Pixar in Concert: A Review

It is unmistakeable how much a movie’s score can affect and guide your emotions. For instance, one can’t listen to the first three seconds of the Star Wars theme song by John Williams without getting excited and pumped up to be taken to a galaxy far, far, away.  Or try listening to the intro notes of the Harry Potter score without thinking about Hogwartz and Diagon Alley.  You just can’t.  Great movie scores go hand in hand with great movies.  Pixar has capitalized on this idea with their symphony performance of Pixar in Concert.


With Pixar in Concert, the fancy symphony hall is transformed into a mini Disney playground.  What is usually a solemn and professional atmosphere is replaced with laughter and Disney magic.  When I first walked into the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, I was greeted by a gentleman playing Disney songs on a piano while kids and parents were singing along.  A chorus of kids sang as “Let it Go” echoed through the usually reserved halls.  Throughout the reception area, life size figures of my favorite Pixar characters were scattered throughout as people lined up to take pictures with them.  Even the navigational signs were replaced with pictures of the characters from our beloved films. “Of course I know where balcony seating is!  The sign with Queen Elinor from Brave showed me the way!”


I was lucky enough to go on a night where Brad Bird was hosting.  The name may not sound familiar, but you definitely know his work.  Bird was the writer and director for The Incredibles and Ratatouille.  Before the performance and after intermission, Bird enlightened us to some great behind the scene stories regarding his masterpieces and the music behind them.

As for the performance, it was an unreal way of experiencing Disney/Pixar. Each Pixar film had an approximate 10 minute montage played on the big screening while the San Francisco Symphony performed the accompanying score.  What bewildered me was how watching the films in this manner allowed us to laugh and cry at the same jokes and emotional scenes we’ve known for years as if it was our first time experiencing them.  For example, even though most of the audience has watched all of the Pixar films, this didn’t stop the crowd from bursting into laughter when Woody used Buzz’s helmet to light the match at the end of the original Toy Story.


One of the challenges of the night was deciding when to watch the montage on the big screen versus when to watch the conductor and the symphony execute their virtuoso performances. Since it was hard to not watch Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and the other classics on the big screen, I opted to watch the symphony during their performance of the two Cars movies; a franchise I’ve never been too into. Seeing the conductor Sarah Hicks perform was nothing short of magical in itself.  It was amazing to see her move in rhythm while pointing and directing the musicians with her baton.  I felt like I was watching Mickey Mouse execute his magic on the brooms during The Sorcerers Apprentice scene in Fantasia.


The highlight of my night was watching Carl and Ellie’s “Married Life” montage.  I knew the roller coaster ride of emotions I was in for, but that still didn’t prepare me or anyone in the audience.  When the music slowed down and we saw a young Carl with his hands on the shoulders of a slumped over and crying Ellie, my heart sped up and I had to hold back the tears.  After the entire segment, I knew I wasn’t the only one.  You could hear scattered sniffles and noses being blown all throughout the auditorium.

If Pixar in Concert comes to your town, I would highly recommend it as a romantic date night or a fun filled family outing.  It was an absolutely great time for me and my wife and we will definitely take the kids next time Pixar in Concert comes back to San Francisco.