Category Archives: Soundtrack

Review: Monsters University will have you Roaring with Laughter

Monsters University has started it’s run of advance screenings and I was lucky enough to be in one of the cities hosting a college student screening of Pixar’s 2013 feature film. MU is the first prequel for Pixar, putting it under a different heading than other Pixar films, but while you think you may know where our favorite scaring duo ends up, the folks up in Emeryville have created a humor-filled and emotion-packed story of how Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan came to be the top scarers at Monsters, Inc.

Monsters University Review

Toss on your favorite Randy Newman soundtrack, grab a pack of MU fruit snacks, and settle in for Pixar News’ review of Monsters University.

Setting the Stage

The theater was first greeted by a video of Director Dan Scanlon, who set the scene by giving a quick background on the film and asking that the audience refrain from giving spoilers. Don’t worry, this review is spoiler free. 

Director Dan Scanlon Monsters University Review

The Story

We are able to travel to a time where Mike and Sulley are just getting acquainted. And where better to make friends than at university? MU shows the scaring duo’s rocky road to friendship, with hilarious college hijinks mixed in between. Its underlying message is a powerful one which will resonate with all ages. Numerous twists and turns in the story keep you intrigued, with some very raw and emotional scenes in the third act. I went into the theater thinking that it would be a straightforward story, Mike hates Sulley, Sulley hates Mike, they learn to work together and they become best friends; but the amazing story line packs in so much more than that.

mike and sulley meet monsters university review

Humor

Think about the Pixar humor that we have come to know and magnify it one hundred times. From Animal House references to the college pranks, MU comes out kicking with joke after joke. The college setting makes for some very fun humor (the stereotypical orientation leader, club signups, etc) and the meticulously designed world is full of subtle and broad wit. The entire theater was laughing so hard at a few of the jokes that I even missed some of the succeeding dialogue!

Monsters University Review Mike Disco Ball

Characters

Speaking of humor, many of the characters provided comic relief. As the trailers have shown, Art is quite the character, you can rest assured that his humor goes far beyond the scenes in the trailer and his “I can’t go back to jail!” line. The conjoined Terri and Terry also have some quite hilarious moments and a couple of heartfelt ones as well. I personally enjoyed Squishy and Don Carlton the most. Don is one of the few minor characters with a touching story arc running the length of the film. Squishy along with his mom are just plain hilarious, both individually as well as within the mother-son dynamic.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY Review characters

There was just enough of young Randall to make him a part of the story, while playing him down enough so as to not make this feel like Monsters, Inc. The casting of Hellen Mirren as the rather scary Dean Hardscrabble was perfect. The character design of Dean Hardscrabble is truly amazing and the stills really don’t do her justice, her centipede-like body in motion is truly astounding while at the same time making you cringe.

Soundtrack

Randy Newman returned to score Monsters University and he came up with a very fun theme that is used throughout the film (which can be found in the most recent trailer). Newman shifted from the polished jazz sound of Monsters, Inc. in favor of a pepband/brassband hybrid. Drumline cadences and grooves also made up a significant part of the soundtrack.

randy newman monsters university review

When Scanlon introduced the film, he noted that it was 99% complete with some soundtrack tweaks till needing to be made. I noticed 3 tracks which had themes from the Monsters, Inc. soundtrack, however I am not sure if this is the 1% that still needed work or if they were playing homage to Monsters, Inc.

All in all it is a very grooving soundtrack, and though it doesn’t compare to past Pixar greats such as Ratatouille or Up, it can definitely stand on its own.

Animation and Scenery

The settings were absolutely stunning. I was absolutely engrossed in the beautifully crafted campus; the meticulous attention to detail is superb. The lighting added so much to each scene, from the bright and radiant first day of school to the frat house parties. I am by no means an expert on animation, but just in comparing MU to Monsters, Inc. it is very easy to see that the quality and fluidity of animation has significantly improved. The fact that the animation didn’t stick out to me is also a good sign.

In Closing

The emotion in MU is very relatable and you are able to build a whole new set of emotional connections with Mike and Sulley. Though you may think you already have the story figured out, Monsters University is sure to surprise you with its many twists and turns. Echoing the intricate plot line of Toy Story 3, there are several point in MU where it seems like there is no where to go, but then another door opens up. The origin story of Mike and Sulley is quite incredible, and to quote Slashfilm, “You may know where Mike and Sully end up, but you’d never be able to guess the course of actions that brings them there.” 

Monsters University Review

Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella in theaters across the US on June 21st. Be sure to read Pixar News’ review The Blue Umbrella and order the MU soundtrack & ‘Art Of’ book.

Thomas Newman to score Finding Dory

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After Andrew Stanton’s major Twitter silence, he returned with trumpets, fanfare, and the news of Finding Dory. Everyone in the twittersphere was very glad to see him back, as he is one of the few directors at Pixar who has a very strong Twitter following and presence.

This morning, Stanton brought back his tradition of having question and answer sessions with his Twitter followers, along the way revealing that Thomas Newman will return to score Finding Dory.

 

thomas_newman_finding_dory
Newman is one of four composers who has worked for the Emeryville studio, the others being his cousin Randy Newman, Patrick Doyle, and Michael Giacchino. He previously composed the music for Wall•E and Finding Nemo (both directed by Andrew Stanton) and is set to score The Good Dinosaur.

Newman is the natural choice since he already has the beautiful Finding Nemo score under his belt. And with his impressive track record both at Pixar and other studios, he is sure to add that extra layer of wonder and emotion to Finding Dory in 2015.

Michael Giacchino Returning to Pixar

Very exciting news, composer Michael Giacchino is reportedly returning to Pixar! Giacchino has worked extensively with Pixar in the past, scoring 4 feature films and 6 short films for the Emeryville studio. And while we know the slate for Pixar’s next few films, the piece that Giacchino is scoring is one that we haven’t heard of.

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Photo © TrekNews

While in Lucerne, Switzerland yesterday (for a Star Trek Live performance), Owley Samter (a local blogger) caught up with Giacchino. In his interview Giacchino said he is working on a “project I cannot tell you about. And, a future Pixar thing.” Giacchino said he wasn’t able to give any more details on the matter, indicating that the film had likely not been announced, ruling out The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. Giacchino also confirmed that he is working on Brad Bird’s latest film, Tomorrowland, which arrives in theaters December of 2014.

Although the film seems to be very far away, it’s very exciting to hear that Giacchino is working with Pixar, since collaboration between the two always yields tremendous results.

Big Screen Animation via Owley

‘Pixar in Concert’ Coming to Richmond, Boston, San Rafael, Pittsburgh, Irvine, San Diego, Cleveland, Utah, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Cincinnati, Virginia, New York, and Texas

3/31 Update: With more and more symphonies picking up Pixar in Concert, I’ll be trying to keep this post updated with all of the performances, but with the summer season coming up, be sure to look at the schedule for your local symphony.

Puerto Rico Philharmonic: 4/5/13 – 4/7/13*
Richmond Symphony: 5/18/13 – 5/19/13
Boston Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Hall): 6/4/13 – 6/5/13
Marin Symphony (San Rafael, CA): 6/9/13
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra: 6/21/13 – 6/22/13
Houston Symphony: 7/19/13 – 7/20/13*

Pacific Symphony (Irvine, CA): 8/17/13

San Diego Symphony: 8/18/13

The Cleveland Orchestra: 8/31/13 – 9/1/13

Indianapolis Symphony: 10/27/13 – 10/27/13*

St. Louis Symphony: 10/28/13 – 10/28/13*

Utah Symphony: 1/3/14 – 1/4/14

Jacksonville Symphony (Florida): 1/18/2014 – 1/18/2014*

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (Canada): 2/26/14

Erie Philharmonic Orchestra (Pennsylvania): 3/22/14

Cincinnati Pops Orchestra: 4/4/14 – 4/6/14

Virginia Symphony: 4/11/2014 – 4/12/2014

New York Philharmonic (Avery Fisher Hall): 5/1/2014 – 5/3/2014

Fort Worth Symphony (Texas): 5/16/2014 – 5/18/2014

*Pixar has posted these performances, however the respective symphonies have not

Original Post: Pixar in Concert premiered in San Francisco on July 28th at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall garnering a great response. I personally had the chance to see the concert at the Hollywood Bowl  less than a month later on August 4th. The concert features a live orchestra playing selections from all 13 Pixar films alongside clips projected above the stage.

Pixar in Concert Poster

Pixar in Concert Poster

Following the great success of the 2012 season of Pixar In Concert, The Boston Pops and the Richmond Symphony will bring the concert to life again in 2013 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA starting June 4th and the Carpenter Theater in Richmond, VA starting May 18th.

1/29 Update: Pixar in Concert will also be heading to the Avery Fisher Hall in New York starting on May 1st of 2014.

From the French feel that Michael Giacchino brought to Ratatouille to the brilliant Jazz sound that Randy Newman brought to Monsters, Inc. the concert brings to life the amazing intricacy of Pixar soundtracks. If you have the opportunity to see either concert I highly recommend it, as it is an experience you’ll not soon forget.

If your local symphony is putting on the concert and we haven’t listed it above, be sure to drop us a line so we can add it to the list.

Thomas Newman tapped to Score The Good Dinosaur

Thomas Newman has revealed that he is returning to Pixar to score Bob Peterson’s The Good Dinosaur due out in 2014. Newman is one of four composers who has worked for the Emeryville studio, the others being his cousin Randy Newman, Patrick Doyle, and Academy Award Winner Michael Giacchino.

newman-thomas-good_dinosaur

Newman revealed that he is set to work on The Good Dinosaur at a recent talk at Syracuse University. Newman previously graced our ears with the futuristic Wall•E soundtrack and the emotional Finding Nemo soundtrack, and with the sheer scale of The Good Dinosaur it is safe to expect a very intriguing soundtrack from the Oscar nominated composer.