Skip to main content
Select Source:

Elfman, Danny 1953–

ELFMAN, Danny 1953–

(Dan Elfman)

PERSONAL

Full name, Daniel Robert Elfman; born May 29, 1953, in Amarillo, TX; raised in Los Angeles, CA; son of Milton (a teacher and in the Air Force) and Blossom (a teacher and writer; maiden name, Bernstein) Elfman; brother of Robert Elfman (a filmmaker); uncle of Bodhi Elfman (an actor); married (marriage ended); married Bridget Fonda (an actress), November 29, 2003; children: (first marriage) Lola, Mali; (second marriage) one.


Addresses: Agent—International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Manager—Kraft–Engel Management, 15233 Ventura Blvd., Suite 200, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403.


Career: Composer, musician, producer, and actor. Singer, songwriter, and guitarist with the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, later known as Oingo Boingo (also known as Boingo); composer for television commercials.


Member: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.


Awards, Honors: BMI Film Music Award, 1987, for Back to School; BMI Film Music Award, 1989, for Scrooged; Grammy Award (with others), best instrumental composition, 1989, for "The Batman Theme," from the movie Batman; Grammy Award nomination, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, best score, 1989, and BMI Film Music Award, 1990, both for Batman; BMI Film Music Award, 1989, and Saturn Award nomination, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, best music, 1990, both for Beetlejuice; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding achievement in main title theme music, 1990, and BMI TV Music awards, 1996, 1998, and 2003, all for The Simpsons; BMI Film Music Award and Grammy Award nomination, best score, both 1991, for Dick Tracy; Saturn Award nomination, best music, Grammy Award nomination, best instrumental composition, both 1992, for Edward Scissorhands; BMI Film Music Award, 1993, for Batman Returns; Saturn Award, best music, and Golden Globe Award nomination, outstanding original score, both 1994, for The Nightmare before Christmas; Saturn Award nomination, best music, 1996, for Dolores Claiborne; BMI Film Music Award, 1997, for Mission: Impossible; Saturn Award, best music, and Golden Satellite Award nomination, International Press Academy, outstanding original score, both 1997, for Mars Attacks!; Saturn Award nomination, best music, 1997, for The Frighteners; BMI Film Music Award, 1998, for Flubber; Saturn Award, best music, BMI Film Music Award, and Academy Award nomination, best music, all 1998, for Men in Black; Grammy Award nomination, best instrumental composition written for a motion picture or television, all 1998, for the main theme from Men in Black; BMI Film Music Award and Academy Award nomination, best music, both 1998, for Good Will Hunting; Sierra Award, Las Vegas Film Critics Society awards, best score, 1998, and Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, best original score, 1999, for A Simple Plan; Saturn Award, best music, BMI Film Music Award, Golden Satellite Award, best original score, and Sierra Award nomination, Las Vegas Film Critics Society awards, best score, all 2000, for Sleepy Hollow; Special Career Award, Fantasporto, 2000; BMI Film Music Award, 2001, for The Family Man; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best original score, 2001, for Proof of Life; BMI Film Music Award, Grammy Award nomination, best score soundtrack album, 2002, for Planet of the Apes; Richard Kirk Career Achievement Award, BMI Film and TV awards, 2002; World Soundtrack Award nomination, best original soundtrack of the year—orchestral, 2002, Saturn Award, best music, BMI Film Music Award, and Grammy Award nomination, best score soundtrack album, all 2003, for Spider–Man; BMI Film Music Award and Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music nomination (with others), British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 2003, both for Chicago; BMI Film Music Award, 2003, for Men in Black II; Saturn Award nomination, best music, 2004, for Hulk; Academy Award nomination, best music, Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination, best composer, and Grammy Award nomination, best score soundtrack album, all 2004, for Big Fish; BMI Film Music Award, 2004, for Hulk; Achievement Award for Film Music, Palm Springs International Film Festival, 2004; Saturn Award nomination, best music, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best original score, and Grammy Award nomination, best score soundtrack album, all 2005, for Spider–Man 2.


CREDITS

Film Score Producer:

Dead Presidents, Buena Vista, 1995.

Good Will Hunting, Miramax, 1997.

A Civil Action, Buena Vista, 1998.

Instinct, Buena Vista, 1999.

Red Dragon (also known as Roter Drache), Universal, 2002.


Film Music Producer:

Batman Returns, Warner Bros., 1992.

Dolores Claiborne, Columbia, 1995.

Extreme Measures, Columbia, 1996.

Psycho, Universal, 1998.


Proof of Life, Warner Bros., 2000.


Film Work; Other:

Music arranger, Forbidden Zone, Borack, c. 1979.

Executive producer and musician, Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre Halloween 1995, 1996.

Music score producer, Mars Attacks!, Warner Bros., 1996.

Music supervisor and music adaptor, Psycho, Universal, 1998.


Performer of music and songs that have been featured in films, television broadcasts, and video collections.


Film Appearances:

(As Dan Elfman) I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, New World Pictures, 1977.

Singer, Hot Tomorrow, American Film Institute, 1978.

Satan, Forbidden Zone, Borack, c. 1979.

Oingo Boingo band member, Ugh! A Music War, Lorimar, 1981.

Oingo Boingo band member, Back to School, Orion, 1986.

Himself, The Magical World of Chuck Jones, Warner Bros., 1992.

Voice of the Clown with the Tear Away Face, voice of Barrel, and the singing voice of Jack Skellington, The Nightmare before Christmas (animated; also known as Tim Burton's "The Nightmare before Christmas"), Buena Vista, 1993.

Singer—stuff, Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre Halloween 1995, 1996.

Tommy Lee Ballard, The Gift, Paramount Classics, 2000.

Satan, The Sixth Element, 2005.


Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Himself, Music behind the Scenes (documentary), [Great Britain], 2001.


Television Appearances; Specials:

Himself, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Special Edition, 1994.


Der Klang der Bilder (documentary), 1995.

The Hollywood Soundtrack Story, American Movie Classics, 1995.

The Score (documentary), 2002.


Television Appearances; Episodic:

Himself, "Tim Burton: Trick or Treat," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 2001.

Himself, Super Secret Movie Rules: Slashers (also known as SSMR: Slashers), VH1, 2004.

Himself, Super Secret Movie Rules: Stupid and Stupider (also known as SSMR: Stupid and Stupider), VH1, 2004.

Himself, Super Secret Movie Rules: Superheroes (also known as SSMR: Superheroes), VH1, 2004.


RECORDINGS

Albums with Oingo Boingo:

Oingo Boingo (EP), IRS, 1980.

10 Inch (EP), IRS, 1980.

Only A Lad, A & M, 1981.

Nothing to Fear, A & M, 1982.

Good for Your Soul, A & M, 1984.

Dead Man's Party, MCA, 1986.

BOI–NGO, MCA, 1987.

Boingo Alive, MCA, 1988.

Skeletons in the Closet (compilation), A & M, 1988.

Dark at the End of the Tunnel (compilation), MCA, 1990.

Best O'Boingo, MCA, 1991.

Boingo, Giant, 1994.

Farewell, A & M, 1996.

Anthology, Hip–O Records, 1999.

20th Century Masters—The Millennium Collection: The Best of Oingo Boingo, A & M, 2002.


Albums:

So–lo (also known as So Lo), MCA, 1985.


Videos:

"Psycho" Path, Universal Studios Home Video, 1999.

Sleepy Hollow: Behind the Legend, Paramount, 2000.

Cosmic Symphonies: Elfman in Space, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

The Making of "Hulk," Universal Studios Home Video, 2003.

Making the Amazing (also known as Making the Amazing: Spider–Man 2), Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2004.


Video Games:

Voice of Barrel, Kingdom Hearts (also known as Kingudamu hatsu), Square Electronic Arts, 2002.

WRITINGS

Film Scores:

Forbidden Zone, Borack, c. 1979.

Pee–Wee's Big Adventure, Warner Bros., 1985.

Back to School, Orion, 1986.

Wisdom, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1986.

Summer School, Paramount, 1987.

Beetlejuice, Warner Bros., 1988.

Big Top Pee–Wee, Paramount, 1988.

Face Like a Frog (short film), 1988.

Hot to Trot, Warner Bros., 1988.

Midnight Run, Universal, 1988.

Scrooged, Paramount, 1988.

Batman, Warner Bros., 1989.

Darkman, Universal, 1990.

Dick Tracy, Buena Vista, 1990.

Edward Scissorhands, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1990.

Nightbreed (also known as Clive Barker's "Nightbreed"), Twentieth Century–Fox, 1990.

Article 99, Orion, 1992.

Batman Returns, Warner Bros., 1992.

Army of Darkness (also known as Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3, Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead, Army of Darkness, the Ultimate Experience in Medieval Horror, Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness, Captain Supermarket, Evil Dead 3, and The Medieval Dead), Universal, 1993.

The Nightmare before Christmas (animated; also known as Tim Burton's "The Nightmare before Christmas"), Buena Vista, 1993.

Sommersby, Warner Bros., 1993.

Black Beauty, Warner Bros., 1994.

Darkman II: The Return of Durant, 1994.

Dead Presidents, Buena Vista, 1995.

Dolores Claiborne, Columbia, 1995.

Great People of the Bible & How They Lived, 1995.

To Die For, Columbia, 1995.

Bordello of Blood (also known as Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood), Universal, 1996.

Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, 1996.

Extreme Measures, Columbia, 1996.

Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre Halloween 1995, 1996.


The Frighteners (also known as Frighteners and Robert Zemeckis Presents: The Frighteners), Universal, 1996.

Mars Attacks!, Warner Bros., 1996.

Mission: Impossible, Paramount, 1996.

Flubber (also known as Disney's "Flubber: The Absent Minded Professor"), Buena Vista, 1997.

Good Will Hunting, Miramax, 1997.

Men in Black (also known as MIB), Columbia/TriStar, 1997.

Scream 2, Dimension Films, 1997.

A Civil Action, Buena Vista, 1998.

Modern Vampyres (also known as Modern Vampires and Revenant), Sterling Home Entertainment, 1998.

A Simple Plan (also known as Ein Einfacher Plan and Un plan simple), Paramount, 1998.

Anywhere but Here, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1999. Instinct, Buena Vista, 1999.

Sleepy Hollow, Paramount, 1999.

Condo Painting, October Films, 2000. The Family Man, Universal, 2000.

The Gift, Paramount Classics, 2000.

Proof of Life, Warner Bros., 2000.

The World of Stainboy (short animated film; also known as Stainboy), Flinch Studios, 2000.

Heartbreakers, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2001.

Mazer World (short film), Archway Pictures, 2001.

Novocaine, Artisan Entertainment, 2001.

Planet of the Apes, Twentieth Century–Fox, 2001.

Spy Kids, Miramax, 2001.

The Adventures of Mad Matt (short film), 2002.

Chicago (musical), Miramax, 2002.

Men in Black II (also known as MIB 2 and MIIB), Columbia/TriStar, 2002.

Red Dragon (also known as Roter Drache), Universal, 2002.

Spider–Man, Columbia, 2002.

Big Fish, Columbia, 2003.

Hulk (live action and animated), Universal, 2003.

Spider–Man 2 (also known as Spider–Man 2: The IMAX Experience), Columbia, 2004.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (musical), Warner Bros., 2005.

Corpse Bride (also known as Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride"), Warner Bros., 2005.

Charlotte's Web, Paramount, 2006.

A Day with Wilbur Robinson, Buena Vista, c. 2006.


Film Songs:

"Bachelor Party Theme," "Something Isn't Right," and "Who Do You Want to Be Today," Bachelor Party, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1983.

"Weird Science," Weird Science, Universal, 1985.

Big Top Pee–Wee, Paramount, 1988.

"Face to Face," Batman Returns, Warner Bros., 1992.

"March of the Dead" theme, Army of Darkness (also known as Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3, Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead, Army of Darkness, the Ultimate Experience in Medieval Horror, Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness, Captain Supermarket, Evil Dead 3, and The Medieval Dead), Universal, 1993.

The Nightmare before Christmas (animated; also known as Tim Burton's "The Nightmare before Christmas"), Buena Vista, 1993.

Tales from the Crypt theme, Demon Knight (also known as Demon Keeper and Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight), Universal, 1995.

Tales from the Crypt theme, Bordello of Blood (also known as Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood), Universal, 1996.

"Cassandra" aria, Scream 2 (also known as Scream

Again, Scream Louder, and Scream: The Sequel), Miramax/Dimension Films, 1997.

"Home Again," Home Alone 3, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1997.

"Uncle Martin Theme," My Favorite Martian (also known as My Favourite Martian), Buena Vista, 1999.


Elfman's music and songs have been featured in films, television broadcasts, and video collections.


Television Themes; Series:

Sledge Hammer!, ABC, 1986–88.

Pee–Wee's Playhouse, CBS, 1986–91.

Beetlejuice (animated), ABC, 1989–92.

Tales from the Crypt (also known as HBO's "Tales from the Crypt"), HBO, 1989–96.

The Flash, CBS, 1990–91.

The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 1990—.

Batman: The Animated Series (animated; also known as The Adventures of Batman and Robin, Batman, and The New Batman/Superman Adventures), Fox, 1992–95.

Family Dog (animated), CBS, 1993.

Weird Science, USA Network, 1994–98.

Perversions of Science, HBO, 1997.

"The Dilbert Zone," Dilbert (animated), UPN, 1999–2000.

Desperate Housewives, ABC, 2004—.

Point Pleasant, Fox, 2005.


Television Music; Movies:

Freeway, HBO, 1996.

Subzero, WB, 1998.


Composer for the short Oh No, Not Them!, MTV.


Television Music; Specials:

A Special Evening of Pee–Wee's Playhouse, CBS, 1987.

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (animated; also known as The Simpsons Christmas Special), Fox, 1989.


Television Music; Episodic:

"Family Dog," Amazing Stories, NBC, 1985.

"The Jar," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, NBC, 1985.

"Mummy Dearest," Amazing Stories, NBC, 1985.


Television Music; Pilots:

"Fast Times," Fast Times (also known as Fast Times at Ridgemont High), CBS, 1986.

The Flash, CBS, 1990.

Albums; Soundtracks:

Pee Wee's Big Adventure, 1985.

Back to School, 1986.

Beetlejuice, 1988.

Big Top Pee Wee, Pendulum, 1988.

Midnight Run, MCA, 1988.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure/Back to School, 1988.

Batman, 1989.

Darkman, MCA, 1990.

Dick Tracy, Sire Records, 1990.

Music for a Darkened Theatre Vol. 1: Music from Television and Movies (compilation), MCA, 1990.

Nightbreed, 1990.

The Story of Edward Scissorhands, 1990.

Article 99, Varese Sarabande, 1992.

Batman Returns, Warner Bros., 1992.

Dolores Claiborne, Varese Sarabande, 1995.

Mission: Impossible, Point Music, 1996.

Music for a Darkened Theatre Vol. 2: Film and Television Music (compilation), MCA, 1996.

Flubber, 1997.

Spider–Man, Sony Soundtrax, 2002.

The Hulk, Decca, 2003.


Albums with Oingo Boingo:

Oingo Boingo (EP), IRS, 1980.

10 Inch (EP), IRS, 1980.

Only A Lad, A & M, 1981.

Nothing to Fear, A & M, 1982.

Good for Your Soul, A & M, 1984.

Dead Man's Party, MCA, 1986.

BOI–NGO, MCA, 1987.

Boingo Alive, MCA, 1988.

Skeletons in the Closet (compilation), A & M, 1988.

Dark at the End of the Tunnel (compilation), MCA, 1990.

Best O'Boingo, MCA, 1991.

Boingo, Giant, 1994.

Farewell, A & M, 1996.

Anthology, Hip–O Records, 1999.

20th Century Masters—The Millennium Collection: The Best of Oingo Boingo, A & M, 2002.


Albums:

So–lo (also known as So Lo), MCA, 1985.


Video Composer:

Oingo Boingo: Skeletons In the Closet, 1989.

Amazing Stories: Book Two, 1992.

Theme, Flash III: Deadly Nightshade, 1992.

Barry Sonnenfeld's "Intergalactic Guide to Comedy," Columbia/TriStar, 2002.

Cosmic Symphonies: Elfman in Space, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

Creature Featurettes, Columbia/TriStar, 2002.

Design in Motion: The Look of "Men in Black II," Columbia/TriStar, 2002.

Men in Black Training Video: Australia, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

Men in Black Training Video: Germany, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

Men in Black Training Video: Japan, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

Men in Black Training Video: UK, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

MIB ADR, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

Rick Baker: Alien Maker, Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

Squish, Splat, Sploosh: The Stellar Sounds of "Men in Black II," Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 2002.

The Making of "Hulk," Universal Studios Home Video, 2003.

A Look into "The Forbidden Zone," Fantoma, 2004.


Video Game Music:

Bart vs. the Space Mutants, 1991.

(And theme) The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield (also known as Virtual Springfield), 1997.

The Simpsons Road Rage, Nintendo, 2001.

Kingdom Hearts (also known as Kingudamu hatsu), Square Electronic Arts, 2002.

Theme, The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Vivendi Universal Games, 2003.


Video Scripts:

Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre Halloween 1995, 1996.


OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Contemporary Musicians, Gale, 1993.

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Gale, 1995.


Periodicals:

American Film, February, 1991, p. 42.

Billboard, May 25, 2002, p. 19.

Egg, December/January, 1991.

Entertainment@Home, April, 1997, pp. 88–92.

Fanfare, November/December, 1989.

Hollywood Reporter, January 18, 1993.

Keyboard, September, 1987.

Movieline, November, 1993, pp. 54–58, 86–87.

Penthouse, November, 1999, p. 9.

Premiere, January, 1991, p. 42.

Rolling Stone, November 11, 1993.

Starlog, December, 1993; February, 1997.

Time, October 11, 1993.

Village Voice, November 3, 1993.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Elfman, Danny 1953–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Elfman, Danny 1953–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/elfman-danny-1953

"Elfman, Danny 1953–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/elfman-danny-1953

Elfman, Danny

Danny Elfman

Composer

Piqued Pee-wees Interest

Fruitful Collaborations With Burton

Approached for Contemporary Score

Selected discography

Sources

Danny Elfmans exotic collection of folk objectsranging from Ecuadoran shrunken heads to Mexican Day of the Dead figureshas often inspired him in his musical creation of a dark, humorous, and fantastic world. Elfman has scored over 15 films, concocted numerous television themes, and until 1990 was writing songs and performing with the rock band Oingo Boingo. Despite his successes with film music, however, he is largely considered an amateur composer. He explained in American Film, It is a generally accepted feeling within the music industry, of composers and would-be composers and wanna-be composers, that I dont write my own music, that I hire ghosts. But Elfman has successfully exorcised his ghosts with the orchestral works Batman and Edward Scissorhands, thus firmly establishing himself in the realm of contemporary film composers that includes giants like John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith.

In 1971 Elfman returned home to Los Angeles after a yearlong trip through Africa, where he had unearthed the musical roots for both his film work and the sound that would define his band, Oingo Boingo. Upon his return, Elfmans brother Richard asked him to join a theater ensemble called the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. The Mystic Knights performed a multimedia theatrical revue, initially in the streets, then moving on to more elaborate indoor shows. After eight years with the troupe, Richard redirected his efforts toward independent filmmaking, leaving Danny to form Oingo Boingo from the remaining Mystic Knights. The group had its first Top 40 hit in 1985 with the theme song from the film Weird Science. Despite his eventual triumph in Hollywood, Elfman continued to write songs for the group as well as perform guitar and percussion duties. All of Elfmans scores are orchestrated by Steve Bartek, Oingo Boingos lead guitarist, who also assists Elfman in producing his soundtrack albums. Dividing his time between scoring and songwriting, Elfman nonetheless allowed in American Film that songs reach people on a much more personal, direct level than does orchestral music for film.

Piqued Pee-wees Interest

Elfman composed his first score in 1980 for his brothers cult film Forbidden Zone; it included several songs by the Mystic Knights. Actor Paul Reubensmore popularly known as Pee-wee Hermansaw the film; it piqued his interest in acquiring a non-traditional composer for his project Pee-wees Big Adventure, which was released in 1985. This became Elfmans first full orchestral score. He told Keyboard in 1987 that he

For the Record

Born May 29, 1953 (some sources say 1955), near Amarillo, TX; married, two daughters.

Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and percussionist for group Oingo Boingo, 1979. Composer of film scores, including Pee-wees Big Adventure, Warner Bros., 1985; Batman, Warner Bros., 1989; and Dick Tracy, Buena Vista, 1990; and television themes, including The Simpsons, Fox-TV, and Batman: The Animated Series, Fox-TV. Contributor to soundtrack of film Buffi; the Vampire Slayer, Twentieth Century Fox, 1992.

Awards: Grammy Award for best instrumental and Grammy Award nomination for best score, 1990, for Batman; Grammy Award nomination for best score, 1991, for Dick Tracy.

Addresses: Home Santa Monica, CA. Agent The Kraft Agency, Inc., 6525 Sunset Blvd., Ste. 407, Hollywood, CA 90028. Management LA Personal Development, 1201 Larrabee, Penthouse 302, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

really learned to write [music] on Pee-wees [Big] Adventure. My scores arent what you would call legit, but they communicate my ideas effectively, and ultimately thats what composition is all about.

Elfman learned how to communicate with an audience from some of the great soundtrack masters. He revealed to Egg, As a kid I would see movies five, six, seven times if I liked them, and I learned early on that a lot of my favorite 50s and 60s fantasy films had wonderful music by Bernard Herrmann. As a teenager he would go out at least three nights a week, see every Truffaut, every FelliniNino Rotas music became like second nature to me. His awareness at such a young age of the intimate relationship between a films soundtrack and elements of mood and character made writing soundtracks a very personal endeavor. Composers like Rota, whose work includes the venerable 8 1/2 and The Godfather, and Bernard Herrmann, the genius behind the scores of both Psycho and Citizen Kane, are still his inspiration, and their styles are echoed in many of his works. In Fanfare, Elfman wrote of Pee-wees Big Adventure that he was looking for a type of music that was very innocent and light. Bringing in the Nino Rota element felt right for me.... I wanted to find something that immediately put [Pee-wee] over as something from another world living here. Herrmanns influence, too, is evident, particularly in the films dream sequences.

Fruitful Collaborations With Burton

Pee-wees Big Adventure marked Elf mans first collaboration with director Tim Burton, with whom he has enjoyed a strong partnership. His relationship with Burton began early on to resemble those of other filmmakers and their composersFellini and Rota, Hitchcock and Herrmann. Elfman told Fanfare, Tim puts me into areas that are very challenging and fun to work with, and yet he allows me the creativity of figuring out how to make it come alive musically. Their second film together was 1988s Beetlejuice. Often cited as Elfmans finest work, the Beetlejuice score combines circus, calypso, and horror motifs to create a discordant musical montage that skillfully complements the comic film. A funnier, more boldly innovative or more manic score would be virtually impossible to imagine.... Elfmans work is as joyous and rollicking as the film itself, wrote Frederic Silber in Fanfare.

Then, in 1989, Elfman and Burton collaborated on Batman, one of the most commercially successful movies of all time. Burtons tale of the Dark Knight was tailor-made for Elfmans dark, visionary style. The score earned the composer a Grammy nomination for best score and the prized statuette, for best instrumental, in 1990. In an interview with Keyboard, Elfman remarked that the visual imagery of the film helped him create the score, which is filled with driving percussion, energetic horns, and haunting organs. As soon as I saw Gotham [the setting of the film], I heard the music, Elfman professed. Tim and I had talked about doing a kind of darkly operatic and Romantic score.... I got my major thematic ideas right there, sitting in the theater and singing into this tape recorder the very first time I was seeing the movie. Once again, Elfmans musical sensibilities were easily wed to Burtons highly developed visual perceptions. Keyboard contributor Robert L. Doerschuk noted in 1989 that Batman could change the face of the movie soundtrack forever. By writing a soundtrack that stands on its own as an album release and could challenge the Star Wars theme in pops concert programs, Elfman demonstrates that with sufficient talent and dedication... [he] can transcend the idiom formerly defined by the technology of his studio and write effectively for orchestra.

The composers next film with Burton, 1990s Edward Scissorhands, produced a score that deftly evoked Burtons fairy-tale imagery. Elfman used a choral backdrop to develop a melancholic vision of the world, producing a work that many feel stands on its own while simultaneously enhancing the title characters feelings and expressions.

Approached for Contemporary Score

Between his ventures with Burton, Elfman composed for a wide range of directors and genres. In 1988 he scored Wisdom, a box-office bomb written, directed by, and starring Emilio Estevez. Fanfares Silber wrote of Elfmans contribution, Suspenseful, hypnotic, pulsating, dream-like, the score succeeds so admirably in every thematic aspect where the film failed so miserably. Also in 1988, Elfman composed scores for two comedies: Hot to Trot and Big Top Pee-wee, the follow-up to Pee-wees Big Adventure. But the film Elfman considers a turning point is yet another 1988 offering, the box-office hit comedy Midnight Run. The composer noted in Fanfare, Finally, after all those years, I was asked to do a contemporary score. His next film, however, 1988s horror-comedy Scrooged, was a composers nightmare: Most of his music was either buried in the film or not used at all.

The following year, two film projects, Nightbreed and Darkman, brought Elfman back to the genre he loves besthorror. Both scores featured shadowy themes combined with tribal chanting and dramatic overtures. Instead of taking the usual routereviewing scripts to decide which film to scoreElfman sought out director/writers Clive Barker, the mastermind of Nightbreed, and Sam Raimi, father of Darkman. I wanted very much to work with them, since I love horror, Elfman wrote in American Film. So Ive returned to the genre that inspired me in the first place.

Elfmans soundtrack for another 1990 film, Dick Tracy, directed by and starring Warren Beatty, used Gersh-win-esque themes to conjure the 1930s-era setting of the Dick Tracy comic strip. The film earned Elfman a second Grammy nomination for best score. But by 1992, he had again changed directions, this time with the soundtrack for Article 99, the story of a Vietnam veterans hospital. That score took a more traditional approach to film music but still featured Elfmans signature style. 1992 also found Elfman following up his Batman efforts with the score to Burtons Batman Returns. Entertainment Weeklys Ty Burr, for one, was unimpressed with the results. Asserting that Elfman had run out of ideas, Burr groused: Here are the same windswept demon choirs, tinkling music boxes, Fellini carny music, and chic Wagnerian pooting that sounded so great in Edward Scissorhands, Elfmans peak. But like Batman Returns itself, this new score is neurotically hyperactive. Its as if Elfman, stumped for new material, simply opted to throw the old stuff at us faster and louder. Thats fine if youre a punching bag. If not, not.

In addition to soundtracks, Elfman has composed several television themes for successful shows like Fox-TVs extremely popular animated The Simpsons and HBOs highly acclaimed Tales From the Crypt. These and other television and soundtrack themes were released in 1990 on a compilation album called Music for a Darkened Theatre: Film and Television Music Volume One.

Throughout his composition adventures, whether with Oingo Boingo, in film, or in television, the prolific Elfman has remained close to the origins of his fascination with the theatrical power of music. Even now, the way I get around my lack of training and technique is by drawing on my having grown up in a world of movies, he told Fanfare. Very often, when Im not sure how to approach something, I say, How would I approach this if I were thirteen years old, sitting in a theater, and watching the movie? In other words, what would make me come alive? These instincts have, indeed, served him well, which has perhaps given him the confidence to branch out yet again, this time into screenwriting and directing. In January of 1992 Entertainment Weekly reported that Elfman was developing several oddball projects, including an over-the-top musical titled The World of Jimmy Callicut at Fox and a strange and stylized ghost story hell also direct called Julian, which Tim Burton is executive producing for Warner Bros.

Selected discography

With Oingo Boingo

Oingo Boingo (EP), 1RS, 1980.

Only a Lad, A&M, 1981.

Nothing to Fear, A&M, 1982.

Good for Your Soul, A&M, 1984.

Dead Mans Party, MCA, 1986.

BOI-NGO, MCA, 1987.

Boingo Alive, MCA, 1988.

Skeletons in the Closet, A&M, 1988.

Dark at the End of the Tunnel, MCA, 1990.

Best OBoingo, MCA, 1991.

Film scores

Pee-wees Big Adventure/Back to School, Varese Sarabande, 1985.

Beetlejuice, Geffen, 1988.

Big Top Pee-wee, Arista, 1988.

Midnight Run, MCA, 1988.

Wisdom, Varese Sarabande, 1988.

Hot to Trot, 1988.

Scrooged, 1988.

Batman, Warner Bros., 1989.

Forbidden Zone, Varese Sarabande, 1990.

Darkman, MCA, 1990.

Dick Tracy, Sire, 1990.

Edward Scissorhands, MCA, 1990.

Nightbreed, MCA, 1990.

Article 99, Varese Sarabande, 1992.

Batman Returns, Warner Bros., 1992.

Sommersby, Warner Bros., 1993.

March of the Dead Theme, Army of Darkness, Varese Sarabande, 1993.

Other

So-lo, MCA, 1985.

Music for a Darkened Theatre: Film and Television Music Volume One, MCA, 1990.

Sources

Books

Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martins, 1989.

Periodicals

American Film, February 1991.

Egg, December/January 1991.

Entertainment Weekly, January 24, 1992; July 24, 1992.

Fanfare, September/October 1988; May/June 1989; November/December 1989.

Keyboard, September 1987; October 1989.

New York Times, December 9, 1990.

Seventeen, August 1987.

Debra Power

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Elfman, Danny." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Elfman, Danny." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/elfman-danny

"Elfman, Danny." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/elfman-danny

Elfman, Danny

ELFMAN, Danny


Composer. Nationality: American. Born: Los Angeles (one source lists Amarillo, Texas), 29 May 1953; brother of Richard Elfman, founder of Oingo Boingo and film director. Education: Educated in Los Angeles public schools; toured with an avant-garde theater troupe playing conga; spent a year in West Africa. Family: Married (separated); two children: Lola, Mali. Career: Rock musician with group Mystic Nights of Oingo Boingo, 1971–79; singer, songwriter, and guitarist for rock group Oingo Boingo 1979–1986; recorded solo albums, including So-Lo (1984) and Music for a Darkened Theater (1990); film composer, from 1980; composer of music for television series, including Amazing Stories (1985), Pee Wee's Playhouse (1986), The Simpsons (1989), Batman: Animated Series (1992), and Dilbert (1999). Awards: Grammy Award, Best Instrumental Composition, for "The Batman Theme" from Batman, 1989; Academy of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Films Saturn Award for Best Musical Score, for Mars Attacks!, 1997; Academy of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Films Saturn Award for Best Music, for Men in Black, 1998; Academy of Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Films Saturn Award for Best Music, and Golden Satellite Award for Best Original Score, for Sleepy Hollow, 2000; Fantosporto Special Career Award, 2000. Agent: Blue Focus Management, 15233 Ventura Blvd., Suite 2A, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403, U.S.A.

Films as Composer:

1980

Forbidden Zone (+ arranger, ro as Satan)

1985

Pee Wee's Big Adventure

1986

Back To School (+ ro as Oingo Boingo band member); Wisdom; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (song)

1987

Summer School

1988

Midnight Run; Scrooged; Hot to Trot; Big Top Pee Wee; Delores Claiborne

1989

Batman; Ghostbusters II

1990

Dick Tracy; Edward Scissorhands; Nightbreed; Darkman; Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (song); The Flash (main theme—for TV)

1991

Pure Luck (main theme)

1992

Batman Returns (+ music producer); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (song "We Close Our Eyes"); Article 99

1993

Sommersby; Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3); Nightmare Before Christmas (+ assoc pr, ro as Jack Skellington [singing])

1994

Black Beauty; Shrunken Heads (main theme); Darkman II: The Return of Durant (musical themes)

1995

Delores Claiborne (+ music producer); Dead Presidents (+ music producer); To Die For; Great People of the Bible and How They Lived (video)

1996

Extreme Measures (+ music producer); The Frighteners; Mars Attacks!; Mission Impossible; Bordello of Blood (theme); Freeway; Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre Halloween (video) (+ sc, exec pr, performer); Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (musical themes)

1997

Good Will Hunting (+ score producer); Flubber; Men in Black; Scream 2 ("Cassandra" aria)

1998

A Simple Plan; Modern Vampires; A Civil Action (+ score producer)

1999

Anywhere But Here (+ songs); My Favorite Martian; Instinct; Sleepy Hollow



Films as Actor:

1977

Hot Tomorrows (as singer)

1981

Urgh! A Music War (as Oingo Boingo member)

1992

The Magical World of Chuck Jones (as himself)



Other Films:

1998

Pyscho (music adaptor, producer, and supervisor)



Publications


On ELFMAN: books—

Karlin, Fred, Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music, New York, 1994.

Marill, Alvin H., Keeping Score: Film and Television Music, 1988–1997, Landham, Maryland, 1998.

Craggs, Stewart A., Soundtracks: An International Dictionary of Composers for Film, Aldershot, England, and Brookfield, Vermont, 1998.

On ELFMAN: articles—

Gorbman, Claudia, "Narrative Film Music," in Yale French Studies, vol. 60, 1988.

"A Sweet and Scary Treat," in Time, 11 October 1993.

Hoberman, Jonathan, "Puppet Regimes," in Village Voice, vol. 38, 19 October 1993.

Katz, Alyssa, "Elf Esteem," in Village Voice, vol. 38, 9 November 1993.

"The Evolution of Elfman," in Film Score Monthly, vol. 4, no. 1, January 1999.

"Danny Elfman: Music for a Darkened People," at http://elfman.filmmusic.com, June 2000.


* * *

Danny Elfman's shadowy scores of exaggerated comic-book quality are most closely associated with the films of director Tim Burton: Batman, Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Mars Attacks! Yet, his most catchy tune is perhaps the Jetson's-like theme of the animated television series The Simpsons. Elfman is a self-taught musician who can (and does) play virtually every instrument. In an interview for Time, Elfman resisted the label "genius," instead describing himself as "a good observer [who's] very tenacious." During his youth, Elfman was exposed to symphonies and classical film scores. His favorite composers are highly imagistic Eastern European composers such as Bartok, Prokofiev, Shostokovich, and Stravinsky. Yet, he is the first to admit that his exposure to classical music has been filtered through film. Alfred Hitchcock's composer Bernard Hermann (Psycho, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much) is Elfman's all-time favorite, with Nino Rota (Fellini's 8 1/2 and Coppola's The Godfather) a close runner-up. His ongoing fascination with Hermann was one of the reasons Elfman joined up for the 1999 remake of Psycho, in which one can hear distinct homages that are reminscent of the original score without being derivative. Elfman also credits Cab Calloway, Gilbert and Sullivan, Ravel, Camille Saint-Saens, Dr. Seuss, Max Steiner, and Franz Waxman as inspirations. The "dark cheeriness" of songs, lyrics, score, and vocals for main character that Elfman composed for Nightmare Before Christmas are reminiscent of Kurt Weill, the German cabaret composer.

Elfman started playing the violin in high school. In his first gig, he played conga drums while touring France and Belgium with an avantgarde troupe, Grand Magic Circus. When eighteen, he spent a year in West Africa, after which he joined up with his brother's group, The Mystic Knights, otherwise known as the prequel to Oingo Boingo. Elfman taught himself composition by transcribing the jazz music of Duke Ellington. Elfman received his first taste of international stardom when Oingo Boingo's theme song for the film Weird Science (1985) made Billboard's Top 40. He remained active in the rock group until the band's retirement in 1996.

Although Elfman's first composition for film was the low-budget cult film made by his brother, Richard, Forbidden Zone (1980), Elfman entered the Hollywood scene in 1985 when Tim Burton approached Elfman to score Pee Wee's Big Adventure based solely on Elfman's work with Oingo Boingo. Elfman subsequently composed the music for all three Pee Wee sequels and the television series that resulted from the film's popularity. Burton and Elfman have enjoyed a lucrative and creatively inspirational partnership ever since.

After winning a Grammy for the neo-gothic soundtrack for Burton's Batman (1989), Elfman has had his pick of film projects. However, Elfman usually chooses to share his distinctive sound in films featuring alienated characters and macabre story-lines similar to Burton's portraits of melancholy and misunderstood outsiders. His music intensifies the atmosphere of bizarre, mysterious, and haunting alienation that complement Burton's highly stylized, moody films. In these films, music becomes part of a mosaic of poetic effects that turn the film into a composite of suspense. His quirky, gloomy musical style reflects the essential quality of the comic books that inspired some of films such as Batman, Darkman, and Dick Tracy, the latter leading to his second Grammy nomination. In Nightmare, for example, Elfman "wraps minor scales, dissonance, and witchy vocals into a child-accessible soundtrack," explains Alyssa Katz. Against Elfman's elaborate musical backdrop, the spectator enters a different world in which Elfman's music becomes part of the ethereal mood. Film critic Jonathan Hoberman sums up Elfman's music for Nightmare before Christmas, Elfman's personal favorite, as "a near perfect balance between nasty and cute." Nightmare, a "funhouse of funereal glamour" according to a film review in Time, balances a succession of funny, tragic, ironic characters in exaggeratedly dramatic situations.

In an interview, Elfman has said that "writing the melody is the easy part. Art comes from what you do with the melody." His music is indeed artful: his haunting melodies match the rhythm of animated sequences, just as his changes in instrumental color highlight dramatic effect. His scores provide emotional support, accentuate the pacing of the films, and enhance the mood of the setting. Elfman creates a textured fabric that drapes over the narrative to magical effect. The music in Scissorhands, for example, emphasizes the character's alienation and increasing uncertainty as he becomes a cultural cast-off.

As counterpart to his exaggerated portraits of lonely outsiders, Elfman's interest in the gothic and creepy led to his participation in several horror films, including Delores Claiborne, Psycho, Tales from the Crypt, and Sleepy Hollow. Elfman has composed eerie music for many ghostly, otherwordly characters including those from Beetlejuice, Scrooged, My Favorite Martian, and Modern Vampires. Of the 300 films Elfman has been involved in, he readily admits to regretting at least a third of them. Moreover, his candid acknowledgement of the commercial enterprise of film composition, in which creative vision is frequently sacrificed for heightened sales, is part of Elfman's appeal. He has proven his independence in thought, action, and music.

—Jill Gillespie

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Elfman, Danny." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Elfman, Danny." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/elfman-danny

"Elfman, Danny." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/elfman-danny

Elfman, Danny

DANNY ELFMAN

Born: Los Angeles, California, 29 May 1953

Genre: Film Scores

Best-selling album since 1990: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)


Danny Elfman, guitarist and co-founder with his brother Richard (an independent film director) of the cult-favorite band Oingo Boingo, became a soundtrack composer in 1985, when he met director Tim Burton and agreed to score Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. That film, concerning the surreal, epic search by oddball television kid's show character Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) for his missing bicycle, established Elfman's metier: the subtle depiction in hyperbolic music of zany and/or peculiar adventures, for thrills and chills and fun.

Elfman has subsequently scored every one of Burton's movies except Ed Wood (1994, scored by Howard Shore), collaborating with orchestrator Steve Bartek, another ex-Oingo Boingo member. He has also worked with directors Brian DePalma (Mission Impossible, 1996), Sam Raimi (Darkman, 1990), Warren Beatty (Dick Tracy, 1990), and Wes Craven (Scream 2, 1997), among others. He composed the theme for Matt Groening's animated television series The Simpsons (1989) and the themes for The Dilbert Zone (1999) and Tales from the Crypt (1989); he supplied music for television advertising campaigns by Lincoln/Mercury (19981999) and Nissan (19961997).

Elfman's light touch typically is accompanied by dark undertones, especially in keeping with Burton's chiaroscuro of comic and gothic motifs in films such as Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001), and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which included ten of Elfman's original songs as well as his uninterrupted orchestral score. Elfman has acknowledged the influence of classical composers ranging from Erik Satie through late Russian Romantics (Sergey Prokofiev, Dmitry Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky) to George Gershwin, and he exhibits a fondness for circus and parade themes, grandiose gestures, xylophone and glockenspiel accents, pizzicato strings, chorales, and cymbal crashes. Around 2000, his projects (including Spider-Man [2001], Red Dragon [2001], and the supplemental score to the Academy Award-winning Fred Ebb-John Kander musical Chicago [2002]) began to exude a renewed rock and roll and minimalist-influenced approach.

Elfman's score to Taylor Hackford's adaptation of Stephen King's novel Dolores Claiborne (1995) is perhaps the darkest of Elfman's soundtracks; his writing for Sommersby (1993), a drama set after the American Civil War, is probably his most romantic, and his music for Spy Kids (2001) may be his sunniest. He has annotated two volumes of his work for diverse films and television projects under the collective title Music for a Darkened Theater (1996, 1990).

Elfman received his only Grammy Award in 1989 for the score of Burton's first Batman film, and was accorded two Academy Award nominations in 1998, competing with himself in the category of Best Score for Good Will Hunting (1997) and Men in Black (1997). Even after a career spanning two decades, Elfman considers himself a film and television industry outsider, but that self-image may refer as much to the singularity of the characters in films he has scored than to his own career status.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 1 (MCA, 1990); Edward Scissorhands Soundtrack (MCA, 1990); Dick Tracy (Warner Bros., 1990); Darkman Soundtrack (MCA, 1990); The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney, 1993); Sommersby (Elektra, 1993); Dolores Claiborne Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande, 1994); Dead Presidents (Capitol, 1995); To Die For (Varese Sara-bande, 1995); Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 2 (MCA, 1996); Good Will Hunting (EMI/Capitol, 1997); Men in Black (Sony, 1997); Sleepy Hollow (Hollywood, 2000); Planet of the Apes (Sony, 2001); Spy Kids (Chapter III, 2001); Chicago (Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax, 2002).

WEBSITE:

www.elfman.filmmusic.com/news.htm.

howard mandel

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Elfman, Danny." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Elfman, Danny." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/elfman-danny

"Elfman, Danny." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/elfman-danny