By David Perry
When “Toy Story 4” won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards ceremony in February, a lot of folks from Disney and Pixar shared a piece of its success, insists UML alum Rachael Bigelow '11.
Over the five years it took to create the animated hit, “it feels like everyone worked on the film,” says Bigelow, a 2011 Sound Recording Technology graduate. And she is one of them. She worked “intermittently” with a team of two lead music editors who crafted the film’s aural palette, helping to provide scores and cutting temporary music in, before the final score by Randy Newman was used.
Her credit on the film is for “additional production sound.”
“I also helped on a bigger screening project where I worked with our re-recording mixer on an earlier version of the film,” says Bigelow. That version was used to show to a test audience to gather notes to make adjustments to the film.
Only a few from Pixar attended the Oscars, but Bigelow got the thrill of holding the statuette as it arrived at the office the next day.
A veteran of music editing who has worked at the Emeryville, Calif.-based animation powerhouse since September 2013, Bigelow says she was well-schooled at UMass Lowell, although her road to a degree wasn’t a direct one.
The Groveland native arrived at UML as a computer science major, and only started thinking about transferring to SRT after taking Alan Williams’ Music Technology and Society class.
“I sat down with him after the class one day, one-on-one,” recalls Bigelow. “I remember saying, ‘I think I want to switch.’ Taking his class helped me realize that. Before that, I thought any kind of music major led you to being either a professional musician or a music teacher. But taking that class let me know that there are other musical opportunities.”
She also consulted William Moylan, who helmed SRT from its inception in 1983 until 2017. Moylan recalls a “tenacious” student who chased knowledge hard.
“It was not going to be an easy transition for her,” said Moylan. “She didn’t have the background as a musician that most of our students have. But I told her what to expect, and she went for it. She sought out help when she needed it. I was really impressed with how she dealt with things she didn’t know. And she has forged a very impressive career.”
Bigelow says she is “very happy” at Pixar, but adds, “I really enjoyed music education. This is a really good gig. I had a number of mentors at UMass Lowell, and they were also advocates. They gave me a strong foundation.
“SRT as a program was challenging, and it didn’t help that I was playing catchup by switching majors. I miss classes there. I miss the atmosphere, that work in teams, working with each other, interacting. There was always a feeling that we’re all in this together.”