Did Michael Giacchino steal the theme for Pixar’s Up?

On tonight’s episode of Mad Men (Season 3, Episode 5, “The Fog” — we’re running a little behind), I loved the music that plays during Betty’s labor dream as well as during the credits.

I kept thinking to myself “I’ve heard that somewhere before” and finally realised it sounded just like the theme from Pixar’s Up, which was stuck in my head for several weeks after seeing the movie (and rightly so, it’s a memorable and affecting tune). Obviously that didn’t make much sense to me and after a few Google searches I figured out that the music on Mad Men was actually taken from Albert Iglesias’s 2001 score for Lucia Y El Sexo (track title “Me voy a morir de amor”).

It turns out I’m not the first person to notice the similarity, and less than a week ago Emon Hassan helpfully posted both tracks for ease of comparison. He says it doesn’t take away from either score, but I think the similarities are SO strong that Giacchino’s score can’t be justified as mere homage to Iglesias. Giacchino might have done more interesting things throughout the movie with his orchestration, using the tune to convey alternately happiness and sadness (not to mention both at once), but the tune itself still strikes me as a complete rip-off.

The discovery is a disappointment since I thought Up had one of the best scores of 2oo9, due to its pavlovian capacity to become so loaded with emotion (in conjunction with the opening montage) that the use of merely two notes later in the film could instantly evoke all of the emotion earned at the beginning of the film. But unless Iglesias’s and Giacchino’s scores both share a common source that is yet to be identified, I’m afraid this deals a severe blow to my admiration of the latter score.

Update 8 March 2010: I’m glad Up won best animated feature last night but I don’t believe it should have been eligible for best “original” score. Given his apparent plagiarism of Alberto Iglesias, I found Giacchano’s encomium of creativity in his acceptance speech to be particularly disingenuous.

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12 thoughts on “Did Michael Giacchino steal the theme for Pixar’s Up?

  1. Casey Friday says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you – I only discovered (sought out) this tonight, and I also hoped that the Up soundtrack was original. It’s reminiscent of James Horner stealing themes of Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and more for Troy, Avatar, and possibly more. Where has the originality gone?

  2. Leo says:

    I just watched that episode of Mad Men and found your post by googling “mad men season three giacchino,” because I found the similarity so striking. I was wondering who wrote the theme first, and I’m glad you cleared it up for me, even though it makes me a little sad to think that giacchino so clearly “borrowed” this music.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Speaking of Shostakovich, doesn’t the old man in Up bear more than a passing similarity to the composer…

    The plot thickens, or all old men look alike?

  4. Nobody says:

    Ha ha ha! Yes, he is a dead ringer for Shostakovich! Many thanks, Jeremy!

  5. Melissa says:

    I was just watching the episode and said to myself, “I’ve heard this before!” and started humming the Giacchino’s version. Boo, I had hoped it was original, too!

  6. Dev Thaker says:

    The resemblance is obviously striking but having listened to the entirety of each song I do think that Giacchino made an original score (one that could be entered as an original score). Whether he purposely copied Me Voy a Morir de Amo, only he knows, but both pieces are beautiful in their own right. I think he had probably heard Me Voy a Morir de Amo a long time before he wrote Married Life and sub-consciously wrote a similar song.

  7. Christphern says:

    Interestingly, he seems to do a lot of ripping off. For instance, compare the themes to The Incredibles and Star Trek (both his). While different at first hear, the underlying melody of both is rather similar. Now compare this to The Punisher (2004) score, particularly the song “The Skull”. The theme from The Incredibles is largely just a jazzified version of the same piece (Punisher came out in April, whereas The Incredibles came out on November).

    Now, honestly, I love all 3 scores, but someone should really bring this guy to task over his plagiarism.

  8. Nobody says:

    How interesting! But I’m not sure re-using and revising one’s own work should be considered plagiarism. If so, then many filmmakers would be guilty of plagiarizing their own shots over and over and over.

    • Christphern says:

      I apologize for not replying sooner. I found this site in a google search about Giacchino ripping off his scores, and don’t normally frequent here.

      He didn’t do the score for the Punisher. That was Carlo Siliotto. My point was that Giacchino plagiarized the score from the Punisher, and used it as the basis for both The Incredibles and Star Trek.

      Here are links to all 3 to compare:

      Punisher

      Incredibles (It’s easiest to hear the similarity in the opening bars, as the pacing isn’t so different)

      Star Trek

      While the Incredibles/Punisher connection stood out to me immediately upon seeing The Incredibles in the theater, the Star Trek one is almost impossible to catch, or was for me, anyway, until I played all 3 on a piano. When I played all 3 on the piano, I noticed that they were all incredibly similar.

  9. If anyone is familiar with the movie “Eloise At The Plaza,” the same theme (more similar to “Up’s” rendition than to “Me voy a morir de amor”) is also used in the Debutante Ball scene, to my knowledge.

  10. Marc says:

    The thing is, that it’s very common to borrow parts and themes from other composers in the film industry. Both from other scores and classical composers too. And in the industry it’s not frowned upon, it’s often kind of how it works.

    A lot of the great scores and movie themes through time, has done it as well, and you will often be able to find similarities to other scores and classical works.

    For example ‘Star Wars’ is one of the more known scores which has borrowed a lot from the score of ‘Kings Row’.

    When i studied sound design, i remember one of my teachers saying that in film music, composers was borrowing and stealing all the time, and that was just how it was.

  11. Matt says:

    With the recent death of Glen Campbell I was listening to some of his music. His version of Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips by is great but there is a portion of the song that immediately jumped out to me and it sounded exactly like the theme from UP (Married Life).

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