Movie Music Magic – Danny Elfman 🎼

Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman

Music is essential to a film production. It sets the tone and mood and helps tell the movie’s story. A great musician “behind the camera” is Danny Elfman, who’s scored such film’s as “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”, “Batman”  and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

Daniel Robert Elfman (born May 29, 1953) is an American composer, singer, songwriter, and record producer. From 1976 to 1995 he was the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band Oingo Boingo.

In 1976, Elfman entered the film industry as an actor. In 1982, he scored his first film, Forbidden Zone, directed by his older brother Richard Elfman. Among his honors are four Academy Award nominations, a Grammy for Batman, an Emmy for Desperate Housewives, the 2002 Richard Kirk Award, and the Disney Legend Award.

I first became aware of Danny Elfman from his band, Oingo Boingo. Their ska driven music was freeing and fun.  Ska-influenced the new wave band in 1979, and then changed again towards a more guitar-oriented rock sound, in the late 1980s. The band’s appearance in Back to School energized the soundtrack with “Dead Man’s Party”.

Oingo Boingo Deadman's Party

“Back to School” (1986)

Some of Elfman’s music influences were Bernard Hermann, Franz Waxman, and Philip Glass. In 1985, Tim Burton and Paul Reubens invited Elfman to write the score for their first feature film, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”. Elfman was apprehensive at first, because of his lack of formal training, but with orchestration assistance from Oingo Boingo guitarist and arranger Steve Bartek, he achieved his goal of emulating the mood of such composers as Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann.

Elfman immediately developed a rapport with Burton and has gone on to score all but three of Burton’s major studio releases. Elfman also provided the singing voice for Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the voices of both Barrel and the “Clown with the Tear-Away Face”. Years later he provided the voice for Bonejangles the skeleton in Corpse Bride.

Trivia: Elfman also composed the theme to “The Simpsons”.

Burton has said of his relationship with Elfman: “We don’t even have to talk about the music. We don’t even have to intellectualize – which is good for both of us, we’re both similar that way. We’re very lucky to connect”. (Wikipedia)

Danny Elfman’s score of “Batman” (directed by Tim Burton) won him a Grammy Award.

Elfman admits his favorite movie to score was “Edward Scissorhands” (Tim Burton director).

edward scissor hands

Tim Burton, Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman in 1990.

Danny Elfman has three children: Lola (born 1979), Mali (born 1984), and Oliver (born 2005). On November 29, 2003, he married actress Bridget Fonda.

In October 2013, Elfman returned to the stage to sing his vocal parts to a handful of Nightmare Before Christmas songs as part of a concert titled Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton. He composed the film score for Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), and composed additional music for Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) together with Brian Tyler.


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