Giacchino in tune with toons

Composer views animation no different than live action

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“Nothing infuriates me more than when people say, ‘You must love working on kids’ films,” says composer Michael Giacchino. “What are they talking about? Why does animation denote ‘kids’ films’?

“When I watch those films, I’m not watching animation, I’m watching this beautiful story being told. They’re telling a story that just happens to be animated.”

Giacchino’s track record in animation is enviable: For Pixar alone, “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Up” and he’s now starting work on “Cars 2.” His nostalgic, sometimes bittersweet waltz for Carl and Ellie, the childless couple in “Up,” drew unanimous raves last year and resulted in Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Grammy wins for the composer.

“He’s fun to work with, but underneath that easygoing nature, he’s very sensitive,” says “Up” director Pete Docter. “He can instinctively get a sense of what the picture needs, and he adapts himself to what’s required. He could tell, from the first screening, that we needed something simple that represented this loss, this unfinished dream that this couple shared. He wrote that first. From that point on, we just fell in love with him and his work.”

Director Brad Bird recalled that meeting Giacchino “was like meeting an old friend from when you were growing up,” a not dissimilar sentiment that “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams shared about the composer: “We loved a lot of the same stuff, movies, composers. … It was the kind of rapport that you have with somebody you’ve known for a long time.”

But, Bird adds, “The Incredibles” was “a tall order, musically, because I wanted it to have this brassy sound that we connect with spy and adventure films from the 1960s. That’s a very specific thing to do without sounding like you’re parodying it. I wanted to be affectionate toward that sound but also have it really work as movie music.”

Giacchino delivered, leading to another Bird collaboration on “Ratatouille,” which earned the composer his first Oscar nom. (Says Docter: “Brad would not shut up about him.”) And then there are the animated short subjects, like Pixar’s “One Man Band,” “Partly Cloudy” and “Day & Night.”

Says the composer: “Those are like extra classes at school. They keep you creative. I love that exercise, solving problems — and those shorts are awesome.”

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