‘Book of Life’ Score Represents a Series of Firsts for Composer Gustavo Santaolalla

The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir.

Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable gumbo (or more like a posole) for the triangular romance set against a Mexican Day of the Dead backdrop: symphonic, ethnic, folkloric, rock and pop.

“I’m attracted to things that take me out of my comfort zone,” says Santaolalla, who recorded at London’s Air Studios with Tim Davies conducting. “In previous films, the music was much more discrete and subtle, less manipulative. This genre demands that I be more upfront, but the aesthetics are different.”

Serving up those aesthetics include ethnic instrumentation like the marimba and the accordion, and horns that are more mariachi-like than classical.

One of the film’s highlights is a serenade titled “I Love You Too Much,” co-written with Paul Williams and sung by actor Diego Luna, who plays would-be suitor Manolo.

“Diego got some coaching and was a great about doing multiple takes,” Santaolalla says. “He got the expression, but from that to singing is a big leap.”

More Artisans

  • Alexander Payne and Director of Photography

    Director Alexander Payne Shares 'Downsizing' Production Team's Sizable Contributions

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

  • SOW_04121.CR2

    Colors Play a Key Role in Production Design of Guillermo del Toro's 'Shape of Water'

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

  • Films Balance Accuracy With Artistic License

    Artisans Balance Historical Accuracy With Audience Expectations in Awards-Contending Films

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

  • Crew Re-Creates World War II London

    Crew Creates Shabby-Chic World War II London for 'Darkest Hour'

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

  • The Disaster Artist BTS James Franco

    James Franco's 'Disaster Artist' Production Crew Lovingly Worked to Recreate 'The Room'

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

  • Call me by your name art

    Luca Guadagnino Shares How His 'Call Me by Your Name' Crew Created '80s Love Story Look

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

  • Justice League Iceland Locations

    Iceland’s 25% Incentives Combines With Spectacular Scenery to Lure Filmmakers

    The score for “The Book of Life” represents several precedents for two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla: It’s his first animated feature; the first time he worked with a large orchestra (90 pieces); and the first time he used a choir. Known for his guitar-driven music on “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Brokeback Mountain,” Santaolalla arranged a veritable […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content