Michael Giacchino is an American film composer known for his lighthearted, fun style and has composed for a huge range of blockbuster films. His collaborations with Brad Bird and Pixar have given us some of the best loved scores of the 21st Century. With several major blockbusters being scored by him (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Incredibles 2), I thought it was time we take a look at one of the best loved modern-day composers.
Michael Giacchino was born into an Italian immigrant family in America, and by 10 he had already begun making short stop motion films and recording his own music for them. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, and during his final year had an unpaid internship at Universal Pictures. After the internship ended, he was given a job with universal, where he learnt more about orchestration. He began his career composing music for video games in 1994 when Disney hired him for their various video game adaptations. He during this period, he scored many video games including the game adaptation of ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’. Then, in 2001, J. J. Abrams discovered his video game scores and asked him to compose for his TV series ‘Alias’, and subsequently in 2004 for his huge show ‘Lost’. This instantly projected Giacchino into composing fame, and it was also in 2004 that Giacchino received his first major film composing job.
Director Brad Bird asked Giacchino to compose for Pixar’s new film ‘The Incredibles’, and the upbeat jazz style score was nominated for two Grammys. While not his first film score, this was certainly his biggest, and with this foot in the door, Giacchino began to receive more film work. He has continued collaborations with Abrams and Bird ever since, composing the scores for Brad Bird’s ‘Ratatouille’, ‘Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol’ and ‘Tomorrow Land’, and ‘Mission: Impossible III’, ‘Super 8’, ‘Star Trek’ and its sequels for Abrams.
By now a very well respected film composer, Giacchino has gone on to score for huge hits like ‘Doctor Strange’, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’. However, he never forgot his animation roots, and continued to score for films like ‘Inside Out’, ‘Zootropolis’, ‘Coco’ and, in my mind his greatest score, ‘Up’. The beautiful, hypnotizing overture for ‘Up’ tells the whole story of a married couple in love, and its beautiful upbeat opening, mixed with its haunting ending makes it an utterly sublime piece of music that always brings a tear to my eye. This score deservingly won Giacchino an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Original Score.
One highlight about many of Giacchino’s scores are the humorous titles he names his tracks. While most composers name their tracks with a quote or scene reference, he’ll often make a pun about the track in the title. Examples of this include jokes like ‘Gorilla Warfare’ from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, “In Russia, Phone Calls You” from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and “It’s a Small Jurassic World” from Jurassic World. He said that he and his team love coming up with the joke titles, but that some directors are annoyed that the serious tone of the movie is sometimes marred by a jokily named soundtrack. This meant that for Rogue One’s score, Giacchino stayed away from the joke titles, not wanting to upset the Lucas Film execs.
At only 50 years old, Giacchino shows no signs of slowing. This summer, he’ll be heard composing for the sequels to ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Jurassic World’, with several projects lined up for the future. His style is unique, and always brings a sense of humour and wit to any film he’s composing for.
If you’re interested, here are my Top 10 favourite Michael Giacchino scores (as well as a key track from each that I recommend):
- Up (“Married Life”)
- Inside Out (“Rainbow Flyer”)
- The Incredibles (“The Glory Days”)
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (“The Express Elevator”)
- Star Trek (“Star Trek Main Theme”)
- Doctor Strange (“The Master of The Mystic End Credits”)
- Mission: Impossible III (“Schifrin And Variations”)
- Jurassic World (“Our Rex Is Bigger Than Yours”)
- Rogue One (“Imperial Suite”)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (“A Stark Contrast”)