Thursday, November 26, 2009

Music in Up

The recent Disney animated film Up has a large amount of underscore. Michael Giacchino, who has had a longtime association with Disney, seems to be everywhere in the past few years. Instructors might use this score as a foil to a traditional adventure-fantasy film score from the 1930s or 1950s, or perhaps to a family character drama (in the vein of It's a Wonderful Life). All the traditional devices are here, in all the right places, but the sound of the score is slightly different. It would be interesting for students to speculate on what that difference is and also what it means for the film to employ traditional film-music techniques and an (almost) traditional style in this way -- or, more generally, what it means for music to be deployed this way in the present day.

There is, btw, a nicely done "time passing" montage near the beginning of the film.

One of the traditional elements of the score's design is the use of character themes. I will admit that I completely missed the thematic construction and focused on topical associations when I saw the film for the first time. It would be an interesting empirical study to find out the percentages of viewers who respond to a film's music topically or thematically on first viewing.