Live Review: Pixar In Concert – Royal Albert Hall, London – 22/02/14

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Films such as ‘Toy Story’, ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’ rank amongst some of my favourite films of all time, and I had the pleasure to see these films brought to life by an orchestra. The result was simply magical.

Not sure what to expect, I arrived at Royal Albert Hall to The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra tuning their instruments and there was a big screen set up in front of the big organ pipes, with a projection of Buzz Lightyear’s shadow holding a conductor’s baton.

As soon as the German conductor Helmut Imig arrived on stage to rapturous applause, the orchestra began the concert with the opening Disney and Pixar theme and I was immediately transported back to my childhood days. Several clips from ‘Toy Story’ were shown on the screen and the orchestra were playing along accordingly. The last scene that was shown was the famous flying scene towards the end of the film, when Woody and Buzz were soaring through the skies with a rocket. It was absolutely stunning to see this on a big screen (I never saw the first ‘Toy Story’ at the cinema – I only had it on VHS), and to see it accompanied by an orchestra greatly enhanced the experience – even after seeing the film so many times.

The orchestra then progressed to films such as ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘A Bug’s Life’, ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Cars’, with a host introducing the different films and giving a brief history about some of the composers including Randy Newman, Thomas Newman and Michael Giacchino. Imig was obviously very passionate about the music – wildly directing the musicians and putting everything into it, whilst keeping an eye on the small screen positioned next to him which showed what was being shown on the big screen and having an indicator to keep him in time with the moving picture.

There were times when the orchestra were slightly out of time with the clips on screen: the strings were a little bit late when Woody and Buzz fall into Andy’s car at the end of ‘Toy Story’ and when the ant Flick crashes into a rock whilst floating on a dandelion in ‘A Bug’s Life’, but of course it must have been very difficult to keep precisely in time with the clips and fortunately, it did not take the charm away from the experience. Then there were other times when the orchestral cues were absolutely on point – when the lovable robot Wall-E in its self-titled film rummaged through household items in a dystopian version of Earth, it picked up car keys and triggered a car sound from far away – and this was executed perfectly by the orchestra and made me chuckle. The whole scene was timed very accurately by Imig and the orchestra.

The film that I was most anticipating was ‘Up’ – visually and musically, the first ten minutes of that film tugs at your heartstrings. The host told us to have some tissues handy and for good reason – the orchestra performed the first scene absolutely beautifully, with each note full of emotion. The ending was stunning and I was wiping away tears by the end (along with many other members of the audience). It was definitely the highlight of the evening.

The evening ended with an orchestral rendition of Randy Newman’s famous song ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’, with the screen displaying photos of the composers in various studios, responded by applause from the audience. The end of the concert prompted a number of people to join in a standing ovation. It was clear that people were moved by the performance, me included.

The concert was exciting, nostalgic and ultimately proved how important music is in the world of film.

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