If you remember seeing “Toy Story” when it first rolled into movie theaters in 1995, you might recall feeling that you saw something both unexpectedly wonderful and technologically new.
“Toy Story,” the first feature-length release from Pixar Animation Studios, instantly raised the bar for computer-generated animation with its high-quality images and a sophisticated, buddy-comedy story equally rich in characters, dialogue and imaginative action.
A music score by Randy Newman, including his Oscar-nominated song “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” added to “Toy Story’s” easygoing wit and charm.
Thirteen feature films later — including two “Toy Story” sequels, plus “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.” “Cars” and “WALL-E” — Pixar has won 27 Academy Awards and given its parent corporation, the Walt Disney Company, plenty of music with which to do some creative programming.
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One of those projects comes to Benaroya Hall this weekend (July 11-12) when the Seattle Symphony Orchestra presents “Pixar In Concert,” a performance of music originally composed for the studio’s features and set to images (screened above the stage) from the likes of “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and “Brave.”
“The music has been elevated to a primary position,” says Jonathan Heely, director of Disney Concerts. “We’re not showing film clips so much as silent montages from all the films. The Pixar team that put them together has created a lot of excitement and emotion.”
Heely says “Pixar In Concert” began as a gift to San Francisco.
“Pixar’s headquarters is in the Bay Area,” says Heely. “Pete Docter [one of Pixar’s producers and the director of the Oscar-winning ‘Up’] had this idea of creating a show for the San Francisco Symphony. Disney has the rights to the music, and we have experience doing similar shows around ‘Fantasia,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and so on.
“So we partnered with Pixar, and after San Francisco we worked with other regional orchestras, getting the concert materials to them.”
Adam Stern, music director of Seattle Philharmonic and an old hand at conducting film scores, will lead the Seattle Symphony.
Newman, a legendary singer-songwriter who began his career writing 1960s hits for Gene Pitney and Cilla Black, is one of only four composers who have scored music for Pixar films.
He’s also the most prolific (seven movies to date, including “A Bug’s Life” and the 2013 “Monsters University”). A nephew of three uncles — Alfred, Lionel and Emil Newman, each of whom composed and conducted for Hollywood films — Randy Newman’s other screen credits include “The Natural” and “Ragtime.”
“There’s an Americana sound to his orchestration,” Heely says. “You know it when you hear it.”
The other three composers represented in “Pixar In Concert” include Randy’s cousin Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino and Patrick Doyle.
“Pixar is very careful and intentional about what they put out to the public,” Heely says. “They’ve done a marvelous job with this concert.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org