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ASO's delightful ode to Pixar films


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The Pixar in Concert shows, which play across the world, present clips from 14 Pixar animated movies on a large screen, each accompanied by live music.

For the shows at the Adelaide Festival Centre, it was no surprise that our own Adelaide Symphony Orchestra provided the accompaniment – nor that it did so with exuberance. The very talented and affable Nicholas Buc conducted, as he has done for versions of this Disney show in Australia and overseas.

Since the live music substitutes for the original soundtrack in this show, it’s a bit like watching silent movies the original way. The difference is that this time there is much more than a piano player trying to add drama to the on-screen action.

After a brief and zestful fanfare from the first Toy Story movie, the program moved chronologically through the range of Pixar movies, including the other Toy Story tales, A Bug’s Life, both Monsters flicks, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars and Cars 2, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Brave. The audience included a significant proportion of families, and it was not only the kids who oohed and aahed. The man next to me kept saying, “Unbelievable!”, and none too quietly.

This format necessarily draws attention to the important role of the soundtrack composer in general and to the quality of individual works as they strive to complement on-screen action. At times that value is borne out in music that matches detailed physical movement, such as scrabbling legs, or ducking and weaving in a chase scene.  At others, it may be to underscore the suspenseful mood of action that is still imminent.

The experience of hearing a symphony orchestra live is seldom that of listening to a soundtrack, for which the instruments can be patiently miked and mixed. The clarity and precision of the Pixar performance stood out, however. The often over-shadowed acoustic guitar, for example, was given just the right prominence.

The clips were mostly well chosen. There was the lyrical space dance scene from WALL-E, with plenty of flourishes and whirls. Key scenes from Cars were presented in exhilarating moments with an accent on guitar and banjo for a slightly western effect. The montage of a marriage from Up allowed more wistful passages, and The Incredibles chase and fight scenes let in the brass and heavier bass/percussion sections for super-charged James Bond-style action. Buzz Lightyear’s attempt at flamenco was a nice touch. It was all a pleasure to watch, as some of the musicians certainly did do that during their rests.

The least successful was the performance for Brave, which seemed less coherent than the others. The music of Scottish composer Patrick Doyle also sounded more like a clichéd Hollywood idea of Celtic music, perhaps not surprising given its 10th-century Scottish setting.

The show was an ode not just to Pixar but fundamentally to its composers, of course. Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino and Patrick Doyle deserved the extra attention provided as their images played on the screen while the ASO offered a saxophone-drenched jazzy version of Randy Newman’s  “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”.

It was a delightful evening for fans of Pixar and of film scores, as well as for the ASO, which performed beautifully under Nicholas Buc.


Pixar in Concert was presented at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Festival Theatre for two performances only on November 15.





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