Singer Laurie Rubin asks, "Do You Dream in Color?" - Off-Ramp for March 3, 2012

Composer Michael Giacchino scores Disney's 'John Carter' (photos)

Michael Giacchino John Carter Soundtrack

Composer Michael Giacchino going over the sheet music for the John Carter film score as it's being recorded

Danny Greco John Carter Soundtrack

Percussionist Danny Greco and a pair of apple shakers

Cellists John Carer Soundtrack taping

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

Two cellists rest during a break while recording the score for Disney's John Carter

Don Williams John Carter Score

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

Percussionist Don Williams reading over music during the recording for the score to the film John Carter

John Carter Soundtrack

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC


Disney's newest film is a live action, interplanetary epic called "John Carter," which opens in most cities on March 9. The science fiction film is based on an 11-volume, 100-year-old book series, and is helmed by "WALL-E" and "Finding Nemo" director Andrew Stanton.

Also behind the scenes is well-known film composer Michael Giacchino, who won an Academy Award in 2010 for his score to the Pixar film, "Up." Giacchino got his start scoring video games like Call of Duty, transitioning into TV theme producing when J.J. Abrams hired him to score his hit series "Alias" and "Lost."

In 2004, Giacchino was noticed by director Brad Bird and was commissioned to supply the score for the Pixar film "The Incredibles," the first time Pixar had used a composer other than Randy or Thomas Newman. KPCC's Larry Mantle and Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson visited Giacchino for a tour of the historic studio where the score was produced.

For "John Carter," Giacchino teamed up again with legendary percussionist Emil Richards to create a score rich with musical color and a variety of interesting and eclectic sounds (the pair had previously collaborated on Pixar's "Ratatouille").

"On 'John Carter' there are so many weird percussion instruments that we're using and it just fits in nicely as a color," he said. "There are five or six guys back here and they divide up the parts. They can do anything … they're all good at it, but some of them have their kind of specialties that they stick to."

From Giacchino's point of view, the percussion section is the "playground of the orchestra," and many of the professional percussionists hired to work on the "John Carter" score are not just musicians, but also collectors.

"As you look around here you can see all sorts of things, including a book on George Harrison here," said Giacchino. "Look at thee old drums ... These guys collect everything and anything. Emil Richards … has a warehouse, in which he has tons and tons and tons of items that he's collected over the years. "

Richards has performed on thousands of film scores, some of which were recorded in the same MGM scoring studio that he's currently working in for "John Carter."

"The biggest one I ever did in here is "Dr. Zhivago." Four harps, 25 snare drummers, a russian boy's choir. It was about two weeks. It was great."

"John Carter" opens nationwide on March 9.


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