Jurassic World composer on John Williams, making the new music his own
John Williams’ Jurassic Park score is just as remarkable and memorable as the dinosaurs at the center of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 action-adventure blockbuster. Just think to when paleontologists Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) first arrive, and founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) utters those famous words, “Welcome to Jurassic Park.” Or, look to the end of the film, when the T-rex saves our heroes from a pair of raptors, and a banner that reads “When dinosaurs ruled the Earth” falls across the imposing beast like a pageant contestant’s sash.
Those iconic moments would not be ingrained in our collective memories the way they have without the support of Williams’ soaring score. This, in turn, presented an interesting challenge for Jurassic World composer Michael Giacchino: How do you pay homage to one of the most famous composers, and one of his most famous film scores, while also making the new music your own?
The task was huge, but it helped that the Jurassic franchise is a familiar one to Giacchino. In fact, one of his first projects was 1997’s Jurassic Park: The Lost World video game. While working as a producer at DreamWorks Interactive, a friend of his who was producing the game asked him to write some music to back the latest animation for a presentation with Spielberg. Shortly thereafter, Giacchino says, Spielberg met with him, told him how much he loved the music, and asked when he would write the rest of the score and record it with a live orchestra.
“At that point, I wasn’t even necessarily writing the music for that game. It was just sort of a favor, but because he said those words, everything changed,” Giacchino says. He went on to compose for a couple other Jurassic-related projects, Warpath: Jurassic Park (video game) and Jurassic Park the Ride: The Show. Beyond the Jurassic franchise, he worked on Alias, The Incredibles, Lost, and Up, which won him an Oscar for Original Score. This summer, his work can also be heard in Tomorrowland and Inside Out.
Despite his familiarity with the Jurassic franchise, Giacchino had his doubts about his role in the series’ fourth turn, which stars Chris Pratt and sees the dinosaur theme park fully functioning… that is, until a new attraction goes terribly wrong. “I was instantly sort of terrified and was questioning my sanity for even saying yes to it, but my excitement for working with [director Colin Trevorrow] and working on a Jurassic movie after so many years sort of overtook that [fear] and got the better of me,” he says.
Once committed, one of his biggest priorities was to honor the musical legacy of Jurassic Park, and the man who started it all. “John has been incredibly wonderful to me over the years and very supportive—always there to say ‘Hey, I loved what you did on this film, great job,’” Giacchino says. “He’s been so much a part of me growing and learning in this business, so it was all the more important to me to make sure that what we did with his music was right for the film and for the fans and for the people who love Jurassic Park.”
He and Trevorrow agreed to place the original theme in the new score. “In our initial conversations, Colin and I talked about where are we going to put John Williams’ theme because we both love that music so much and that music, to me, is Jurassic Park,” Giacchino says. “There was no way to do the movie without that somewhere.” It ended up making its way into the score a few times, in myriad representations—big and small.
From there, the score was theirs to make their own. “He wanted a theme for the film that had soul, that felt reflective, that felt emotional,” Giacchino says of Trevorrow’s vision, which eventually resulted in a new theme for Jurassic World and for the family, among others. “It didn’t need to be bombastic, it didn’t need to be this huge thing. But he just wanted to feel something, something that could be very simple because we all knew that when the dinosaurs start going crazy we’re going to have plenty of room to go nuts with crazy action music.”
Below, you can get a taste of their vision with “Nine to Survival Job” and “The Park is Closed,” two exclusive tracks from the end of the film. Giacchino describes the first as being about resolution, with the family coming together, as well as Owen (Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard); it ends with what he describes as the biggest statement of the Jurassic World theme in the film. The second track, meanwhile, is quiet, reverent—for perspective, Trevorrow wanted it to feel like the audience was in church. “At that point, we’ve got big, we’ve got loud, now let’s bring everything to rest,” Giacchino says.
So, what does Williams think about all this? The pair didn’t discuss the project, at least not during the composing process, but Giacchino is hopeful: “I’d like to think that he was just confident that I wouldn’t do anything that would disappoint.” From the sound of these two tracks, Giacchino could very well be on to something.
The Jurassic World soundtrack is available from Back Lot Music for pre-order on the iTunes store on Tuesday, June 2, and will be released on June 9. “Nine to Survival Job” and “The Park is Closed” will be available as instant grats if you pre-order the album.