Michael Giacchino: The Wunderkind

Michael Giacchino was born in 1967 in New Jersey.  His early love for music and filmmaking began when he spent time as a nine year old creating films with his father's Super 8 camera.  Inspired by films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Giacchino also created stop-motion films.  Eventually he would write music for the shorts or sync up movie scores to his films.  After high school, he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York, with a focus on film production and history.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, but it was music eventually began to take over.  While in New York he also took classes at the Juilliard School and working in the publicity offices for Disney and Universal.    

A few years later, Giacchino moved to Los Angeles, working in the Disney Studios in Burbank while still composing music.  Ever busy, he also took night classes at UCLA in orchestration and film composition.  With Disney Interactive Studios expanding, Giacchino became a producer and began submitting his own scores for video games.  Games he co-scored include Gargoyles (1995) and Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow (1995).  It wasn't long before Giacchino moved over to DreamWorks Interactive and composed The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) video game which ended up being the beginning of his breakthrough.  Due to Steven Spielberg's involvement, it would be one of PlayStation's first games with a live orchestral score.  While with DreamWorks, he scored a few Jurassic Park sequel games and the game score to Small Soldiers (1998).

His next big break came from scoring the video game Medal of Honor (1999), the Spielberg-produced/created project set in WWII.  Again, Giacchino worked with a live orchestra, this time the Northwest Sinfonia in Seattle.  J.J. Abrams, a fan of Medal of Honor, eventually contacted Giacchino to score his new show, Alias (2001).  In a rare move like the games, Giacchino utilized a live orchestra for the television show.  It stayed that way for the show's run (2001-2006) in which Giacchino scored almost all the episodes.  In 2002 he scored two game sequels, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2002) and Medal of Honor: Frontline (2002).  He also expanded to the new WWII series Call of Duty (2003) and provided a top notch score to Secret Weapons Over Normandy (2003).

His large film break came with the Pixar film, The Incredibles (2004).  Director Brad Bird had been impressed by Giacchino's work with Alias, and hired him for the jazz-inspired superhero film.  Various awards came for the score, including a Grammy nomination for Best Score Soundtrack Album (with Gordon Goodwin winning a Grammy for the spectacular orchestral arrangement, The Incredits).  2004 was also the starting of the next J.J. Abrams project, the television show Lost (2004-2010).  Scoring all the episodes, Giacchino built a bevy of musical themes which were able to build and be used over the seasons - not to mention utilizing a live orchestra.  The pilot episode won Giacchino an Emmy for music composition.

2005 saw more feature films, like the superhero film Sky High (2005), the Christmas dramedy The Family Stone (2005), and scoring the Pixar short One Man Band (2005).  At Disneyland, he composed some updated music for Space Mountain.  With friend J.J. Abrams making his directorial debut with Mission: Impossible III (2006) Giacchino naturally followed suit, integrating Lalo Schifrin's classic theme into his action score.  He also scored the first batch of the show What About Brian (2006) and the Pixar short Lifted (2006). 

Once again with director Brad Bird, Giacchino brought his best to the French-inspired Pixar film Ratatouille (2007).  The lively score would win him a Grammy Award and be Giacchino's first Oscar nomination.  Ever returning to his roots, Giacchino would also go on scoring Medal of Honor: Airborne (2007) and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (2008).  With the Abrams-created show, Fringe (2008-2013), Giacchino composed a handful of episodes and provided the themes that would be passed through the show.  He would also provide the manic action score to the Wachowski's film Speed Racer (2008), and compose the Cloverfield overture "Roar!" for Cloverfield (2008).

2009 became one of Giacchino's biggest years with scores to the documentary Earth Days (2009), the Pixar short Partly Cloudy (2009), and action comedy Land of the Lost (2009).  For the 81st Academy Awards, he was the music director and arranger for the ceremony, using creative arrangements of great movie themes.  He also became a go-to for the Disney television Christmas special Prep & Landing (2009).  One of his biggest hits became the reboot of Star Trek, with director Abrams at the helm.  Star Trek (2009) became one of his most popular scores, and was nominated for a Grammy.  It was his score to the Pixar film, Up (2009), that received the most praise.  Notable for its 'Married Life' sequence and its transformation of lovely themes, the score would go on a winning streak - winning the Grammy, BAFTA, Golden Globes and Oscar.  

Taking a well-deserved break, Giacchino scored a handful of projects the next year, including the horror film Let Me In (2010) with Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, the cute Pixar short Day & Night (2010), and the next TV short Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010).                  
Returning with a bang, Giacchino scored the Pixar short La Luna (2011), and arrangements of John Williams themes for the updated Star Tours (opened in 2011).  In between large orchestral scores, Giacchino also scored the smaller projects Monte Carlo (2011), 50/50 (2011) and the next Prep & Landing special - Naughty vs. Nice (2011).  His larger scores include the next Abrams film Super 8 (2011), the Pixar film Cars 2 (2011) and the Brad Bird directed follow-up, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011).  Also premiering with 'Ghost Protocol', Giacchino composed the fanfare for the 100th Anniversary of Paramount Pictures.   

Returning to TV with a new Abrams created show, Giacchino composed some themes for the series Alcatraz (2012).  He expanded his style with the large-scale John Carter (2012).  He also expanded his past work with the Abrams-helmed sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013).  He also scored the Pixar TV special Toy Story of Terror (2013).   

The future is bright for Giacchino, with upcoming scores to the comedy This Is Where I Leave You (2014), and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) with director Matt Reeves.  Returning with the Wachowskis for Jupiter Ascending (2014), Giacchino had the score recording in London (compared to his usual Hollywood Studio Symphony) and also composed the score before filming even began (still relatively rare in film scoring).  Also in the future, the Brad Bird imaginative film Tomorrowland was recently pushed to 2015.  

His collaborations with conductor/orchestrator Tim Simonec since the beginning have led Giacchino to have a singular voice, and his use of expert Dan Wallin as score recordist/scoring mixer over the years has also influenced his sound (for better or worse).  He's also notable for his use of puns in his track titles, with help from his music editors.  

In addition to his great film work, his work on Lost has set a new bar for television scoring.  With his connections to Pixar, Disney and J.J. Abrams, his scoring schedule will be busy for quite some time.  It's amazing to what heights he has gotten to in such a short time, and becoming a popular choice for new projects.  Clearly Giacchino is a main choice for many genres, and venues - from video games, to television series, to TV specials, animated films, to box office hit feature films.  He'll have much more to write, and more for us to listen to.                        

Post a Comment


  1. He is certainly one of my favorites. Nice examination of his career and highlights.