Scoring MI4 and John Carter [Upd: MI4 SpecEd. BluRay Extras]

(Moderators: I wasn’t sure where to put this post, but as the board mentions “John Cater of Mars” for this catagory, I put it here).

I just wanted to let everyone know that the two live-action films being helmed by Pixar alumni are now at the scoring part of their production. We’ve already scored most (but not all) of Brad Bird’s Misison Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol, and have also started scoring Andrew Stanton’s John Carter of Mars. (Note that I WILL NOT post spoilers of any kind).

Just a couple non-spoiler bits though. First of all, I think it’s pretty cool that for the first time two major Pixar directors decide to make a shift over to live-action, they not only go with the same composer (Michael Giacchino), but their movies are being scored at the same time (we’re going back and forth between the two). The orchestras for both MI4 and John Carter are also nice and large.

MI4: We’ve been doing MI4 at the Fox scoring stage. On the first day Cruise was there to watch with his daughter, got some lessons on how to conduct 5/4 (not an easy meter to conduct) and decided to have a pretty good go at conducting the theme… and as he did with MI:3, Dermot Mulroney (the actor) joined the cello section to play for the entire day. As always, Brad Bird’s been fun to work with, and really seems to love the scoring process. The score itself does a good job at matching exactly what’s happening on the screen, and of course there’s lots of action and stunts (as you can read elsewhere, parts of it are filmed at the tallest building in the world in Dubai, which apparently they had free reign to film at before it opened to the public). The movie itself looks great, but I hope they make better trailers for it than one I saw recently at a theatre. It’s scheduled to come out in December, and I beleive is supposed to come out in IMAX as well.

JCM: We’ve been scoring John Carter of Mars over at Sony (the old MGM lot, where a lot of the Pixars have been recorded, and many of John Lasseter’s Hawaiian shirts hang from the rafters). There’s been very tight security for the project – besides the normal security to get on the lot, there were also security guards posted outside the entrance to the scoring stage itself to check everyone’s name off before allowing them to enter (not usually the case). As has been published elsewhere, though the advertising for John Cater of Mars shows a stylized “JCM”, the movie’s actual title has been shortened to simply “John Cater”. Andrew Stanton got up to greet the orchestra at the beginning (asking for a show of hands of who had also worked on Nemo and Wall-E), and mentioned how this is a personal project for him. So far there’s been no official behind-the-scenes video crew of the sessions for either MI4 or JCM, but as with Brad Bird on MI4 (and John Lasseter on Cars 2), Andrew Stanton would come out of the booth to flim the orchestra. Though live-action, there’s of course tons of CGI in this picture, and at this point, most of it seems fully rendered (only a small number of shots didn’t look finished at this stage). It’s a nice widescreen picture, but I hope the subtitles we saw (for a couple scenes) were just temp ones, for they were at the extreme bottom of the frame (which usually gets cut-off at theatres) and were pretty small. On Tuesday, there was a major ProTools crash in the booth (recording software), so there was about 30-40 minutes in the afternoon where we couldn’t record anything. At first we took out some cues just to read through, while everyone who usually stays in the booth during the process came onto the stage to hear it played “live”… but eventually we had to take a long break while they fixed the problem. It did get fixed though, and the cues got recorded. The movie looks really interesting (I never read the books, so I don’t know the source material), and I personally really like Michael’s score on this so far. It’s scheduled for a March release (March?) and is being released by Walt Disney Pictures, not Pixar.

EDIT: Here’s a link definitely worth checking out: … hn-carter/
It has the entire transcript of a long, detailed presentation that Andrew Stanton gave to reporters about John Carter this past summer (not just a few random quotes, as the original link had). Even if you’re not interested in the movie, it’s worth reading, as it’s fascinating, detailed, and covers many topics, including Pixar, filmmaking techniques, and Stanton’s philiosophy on filmmaking.

Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that the two first live-action pictures from both Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton are at the scoring stage now (no pun intended), and will be coming to a threatre near you in a few months…

As always, thanks for the spoiler-free, insight-filled updates, miafka. I’m not gonna lie, I’m very excited for these two movies coming out, because 1) the directors ARE Pixar, 2)their first forays into live-action, and 3) the earlier they’re done with those movies, the faster they can get back to making awesome animation flicks :smiley: I’m selfish just like that.

Well, the scoring for Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol is now finished – the final two days were yesterday and today. Yesterdary for Halloween, our esteemed orchestrator & conductor Tim Simonec came out to the podium… and conducted the day fully dressed as a nun – in full costume (with a ruler instead of a baton!)

Today we went back to do re-do some cues and finish up the film. After recording one particular scene (the point at which the film switches to IMAX for those viewing it in IMAX), Brad Bird wanted to show the scene to the orchestra… so we all watched as it was played back for us, with the music being pumped through the speakers. Later in the day, one of Michael’s sons came out to watch as dad conducted a cue that his son had given him ideas for… and at the end of the day, we recorded what might be some new logo music for Paramount (Paramount is having their 100th anniversary, and is re-doing their logo for the anniversary. We recorded a few different versions of new logo music, and Paramount will listen and decide if they like it or not). Today there was also a video crew that walked around and filmed the orchestra in case they want to do a making-of feature. At the end of the day, Brad Bird and Michael got up to thank the orchestra. Michael talked about what a busy (but nice) year it’s been, doing five movies in one year (to which Brad said something along the lines of “Well, I’ve only done one movie in four years… but it’s been fun!”) And when the day was all done, the orchestra was treated to champagne and gourmet cupcakes to celebrate (believe me, something never done!), as we all hung around for a while afterwards. I overheard someone asking Brad what it was like to a direct a live-action movie after spending so much time in animation, and his reply was that it’s really not all that different – that it’s still all about the story – just getting the best possible story (though he did say at least it’s faster than animation!) So Brad Bird’s first live-action movie has now been scored.

We’ll be doing more John Carter of Mars (with Andrew Stanton) before the end of the year.

Awesome that we have someone on the inside posting on a fan forum. Thanks for the updates.

Well, the scoring for John Carter of Mars is now finished… almost.

We had three more sessions for it this week (making it five days total so far), and pretty much finished up the entire movie except for a big closing credits suite, which we’ll do next month (along with any fixes or minor changes they might need to do). But other than that, the movie is pretty much scored now.

On Tuesday, in keeping with a Pixar tradition (even though JCM’s not technically a Pixar film), Andrew Stanton gave everyone in the orchestra special John Carter hats (black caps, with a stylized JCM logo on the front, and “The Voice of Barsoom” stitched on the back).

On Wednesday, there was a video crew floating around filming and taking pictures of us for a “Making of” featurette. As well, actors Daryl Sabara (who plays the author Edgar Rice Burroughs in the film) and Lynn Collins (the female lead, who plays the Princess of Mars) came to watch us, and Ms. Collins got up and spoke for a bit. At the end of the day, Micahel got up to thank his team (orchestrator, music editor, mixer, copyist, contractor, etc) that’s been with him through the years, and presented each of them with a nice gift.

For today (Thursday), Andrew Stanton got up to tell the orchestra that once again even though it’s not technically a Pixar film, they’d continue another Pixar tradition and treat the orchestra to lunch for the final scoring day. This time, they brought in two food trucks, and we had our choice of Kogi Korean Tacos (very popular here in LA) or Meatball sandwiches. We finished up the remaining parts of the film today, including a big battle scene in the afternoon… and at the very end of the day Michael and Andrew came out to thank the orchestra for the great work.

So now, except for the end credits suite (and perhaps a couple minor fixes), the film is pretty much scored.

On a personal note, I’ve worked with both Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird on Pixar projects before, and it sure was a lot of fun working with both of these Pixar alumnus once again on their first forays into live action.

MI:4 (Brad Bird) will be out in December, and John Carter (Andrew Stanton) will be out in March.

A few quick things…

John Carter:
The scoring to John Carter finally finished (completely) a few days ago with a couple more sessions. As I wrote before, we were just about done a few weeks ago, but still had to do the big closing credits music, as well as some fixes. So earlier this week (Wednesday and Thursday) we had the final two sessions for John Carter. The first thing we did was tackle the large closing credits cue… then the rest of the day and the following day, we did a few remaining misc cues, as well as going back to fix and tweak some cues we had recorded earlier. At the very end of the process, Andrew came out to thank the orchestra once again… and with that, John Carter is now completely scored.

MI:4 – Ghost Protocol
Today (Sunday) the orchestra was invited to an Orchestra & Crew screening for MI:4, so we just got home from seeing it. I won’t write a review here (because people would just assume I’m biased), but for what I personally like in a movie, it was by far the best Mission Impossible, and definitely worth seeing. As it’s being released soon, reviews should start appearing any day now – and I’ll just direct you to those of your choice, as I have a feeling they’re going to be excellent reviews. We got to see it in full IMAX, and it certainly was amazing seeing the IMAX sequences in large format (about 27 minutes of the movie is done in IMAX, on-and-off). Brad did a really good job on this one, folks.

A-113 in MI:4
I wasn’t even looking for any Pixar in-jokes – but noticed one anyway. Yes, the famous “A-113” makes an appearanace in MI:4. Look for it in the first half hour of the movie (about 20-30 mins into the film). It’s quick but pretty obvious, and a nice little nod to Pixar. But don’t spend all your time looking for it – enjoy the movie.

Here’s an early review I found already for it, from a trade paper (Hollywood Reporter): … iew-271129
However, be aware that this review contains major plot spoilers.

Looking back at this year, I realized that within less than a year I had the chance to work for three of Pixar’s Brain Trust (John Lasseter, Brad Bird, and Andrew Stanton). How lucky is that? :slight_smile:

Can you say anything about how John Carter looks? It’s just that there’s been so much negativity about it as of late and I need some reassurance that it’ll be as awesome as I expect it to be.

John Carter:
That kind of stuff’s not really for me to say, because everyone has their own idea of what they like, or consider “awesome”. There’s a definite look to the film (one I thought lends itself well, considering these are classic sci-fi books from the 1940s), but seeing as how I don’t know the source material at all (I never read the books), it’s not my place to comment about its look (though another orchestra member who grew up reading the books liked what he was seeing). And I can tell you the score for JCM is excellent.

As far as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol goes, as I suspected, the reviews are coming in quite positive. As of now on Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 94% positive rating among “All Critics”, and a perfect 100% positive rating amonng “Top Critics”. Pretty impressive for an action film.

For anyone interested in the scores, Varese Sarabande will release a score album for “Ghost Protocol” in January, and while there’s been no word yet about John Carter (it’s still too early), I’m hoping there will be a soundtrack CD for that as well.

Was that cover of Kashmir in the new trailer done by you guys? If not, do you know who did compose it?

No, that wasn’t us; don’t know who did it.

For anyone interested, there’s a very good, extensive interview with Brad Bird I found posted, in which he talks about not only MI4, but filmmaking in general, and talks a lot about Iron Giant and The Incredibles as well. Not fluff at all, it’s definitely worth a read: … music.html

I also just found an excellent and in-deptbh (50 minute) audio interview with Michael Giacchino that was just posted online. It covers just about everything, from Ghost Protocol to Pixar projects and directors to how he composes. Those interested should check it out:
(scroll down to where it says “Click Here to Download”) MP3 format, 50mins long.

UPDATE #2 (Dec 19th):
Two more links for anyone interested:
(1) Andrew Stanton talks about how movies are made at Pixar:
“People wonder what the magic elixir of Pixar is. It’s this: we shoot the movie four times!”
“We didn’t know how other people made films, we just used logic, which it turns out, nobody uses.”
Two quotes from an excerpt of an interview with him about John Carter, posted here: … -are-made/

(2) Michael Giacchino was on WQXR (New York City’s Public Radio station) for an hour-long interview, and played about eight minutes of the John Carter score for the first time publically (at about the 44-minute mark), so if you want to hear it (or the interview), here’s a link for it: … 28431.html

Counted two instances of A113 in MI4.
Wonder if there could be any more?

For those interested in film scoring and recording, there was an excellent and unexpected article in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday about Dan Wallin – Hollywood’s oldest working music scoring mixer. At 84 years old, he’s worked on hundreds of films – and Michael Giacchino has him mix all of his films, including most recently with us on MI:4 and John Carter… as well as Ratatouille, Up, and The Incredibles, Lost, etc. He’s an amazing guy, and it’s a great article. Music mixing is an incredibly important, yet underappriciated job, and it’s great to see a spotlight occasionally shone on those who are virtually unknown outside of their field.
“It’s Still Music to Dan Wallin’s Ears” … ?track=rss

PS: Just curious, but what were the two instances of A-113 in MI:4? I only spotted one (but only saw the film once). Perhaps put the answer in spoiler brackets for those that don’t want to know before seeing the movie. The only one I noticed was [spoil]an A-113 on someone’s ring about 20-30 mins into the film[/spoil].

Tom Cruise says at one point “I need immediate extraction at code Alpha one-one-three"

Small update:
John Carter:
For those interested, the CD for John Carter has now been listed on Amazon, for release on March 6: … B006Z21ZHO
Interestingly, it doesn’t even mention Michael Giacchino on the listing currently (I guess it’s still an early, initial listing), but just Andrew Stanton: “From Academy Award winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton comes John Carter…”

I don’t know what the “Limited Edition” means.

You can hear excerpts of 3 of the main themes (in poor quality, probably taken from Michael’s radio interview) easily clickable here: … oundtrack/

Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird) has now become the franchise’s most successful film to date (and it hasn’t even been released yet in certain major international territories).

I probably should put a post about this in the Up thread as well, but a fellow musician showed me that there has now finally been a release of the “Up” soundtrack on a physical CD. It’s from Intrada records, and is limited to 10,000 copies (because if more than 10,000 copies of a CD are sold, then they have to pay us musicians a small one-time amount, and I guess they’re trying to avoid doing that). So there will only be 10,000 copies made… but they’re available for sale now.

There’s also a Toy Story 3 soundtrack CD from Intrada.

Just saw John Carter tonight at a screening on the Disney lot (sorry, NO spoilers of any kind).

Having seen it in bits and pieces while scoring it, it was nice to finally see it all the way through and complete – and to tell you the truth, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

I never read the books (so I don’t know the source matieral), and to be honest, if I wasn’t involved with the project, I don’t know if I would have gone to see the movie (especially with the advertising campaign Disney’s been running for it). But in a way, it’s kind of a hard movie to market. It’s basically an old-fashioned pulp scifi story (the books were written years ago) and because the books influenced so many other movies, I can see someone watching it thinking it’s similar to, for instance, the original Star Wars.

There’s an article in this week’s Newsweek saying that with its $250 million cost, it will have to make $400 million just to break even – and the writer compared it (without having even seen the movie or waiting for it to open) to Waterworld or Ishtar (two expensive flops).

Knowing all that, I went into the theatre tonight not sure what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised. The movie IS what it is – but that’s not a bad thing at all, for I found myself really enjoying it. It’ll be interesting to see what the reviews say when they start coming out.

As I said earlier, I might not have seen the movie if I hadn’t been involved with it (especially with the marketing it’s had), so I have no idea how the box office will be. But if you go in willing to accept the type of movie that it is and the spirit it was filmed in, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised too. I thought Andrew Stanton did a great job.

We saw it in 3D, and like recent Pixar 3D films, the 3D adds the other dimension, but isn’t overused or obtrusive.

Score was great, and honestly, I thought Michael did a bangup job – a nice, soaring thematic score.

To the Newsweek writer (who never saw the movie), I don’t know how it will do at the box office, but even if it should underperform, my strong sense is that – unlike Waterworld or Ishtar – years from now people will still be renting, buying, watching and enjoying this movie. I plan to see it again when it comes out.

EDIT: So far the early reviews from reviewers who are not embargoed to wait until release date have been overwhemlingingly positive (4 or 5 stars out of 5 from what I’ve seen so far, matching my own opinion of the movie), but Disney seems not to want to change course with their terrible marketing of it, even though it’s their most expensive movie of the year, and from a director who has had a perfect track record, including making the most successful animated film of all time (Nemo) when it came out. Once again, it’ll be interesting to see the reviews from the major critics soon – and I’m willing to bet you that along with what will I think will be more overwhelmingly positive reviews, there will be included many words written of Disney’s terrible handling of the movie.

Just a final PS to this thread…
Well, the reviews for JC have been mixed. I have to say that I’m surprised, as I thoroughly enjoyed it. I tried very hard to think about the movie as if I hadn’t worked on it, and as if it wasn’t a Pixar director helming it – that it was just some movie I went to go see when I had some time. Would I still have enjoyed it? I have to say, very much so, yes. My one criticism would have been that it of course seemed somewhat dirivitive of other movies – but as we all know by now, in reality it’s the other way around, with more recent films having taken their inspiration from the story that created this one. I still feel people will be discovering it and enjoying it on video in the coming years.

I picked up the soundtrack on CD as well, and for those who bought the soundtrack online (without the pamphlet), here are the messages from Andrew Stanton and Michael Giacchino. I think a lot of us can identify with Andrew’s memories of the past, when we were kids…

For me, the '70s/'80s were the golden era of movie soundtracks. It seemed that with each movie came an accompanying soundtrack album, released in advance, to herald the way for a unique cinematic event. Your mother would drive you to the record store (ask your parents, kids), you would rush home, throw the LP on your family turntable (again, ask your parents) and try to will the unknown images of said movie into existence as your ears consumed the themes, the leitmotifs that were as instantly memorable as the latest Top 40 hits on the radio. I mistakenly took this exchange for granted and assumed it was some unspoken promise between moviemakers and moviegoers. Then, over time, these types of scores just seemed to vanish. I know for a fact that Michael Giacchino grew up the same way and wishes this wondrous experience on every budding filmgoer today. Well, it’s one thing to say you want that to reoccur, but to be able to actually make it happen is a miraculous feat. And Michael did it. No other score in recent memory has captured me back to that “soundtrack lover” side of being as his score for John Carter. For that alone, I am eternally grateful to him. But more importantly, his music has elevated this picture to a level of adventure and romance I had never allowed myself to believe possible until now. I truly hope there’s at least one kid out there soaking up every one of these tracks in advance of the movie, trying desperately to guess the images they’re attached to. If there is, they get to experience the very fire that ignited both Michael and I to make movies. Go get 'em, kid. ANDREW STANTON, Director of John Carter

I’ve always wanted to travel to Mars. I never knew, however, that it would take a 100-year-old book, the imagination of an incredible director, sharp as nails producers, a supportive family and a music team equivalent in guts and talent to NASA’s original space pioneers to get me there. Gratitude and love to you all!! MICHAEL GIACCHINO 2012

Well, that about wraps up this thread, I guess. We had two Pixar directors making their first live-action movies. It will be interesting to see what their next projects (Pixar, or non-Pixar) are.

Just a short post for those interested in special features on the video…

For some reason Paramount decided to put only a few extras on their normal BluRay release of MI4 Ghost Protocol, so the normal 2-disc BluRay/DVD Combo Pack has only a few extras on it.

However, a colleague informed me that Best Buy in the US (and apparently FutureShop in Canada) were selling an exclusive limited edition 3-disc BluRay/DVD Combo Pack with tons of additional extras on it (basically, the entire 3rd disc is a BluRay extras disc). But the only place you can buy it is at Best Buy in the US, or FutureShop in Canada. Having first picked up the normal bluray set from Amazon, I then got one of these BestBuy exclusive ones as well, and sure enough, it’s definitely worth it if you like the movie and want to see a lot of extras (especailly because as of right now, the exclusive 3-disc set is the same price that other stores are charging for the bare-bones 2-disc BluRay set: $19.99).

There are a whole bunch of short featurettes on this exclusive edition, and one of them is one called “COMPOSER”. Filmed by Giacchino’s son, it’s a good 10 mins, and follows Michael around first to orchestrator/conductor Tim Simonec’s house, then onto the scoring stage at Fox, and even includes Tom Cruise getting up to conduct the MI theme.

For those who are interested in extras, please note that BestBuy is selling BOTH the bare-bones normal 2-disc bluray set and this excluse 3-disc bluray set right next to each other for (currently) the same price. So if you go into the store looking for the version with all the extras, make sure and look for the ones with stickers on them that say “Best Buy Exclusive Limited Edition 3-Disc Set With over 1 Hour of Exclusive Bonus Content