much-loved films uncover what those experiences would sound like. And as opposed to Disney’s classic 2D films; where music is often used as a tool to tell the viewer how the characters feel, Pixar choose instead to paint out the fears, hopes and dreams of their characters with melody and heart.
One of the most notable pieces of music in any Pixar film comes from their 2009 feature, Up. Director, Pete Docter throws you straight in at the deep-end with a 10 minute opening sequence chronicling the story of Ellie and Carl Fredericksen from early childhood to the moment Ellie passes away, all without a single word of dialogue. The hook? Michael Giacchino’s ‘Married Life’; a sincere, honest and achingly heartfelt instrumental piece that has you fall in love with the couple before you’ve even opened your popcorn. The song went on to win several awards, including a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition, and the sequence itself gained recognition as a cultural milestone. So much so, in fact, that the tune was recently used by tech giant, Apple, ten years after the film in their 2019 holiday ad, which told the tale of two children visiting their recently widowed grandfather.
Each Pixar masterpiece has its own musical moment — Wall-E and Eve falling in love to the sound of ‘Hello, Dolly,’ on VHS from the depths of space… Jessie reminiscing over her child in Toy Story 2’s ‘When She Loved Me’… and Nemo setting out on his first day at school to the sound of echoing, aquatic drums in Thomas Newman’s ‘First Day’, to name just a few. Each fits seamlessly into the diegetic world in which they’re set, while simultaneously staying true to the studio’s signature audio brand. Play any given Pixar score in full while on your daily commute or cleaning the house — which, for your listening pleasure, are all available on Spotify — and you’ll find yourself recognising key beats of the story without even looking at the name of the track.
The happy moments… the heart wrenching ones… the funny parts… and the bit where for a moment, you think all of Andy’s toys are going to be incinerated — they’re all there— beautifully played out to tell you a tale of their very own. And with two new films coming out of the studio this year — Onward, just released in cinemas, and Soul, in June — we can’t wait to hear what they have in store for us next.