It's really the same story you've heard a million times before: Person (or umbrella, in this case) meets other person (other umbrella), they connect, there are complications, etc. What makes Pixar's new short, which you can see in theaters preceding Monsters University, so incredibly charming (and a lock for yet another Oscar nomination for the studio) is the warmth of its details. That's always been Pixar's strongest suit -- the facial expressions of the bit characters, the sparkle of the landscapes. And the soundtracks. Randy Newman, continuing one of the strangest second-acts in all of pop music, wrote the score for MU, and North Texas music fans will already be well aware of Sarah Jaffe's contributions to "The Blue Umbrella." Her music partly inspired the short, and she sings on its soundtrack. That song is available today through (of course) Apple's iTunes.
The Blue Umbrella is the first Pixar short to be directed by a member of the technical team as opposed to the creative one. Camera and staging artist Saschka Unseld was listening to Jaffe's music on a rainy day in San Francisco when he saw an umbrella lying in a gutter. "It was the saddest thing," he told the Wall Street Journal in January. "I stood there and wondered what had happened to him. I think that was when I got the idea of giving him a story."
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He used Jaffe's music in early test screenings and, when Jon Brion wrote the song that appears in the final version, he got her to contribute the vocals. It's a piece of music as uplifting as Pixar's best work, a simple melody built on orchestral swells and percussive plunks. Sarah Jaffe's layer is understated and characteristically expressive -- she is capable of saying more with vowels than most singers are with entire sentences. You can listen to a YouTube stream of the song below, for now, or buy it here.Buy "The Blue Umbrella Suite" on iTunes.