Eye on the Oscars: Animation Preview

It pays to be a part-time songwriter with a full-time job at Pixar. Alex Mandel manages the 3D department at the toon studio’s Northern California HQ, but still gets out his guitar from time to time. He jammed at the “Wall-E” wrap party with “Brave” director Mark Andrews (an amateur drummer), for example, and occasionally contributes music to short films by Andrews and others.

But Mandel’s big chance came nearly a year and a half ago when Andrews yelled his name across the Pixar atrium. The “Brave” director needed a song for a forest scene between headstrong Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor, and asked if he’d like to take a shot at writing something for the scene, since none of the pre-existing songs they had tried were “working,” Mandel recalls.

Mandel wrote “Into the Open Air,” and it worked so well that he and Andrews collaborated on a second song, the soaring anthem “Touch the Sky.” Both are sung by Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis (her first time singing in English).

Nine years ago, married and with a child on the way, Mandel gave up the band life and got a “real job” at Pixar, deciding to “do the music that I want to do” on the side. Now, with two songs in one of the biggest-grossing films of the year, he says he’s just “thrilled that both songs made it into the film.”

Eye on the Oscars: Animation Preview
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