An interview with CARS ON THE ROAD composer Jake Monaco – What’s On Disney Plus
With the combination of Disney+ Day and Expo D23, this week has been full of Disney news, trailers and previews! As part of the Disney+ Day festivities on September 9, Pixar has released CARS ON THE ROAD, a fun 9-episode series starring duo Lightning McQueen and Mater. To celebrate its release on Disney+, I sat down this week for an interview with Jake Monaco, the composer of CARS ON THE ROAD. Keep reading for my exclusive interview with Jake Monaco!
CORBAN: Hey Jake! I’m happy to discuss Pixar music. Let’s go back a bit: what was your first experience working with Pixar and how did you get involved in CARS ON THE ROAD?
JAKE: I remember getting a call in January 2016 from the head of music at Pixar/Disney Animation asking if I’d be interested in flying out to meet the composer of a short film and help the project cross the line of arrival – little did I know this little PIPER would be the start of many wonderful relationships to come. Once PIPER was done, I started working with the promotion team – anything related to the product partnership (i.e. McDonald’s) required original music, always in the style of the music from the film matching and sometimes even using the movie theme. This also happened with the promo for INCREDIBLES 2, which Bobby Podesta directed – we’ll get to that. Then came a piece of source music for TOY STORY 4, FORKY ASKS A QUESTION, LAMP LIFE and OUT. In early 2021 I got a call that Bobby wanted to work on a song for an episode of the upcoming series CARS ON THE ROAD – so March 21 we started writing “TRUCKS” – Bobby told me too asked to play the role of composer for its 3 episodes – which later turned into 9 for the series.
CORBAN: “TRUCKS” is such a fun song, and your score brings a new sound to every episode of the show. CARS movies have one of Pixar’s most recognizable scores. How did you incorporate elements of the CARS scores into your work for CARS ON THE ROAD, and how does the music you created stand out from the rest?
JAKE: I have to start with a clean slate! One of the things the creators behind the show wanted to do was push the franchise into a more contemporary place and the music was one of the things that could help. They weren’t necessarily trying to capture the same sound as the movie trilogy. Each episode embraces a completely different genre. The only sound continuity between episodes is what we called “Cars World Intro”. This little part usually starts the episode before it completely takes over our adventurous duo.
CORBAN: That’s great! I would like to know more about the timeline of working on a show like CARS ON THE ROAD. With all the changes brought about by COVID-19, what’s your schedule like to write music like this?
JAKE: I started working with Bobby Podesta on “TRUCKS” on March 21 – I started other pre-production tracks over the summer – there were quite a few that were animated on the music. There are spots in “LIGHTS OUT,” “THE LEGEND,” “B-MOVIE,” and “ROAD RUMBLERS” that all had tracks that needed to be scored before animation. In the fall, we started scoring – I picked a “song” from each episode to start with – the goal being to lock in the tone/style of the score for that episode. The rest of the score emerged from there. We started taping the first week of May and the dubbing wrapped up the last week of June — I think even now we’re still tidying up some international deliveries and extra paperwork — it’s a LONG process !
CORBAN: For a series of shorts, that seems long! But it clearly shows how much intention and heart is put into every step of the process. You’ve worked on a wide variety of projects over the years, from short films to TV show episodes and feature films. How does a project’s runtime or platform affect your composition process, if any?
JAKE: I think it’s less about runtime/platform and more about content and audience. That said, the longer the runtime, the more opportunities there are for wider musical arcs. With CARS ON THE ROAD, we’re racing from one thing to the next to cram it all into 6 minutes – but of course that will ultimately be determined by how the project is written. I guess there is no hard and fast answer to this!
CORBAN: Your score definitely made the most of the short duration! Thinking about what inspires your work, what would you say to someone interested in composition?
JAKE: I highly recommend starting out as an intern or assistant – there’s nothing like getting real-world experience before jumping in head-first – composing music is probably less than 25% of my work – there are many other facets to learn. I started assisting Christophe Beck in 2007 and started my own business at the end of 2014 when I landed DINOTRUX.
CORBAN: That’s great advice, especially for people new to the world of film music. As you move forward in your career, do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
JAKE: I finished an animated film about the Tasmanian Devil for Warner Bros. at the end of last year. I think it’s scheduled for release in 2023. I’ve also just started work on a National Geographic series scheduled for next year.
CORBAN: Wow, I’m so excited to hear your work on these projects very soon! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat!
And for the reader, you can check out Jake Monaco’s work in CARS ON THE ROAD, now streaming on Disney+!