Musings About Music In Film

Inside Out

By Karol Krok inside-out-puppy-bowl-trailer

Michael Giacchino managed to build quite a career in film scoring for himself. Within eleven years, he scored many blockbusters, developed several working relationships with popular filmmakers (J.J. Abrams, Matt Reeves, Brad Bird) and won an Oscar. It’s quite an achievement. This year, his talents grace at least four major films, two of which are Disney productions.  While he had great success scoring live action, many of his fans still believe it is his work for animation and Pixar films that shines the brightest. From his feature debut in The Incredibles to the rather underrated French-flavoured Ratatouille, it’s quite clear he has a real talent for this medium.Inside Out is pretty much an ideal vehicle for Michael’s talents. It’s an interesting story about little girl Riley and personified emotions that live in her head – Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness and Disgust. As she moves with her family moves to San Franscisco, little beings can’t agree on how to control different aspects of life and. The film received critical acclaim and is already ranked among Pixar’s finest.

As the film literally deals with emotions and internal processes, so does the music talk directly to the gentle side of ourselves. Giacchino moves away from the grand symphonic onslaught of Jupiter Ascending and Jurassic World and creates more intimate sound palette. It is still very much based around orchestral colours but with a more prominent use of synthesisers and found objects (apparently, thanks to composer's own son). Michael brings back the jazzy flavour of both The Incredibles and Ratatouille (mostly the latter) and this chilled loungey music is very much welcome, especially after all those said heavy s-f films.

There is plenty of thematic material to be found in here, most of the ideas are very simple and short. The main theme appears right from the outset in ‘Bundle of Joy’ where it’s played on solo piano. It’s a simple child-like melody that becomes instantly memorable and it will accompany us all the way through this score. Giacchino also wrote a comical theme for low registers of his ensemble. It is sometimes performed on tuba (‘Team Building’), sometimes on low woodwinds (‘First Day at School’). And it gets a funky variation for acoustic guitar and small brass ensemble in the end credits suite. The third major tune is first introduced in ‘Nomanisone Island / National Movers’. It comes back a couple of times ('Tears of Joy') and is also resolved in the final piece.

Apart from the warm tones, the score offers occasional darker moments. The action music is not as prevalent as in the other 2015 scores from Giacchino and its outbursts are also relatively brief. But all those sequences are written very much in the trademark style known from other Pixar films, like Up or Ratatouille (‘Chasing Down Sadness’).  ‘We Can Still Stop Her’ is based around an obsessive motif repeated all the way through this cue (also present in 'Chasing Down Sadness'), while ‘Riled Up’ brings in the martial brass and percussion. On the other side of this pond, 'The Subconscious' and 'Escaping the Subconscious' both introduce a slightly darker mysterious textures for the unknown side of human brain. All those elements offer a nice contrast to an almost constant parade of optimistic tunes.

Because Inside Out is about human brain and its processes, there is a lot of experimentation with stranger random sounds that perfectly illustrate those phenomena. As Joy and Sadness get lost in Riley’s mind, Giacchino creates some of the weirdest music in his animated repertoire, often bringing to mind the eclectic and funny scores of John Powell for similar films, at least in general approach. But they always marked by composer's unique stamp in comedy and slapstick (‘Chasing the Pink Elephant’). Giacchino spices up his frantic action music with delightful saxophone solos in 'Abstract Thought'. The following track 'Imagination Land' brings in the hilarious childlike music straight from television programmes for youngest viewers.

Overall, it's an interesting deviation from all the other scores we get to hear from this composer in 2015. It’s not a space opera, ferocious action film utopian science fiction. This music is definitely smaller in scale and speaks directly to heart, something that might not happen with composer’s more imposing works. Perhaps not as sophisticated on a melodic level but that’s largely understandable, given that it takes place in a child’s mind. Funky, tender and adorable, it will sit comfortably among other animated works of this composer. Even if it's not the most striking of those, a lot of people will find it really enjoyable and endearing.

Inside Out is coming out on the 16th of June from Walt Disney