Michael Giacchino’s Zootopia Score Hops Between Exotic Worlds and Right Into Your Heart
March 25, 2021

Pre-Order the Vinyl HERE.

Over the past 20 years, Michael Giacchino has helped define the musical sound of Disney perhaps more than any other composer. From the retro spy music of The Incredibles to the Parisian antics of Ratatouille, from the superheroic adventures of Doctor Strange and Spider-Man to a trip to the Star Wars galaxy in Rogue One, there’s almost no corner of the Disney universe that Giacchino hasn’t charted.

But he hadn’t actually scored a Disney animated feature before 2016, when directors Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph) hired him to score Zootopia—their urban, contemporary spin on the classic Disney tradition of walking, talking animal tales.

To celebrate the film’s fifth anniversary this year, Walt Disney Records is proud to present a new picture disc vinyl edition of Giacchino’s spirited score.

In Zootopia, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) reluctantly teams up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman)—a bunny cop and a con-artist fox who are used to being stereotyped—in order to solve a mysterious crime in the animal world’s big city. The movie tackles prejudice and some very harmful, very real-world “isms” with a spirit of animated fun and a huge heart.

“We needed someone who could deliver a score that can feel exotic and powerful, but also provide that same emotional intimacy,” Howard said. “We tell stories with images, Michael tells stories with music. Zootopia is a massive film with deep emotional themes running throughout the story, and Michael was the perfect choice.”

Giacchino accompanied the film’s wild jungle atmosphere—both the literal and city kind—with a broad range of percussive instruments from around the world. Besides African drums and Indonesian gamelan, he also had his orchestra bang on some even less conventional surfaces.

“I grew up listening to Planet of the Apes and other scores,” he told IndieWire, “and it was fun for me because you weren’t just listening to those scores, but you were also questioning what you were listening to. What are those sounds? One of the joys about this project was it enabled me to work with percussionist Emil Richards, who worked with Jerry Goldsmith on all of his Planet of the Apes scores. Emil was responsible for so many of those sounds and would go around collecting things like mixing bowls and ram’s horns. If it made an interesting sound, he’d either steal it or buy it.

“I used them on Zootopia, which was the perfect combination of sounds and weirdness that we can throw in there.”

The score is a restless adventure hopping from one culture and genre to the next: a visit to the “naturalist” center is attended by an eastern breeze of Indian tabla drums and sitar; Judy’s ticket-writing romp is set to a Latin beat with chorus; an audience with the Godfather-like Mr. Big is appropriately Italiano; and the music matches the speed of the scene-stealing DMV sloths with a plunky, Jack-in-the-box-like tune.

Giacchino was no stranger to scoring animated characters with very human feelings, of course. He’s invested everything from talking rats (Ratatouille) and aging widowers (Up) to literal emotions (Inside Out) with deep, complex undercurrents.

“What really hit me the most after seeing Zootopia,” the composer said, “was that idea of disillusionment and bias and disappointment, both in yourself and in the world around you. And what do you do in order to make things better?”

At the score’s heart is a bittersweet melody for solo piano, which expresses and sympathizes with our hero Judy. “I like to write a piece of music that reflects how I felt about a film as opposed to ‘here’s this action scene,’ ‘here’s this set piece,’” Giacchino said. “I wasn’t sure what Byron and Rich were expecting, but to me it sounded a little somber and a little sad.”

As Nick grows throughout the course of the film, and he and Judy grow to trust each other, that theme becomes his, too.

“Michael approaches composing from an intuitive, emotional place that’s so completely personal to him,” said Howard, “but at the same time, his themes and musical storytelling are completely universal. You fall in love with the music the instant you hear it.”

The anniversary picture disc vinyl release of the Zootopia soundtrack, featuring Giacchino’s original score and the Shakira anthem “Try Everything,” is available now—along with dozens of other new-classic and old-classic soundtracks alike—at the Disney Music Emporium. Hop to it!

Pre-Order the Vinyl HERE.

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