Michael Giacchino personifies optimism, vigor, and sentiment in his scores, thus serving as the consummate candidate for handling the orchestration for Disney’s Tomorrowland. His finest work since John Carter, a legitimately excellent score for anyone who enjoys listening to ambitious instrumentation, this soundtrack ascends even higher in quality. Giacchino’s score typifies why I extend my moviegoing experience beyond the theater and through my daily life of carrying around an iPod with film score playlists in tow.
How do you define a fantastic score? For one, it must sound original to some degree. Additionally, the music should feel integrated into the film, failing to detract from what is on screen and instead adding to the immersive experience. It can also stand alone from the movie as a piece of highly enjoyable audio. Giacchino’s Tomorrowland checks all of these boxes and more.
From the opening titles, “A Story About the Future” sets the tone with some light ethereal touches in the strings and piano, but immediately shifts to what will now be known as the film’s theme, a bombastic parade of high energy in the implementation of brass instruments. “A Prologue,” also brief, displays the mysterious vibe found in many of Giacchino’s tracks. Its grand, almost imperialistic sound, mirrors that of John Williams’ Star Wars score, yet concludes on a more subdued note. “You’ve Piqued My Pin-trist” reveals one of the other main themes in the film, appropriate at this moment, since this is when we get a glimpse of young idealist Frank Walker. Its warmness and slightly playful arrangement makes sense here. Open and wondrous, the instrumentation matches the feeling of the wide-eyed child inventor. The second half of this three-and-a-half-minute track ups the enthusiasm, speed, and ornamentation, once again reflecting the idealism. Giacchino knows how to give the music character, and also how to have it showcase the actual characters’ emotions. Here is a nice example of that.
“Boat Wait, There’s More!” has a catchy title, along with many other tracks – another Giacchino signature – and here we sense an element of darkness. The use of horns here feels straight out of a war film, thus representing danger and anticipation. Peril does await, thus accounting for the frenzied rhythm. “Edge of Tomorrowland,” serving as our first glimpse of the utopia, carries across that vision and anxiety with the orchestration. The Tomorrowland cue is heard briefly. The musical choices in this track are all over the place, albeit intentionally, to underscore Walker’s uncertainty. It ranges from a little wacky to dangerous, all in the period of just a few minutes. When Walker’s jetpack functions, Giacchino’s score launches simultaneously. Triumphant and thrilling, he handles this pivotal moment with grandiosity. I would almost call this segment as Frank’s subtheme. Watch and listen to Giacchino’s work during this scene in the “Jet Pack Ride” clip from DisneyMovieTrailers’ YouTube channel below.
“Casey V Zeitgeist” returns to that nostalgic vibe for its first half and then flips to the fast, almost clink-clank sound loop he uses in many films. For instance, the first track of the John Carter score demonstrates this as the protagonist walks in the rain along a 19th-century main street. The Tomorrowland spin, albeit arranged differently, we hear another one of Giacchino’s trademarks. “Home Wheat Home” extends the “Story” piece. Possibly one of Giacchino’s best tracks ever written follows. “Pin-Ultimate Experience,” at just under five minutes, immerses both character Casey Newton and viewers/listeners into Tomorrowland. Giacchino releases himself in this exuberant atmosphere. The main theme is fleshed out, accompanied by an assortment of little touches. The whole orchestra is utilized, as while some sections may drown out other instruments, this represents a full-on, happy invasion of the ears with musical excellence.
“A Touching Tale” reminds us of the tenderness he can convey with just a handful of instruments. “World’s Worst Shop Keepers” plays on some suspense motifs with those moments of silence, interrupted by a few eerie sounds. It spans the range of conventional to exception, especially in its final minute, when Giacchino discharges a barrage of unique arrangements of feverish sound combinations. “Just Get in the Car” is much of the same in its odd pitter-patter movement, further demonstrated in “Texting While Driving,” the following track. These are solid listens, too. “Frank Frank,” a clever play on words, ups the ante of puzzling through channeling the complex recluse that is adult Walker. “All House Assault” stresses the notion that Tomorrowland is a sci-fi action film, complete with invaders, chase scenes and some fights. Michael Giacchino has fun with this track, a delirious ride in itself. Once again the orchestra is used to its fullest. Check out the scene, and listen closely to, Giacchino’s music in the scene below.
“People Mover and Shaker” is not nearly as memorable as its fellow tracks – at least, not until its second half, when the Tomorrowland theme comes on stage. The overture’s presence here, almost always modified when returning each time, feels welcomed. “What an Eiffel!” has some touchy-feely elements, and certain moments in the seven-minute piece seem like Giacchino took a page from James Horner’s The Rocketeer, another classic Disney soundtrack. Worthy praise.
“Welcome Back, Walker!” exhibits the dystopia that the disillusioned man returns to. Early portions of this track are akin to the creepiness of some of Williams’ early Harry Potter work. That Giacchino borrows some of these musical elements, whether intentionally or not, does not matter much. Everything feels appropriate and quite layered. Nothing is surfacy here, as he digs down to reveal these characters’ troubles and multifaceted interpretations of the situations they encounter. “Sphere and Loathing” extends this, containing unsettling views of the world on screen, yet matched with apropos music to heighten that fear. “As the World Burns,” a mix of The Incredibles,Indiana Jones, and other greats all in one, may carry some traits, yet is entirely imaginative and intense in its heavenly goodness of chanting and wind instrument combinations.
“The Battle of Bridgeway,” straight out of Giacchino’s playbook of methods in interpreting action scenes, finds a few subtle ways to integrate the Tomorrowland theme in its madness glory. “The Hail Athena Pass” is a brief piece set between “Bridgeway” and the mightily thoughtful “Electric Dreams.” Returning to those days at the World’s Fair, we can appreciate the journey that we have experienced through Giacchino’s lush and sensitive music. “Pins of a Feather” concludes the film with a culmination of Giacchino’s sublimity. It is everything you would expect from him and more. Check out the behind-the-scenes video below, posted by YouTube channel ScreenSlam, that showcases the music production – jump to the 7:17 mark to see Michael Giacchino and the orchestra.
If you do not purchase the entire soundtrack – which would be a mistake, since it is well worth it, be sure to download any or all of these tracks:
3. “You’ve Piqued My Pin-trist”
5. “Edge of Tomorrowland”
8. “Pin-Ultimate Experience”
14. “All House Assault”
16. “What an Eiffel!”
19. “As the World Burns”
22. “Electric Dreams”
24. “End Credits”
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.