CD Review: Up

To “celebrate” their 10th animated film, Pixar has elected to release Michael Giacchino’s score for UP as a download only purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

If you’ll allow me to vent a bit, this seems a poor way to market the film and to repay Giacchino, who has contributed wonderful scores for his last two outings with the studio–THE INCREDIBLES and the Oscar-nominated RATATOUILLE. Film score fans have raised their voices in protest in the past when studios have released film scores only through digital means. If “download only” is the wave of the future, I’m going to have to rename these reviews.

So what’s UP?

UP is the story of Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner), a retired and widowed 78-year-old balloon salesman. Carl attaches 10,000 balloons to his house and flies to South America to honor the memory of his wife Ellie, who always dreamed of visiting there.  Accompanied by a chubby 8-year-old, the two opposites encounter adventures in the Venezuelan jungle.

Giacchino bookends the film with a jaunty swing melody for dance band. The charming theme sounds like it came straight out of a dusty Victrola, full of nostalgia and laden with memory. The score, at least as it is presented here, closes with a vocal rendition of the theme, “The Spirit of Adventure.”

Click Track: Up With Titles

But the film “is essentially a love story about Carl and his wife,” Giacchino explained in an interview with “So it was just about going there and finding out [what] that means.” What that means is a heartbreaking waltz that brings to mind images of a younger version of Carl dancing with his sweetheart once upon a time.

Click Track: The Ellie Badge

What I ended up doing was doing this very simple waltz that grows and twists and turns through the whole course of the film. As Carl goes on this adventure, everything just changes, [and] the music changes with him and his character as he develops and he grows…In many ways it’s a very traditional score…which was really fun to do but also one of the most emotional movies I ever got to work on.”

With “The Spirit of Adventure” serving as one of the themes of the story, fans of action music will find Giacchino serves up some exciting action cues with “52 Chachki Pickup,” “Escape From Muntz Mountain,” and “The Small Mailman Returns,” all the way cleverly working in motifs from those two main themes. As usual, Giacchino contributes some clever track titles, with “Kevin Beak’n” and “Giving Muntz the Bird” my favorites.

The bitrate for the Amazon release is 256kps and priced at $8.99 for the entire album, including three special effects tracks. Not only is there no information on the bitrate at iTunes, it is also listed as a “partial album,” which means you’ll have to pay $.99 for each of the score’s 23 tracks. Not exactly cost efficient.

The lack of a proper CD release is doubly exasperating considering the strong reviews the score has already generated. If my 30-plus years of Oscar prognostication have given me any insight, Giacchino is a shoo-in for a nomination come January. Once that happens, film score fans can expect to fork over big bucks on eBay for the Academy promo CDs. (You can bet Disney will spend the money to court Academy votes.) Before that happens, the rest of us should pony “up” the $8.99 and be glad we have a release of the score at all.

[Addendum 5/27: iTunes now has the entire album available for purchase. In addition, there is a 25-page PDF booklet and a 7-minute video interview with Giacchino. I’ll be ponying “up” the $9.99 for that as well.]

Readers of this blog have already read my high praise of Giacchino’s STAR TREK score, but UP is an instant classic. Giacchino’s melodic score is by turns tender and sweet, exciting and humorous, but most of all moving.

Not just two thumbs, but all ten digits way, way UP!

Film Score Click Track [rating:5/5]


    1. I agree. Great talent. I’m even excited to hear what he’s going to do with LAND OF THE LOST.

  1. I’ll be one of those who really wants this thing in a lossless format. So I guess we have no choice but fork over money for the Academy promo next year. I’m very furious with Disney Records for butchering the score release quality like this.

    1. I’m with you, Ravi. I’m not pleased either. I bought both the Amazon and iTunes versions, only because I wanted to see Giacchino’s video on iTunes. I also heard a rumor that Amazon was going to make a CD On Demand version, though I haven’t been able to verify that yet. Still, not the same thing, is it?

  2. I guess a CD-R version would still be better than this. At least it’d be lossless sourced! I’m keeping a little hope for an international CD release.

    1. If there IS an international CD release, guess who’s going to be contacting you. :)

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