ShareThis Page

Pixar goes live with Pittsburgh Orchestra

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

Pixar Animation Studios has won 27 Academy Awards since it released “Toy Story,” its first feature-length film, in 1995. Each of its 13 films, including “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Cars” and “Ratatouille,” has been a hit.

Now, Pixar, which was bought by Disney in 2006, has joined its parent company in creating shows that feature live orchestral performances of the film scores coordinated with projection of the films or excerpts from them.

“These concerts are, in a way, what only a very few people get to hear because it's hard to get into film-recording sessions. These concerts are very much idealized versions of that,” says Jonathan Heely, Disney's director of music publishing and concert licensing.

Lawrence Loh will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in “Pixar in Concert” on June 21 and 22 at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Parts of all of Pixar's films are included in the program.

Disney began renting out music from its popular films for performance by orchestras 20 years ago.

“It was kind of on the heels of the reinvention of the animated musical, such as ‘The Little Mermaid' and ‘Beauty and the Beast,' ” Heely says.

“All of a sudden, we found that we had some music that's making a big deal. When we noticed that orchestras were interested in playing those tunes, we wanted to get really great arrangements.”

Heely, who earned a degree in composition at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., says many techniques used at film studios are impractical on the concert stage.

He says that music for films is recorded over many days.

The horns may be beefed up to 12 horns for extra richness of sound in one section. Film scores also use a lot of pre-recorded synthesizers. Later adding up those layers of sound is completely different from playing something in real time.

Mark Waters, the arranger for the Pixar show, had to balance being faithful to the original with what's practical in a live performance.

The drive for “Pixar in Concert” came from Pixar's creative team.

“One of the animation directors for the last couple of films, Pete Docter, grew up loving orchestra music because his mother is a concert violinist. He was really interested in giving another platform for the music to be heard live,” Heely says.

He credits David Tanaka, who made the movie montages, for being the “creative visionary” for the actual concert experience. But he also emphasizes that Pixar works as a very collaborative environment and that Tanaka's proposals received a lot of constructive comment from his colleagues.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.