A perennial favourite of children and adults for the last 28 years, Pixar has enchanted and entertained audiences around the world with its stunning visual imagery, story-telling prowess, and attention to musical detail. Joining us on the European leg of its tour, Pixar in Concert, is a celebration of the collaboration between this animation juggernaut and the compositional talents of Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino, and Patrick Doyle.
The energetic baton of Helmut Imig, and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, who recently ranked 2nd place on an online poll to find ‘the World’s Favorite Orchestra’, handled the Irish première of this sensory extravaganza with ease. Programme notes were unnecessary as the broadcaster and musician Ellen Cranitch introduced each segment with an entertaining commentary. Her appearance on the podium ‘house-left’ of the stage added a theatrical element to the overall performance.
As the opening timpani rolls of the percussion filled the auditorium, we were treated to images of the madcap Buzz Lightyear soaring through the playroom above a fanfare of swirling strings, rhythmic brass interjections, and playful woodwind. The friendship between Woody and Andy was epitomized in Randy Newman’s Academy Award nominated song ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ – a song fundamental to the evolving plot of the Toy Story trilogy.
Following our foray into the mischievous world of childhood, we are transported to the colourful waters of the Great Barrier Reef where Nemo, his dad Marlin, and unlikely companion Dory, embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Thomas Newman’s Finding Nemo suite opens with a tender string motif over a simple piano accompaniment, reflective of the innocence and vulnerability of the young Nemo. His escapades on his first school trip are mirrored beautifully in flutes and strings, while broken arpeggiated piano chords and shimmering cymbals evoke images of the glistening waters.
No sooner have we bid our adieu to the foundling clown fish, when we are thrown upon the vibrant Parisian scene, courtesy of Michael Giacchino’s Ratatouille. Clichéd accordion runs decorate the vibrant score, while toe-tapping, jazz rhythms mirror the fast-paced order of life in a busy kitchen. The iconic image of the food critic being brought back to his childhood after tasting Ratatouille’s dish reflected the overall sense of the evening, as we in turn are invited to revisit our childhoods through the magic of Pixar and its music.
A very pleasant hour passes with excerpts from A Bug’s Life, Wall-E, Toy Story 2, and Cars. The most notable moment in the performance was our introduction to Giacchino’s UP. Many a languid sigh was heard as we were informed of the following words appearing on the conductor’s score pre-performance: “don’t look at the screen for this bit – you will only cry!” Sniffles decorated the expanse of the theatre as Carl and Ellie’s life-long adventure comes to an end, accompanied by a heart-warming swooning piano motif.
During the interval children approached the stage with their parents and grandparents, eager to get a closer look at the orchestra and the instruments – a testament to the RTÉ Concert Orchestra’s ability to translate the music of Pixar in a believable and accessible way.
The programme concludes with fun-filled episodes from The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, and Cars 2. The repetitive style of the night’s music abated momentarily as a bagpiper joined the orchestra in full costume to contribute to a musical rendition of the Scottish highlands of Patrick Doyle’s Brave. Peals of laughter echoed throughout the venue as we enjoyed Buzz Lightyear’s dancing efforts against the backdrop of a rather non-inspiring Spanish pastiche of a pasodoble.
Every animated scene and cell is timed to perfection, with orchestra and celluloid in perfect unison. Overall, the music isn’t particularly taxing for either the performers or the listeners, but that’s not the point of a concert such as this. As our announcer observed, Pixar aims to “tell simple stories in an honest way”. The lack of on-screen dialogue on the night merely enhanced the interpretative importance music has within the Pixar psyche. After two standing ovations and a vigorous encore of ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’, Pixar in Concert was a resounding success.