Danny Elfman

born on 29/5/1953 in Amarillo, TX, United States

Danny Elfman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Danny Elfman
Birth name Daniel Robert Elfman
Born May 29 1953
Spouse(s) Bridget Fonda (2003-present) 1 child

Daniel Robert "Danny" Elfman (born May 29, 1953) is an American musician, best known for composing music for television and movies, and leading the rock band Oingo Boingo as singer/songwriter from 1976 until its breakup in 1995. He is a frequent collaborator with long-time friend Tim Burton, and has scored all but two of his films. He was nominated for four Academy Awards and won a Grammy Award for Tim Burton's Batman and an Emmy Award for his Desperate Housewives theme. Elfman also wrote the theme for the video game Fable. He is also famous for creating The Simpsons main title theme, and his role as Jack Skellington's singing voice in The Nightmare Before Christmas. He is the Uncle in-law to actress Jenna Elfman.

Early life and career

Elfman was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Blossom Elfman (née Bernstein), a writer and teacher, and Milton Elfman, a teacher who was in the Air Force.[1] Elfman grew up in a racially mixed community in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles.[2] He spent much of his time in the local movie theatre, adoring the music of such film composers as Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman.

After dropping out of high school, he followed his brother Richard to France, where he performed with Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group. Violin in tow, Elfman next journeyed to Africa where he traveled through Ghana, Mali, and Upper Volta, absorbing new musical styles, including the Ghanaian highlife genre which would eventually influence his own music. Elfman contracted malaria during his one-year stay and was often sick. Eventually he returned home to the United States, where his brother was forming a new musical theater group, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. The group performed the music for Richard's debut feature film, Forbidden Zone. Danny Elfman composed his first score for the film and played the role of Satan. By the time the movie was completed, they had taken the name Oingo Boingo and begun recording and touring as a rock group.

Elfman and Tim Burton

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.[3] In the booklet for the first volume of Music for a Darkened Theatre, Burton described the first time he heard his music played by a full orchestra as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life. Elfman immediately developed a rapport with Burton[3] and has gone on to score all but two of Burton's major studio releases: Ed Wood, scored by Howard Shore, which was under production while Elfman and Burton were having a fight, and Sweeney Todd, an adaptation of the 1979 Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical.

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" (Breskin, 1997).

Musical influences

He recalls that the first time he became aware of film music was in his youth during a screening of The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951). The music was by Bernard Herrmann, and that, he has said, was where his love of film music began (Russell and Young, 2000). Elfman purposefully nodded towards Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still score in Tim Burton's sci-fi spoof Mars Attacks!

Other film composers have also proven to be influential, such as Nino Rota and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the former in Elfman's playful music for Pee-wee's Big Adventure, the latter in his much grander work, Batman. Sometimes his music has a distinctly Russian feel, inspired by the likes of Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Tchaikovskys ballet music, while his frequent use of choirs reflects his love of choral music by the likes of Mozart and Carl Orff. Jazz and rock influences from his earlier career are evident in such films as Chicago and To Die For.

Hearing damage

When asked during a 2007 phone-in interview on XETRA-FM if he ever had any notions of performing in an Oingo Boingo reunion, Elfman immediately rejected the idea and stated that in the last few years with the band he had begun to develop significant and irreversible hearing damage as a result of his continuous exposure to the high noise levels involved in performing in a rock band. He went on to say that he believes his hearing damage is partially due to a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, and that he will never return to the stage for fear of worsening not only his condition but also his bandmates'.

Recent works

Elfman has recently started working in the classical world, beginning with Serenada Schizophrana for the American Composers Orchestra. It was conducted by John Mauceri on its recording and by Steven Sloane at its premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York City on February 23, 2005. After its premiere, it was recorded in studio and released onto SACD on October 3, 2006. The meeting with Mauceri proved fruitful as the composer was encouraged then to write a new concert piece for Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Elfman composed an "overture to a nonexistent musical" and called the piece "The Overeager Overture."

References in popular culture

In the animated TV show Family Guy, they did a spoof of Episode 4 of the Star Wars Trilogy: Blue Harvest. Chris (as Luke Skywalker) returns home to discover that his home has been destroyed and his aunt and uncle killed by Imperial forces. He then notices that along with them that John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra have also been slaughtered. Luke is only concerned with Williams' death, which he remarks to himself, "Great, now we got to do the rest of this thing with Danny Elfman" and the screen pans to show Danny Elfman in front of an orchestra, as he conducts a frenetic polka-style score (in the style of "The Simpsons" theme). Chris listens to the music for a few moments and then cuts off Danny Elfman's head with his lightsaber, and the music stops.

Personal life

Elfman has three children, Lola, Born in 1979, Mali, born in 1986, and Oliver, born in mid-January 2005. On November 29, 2003, Elfman married film actress Bridget Fonda.


This is a list of films where Elfman appears as an actor, or with Oingo Boingo:

Year Film Role Notes
1977 I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Yri drummer Also featured Richard Elfman
1980 Forbidden Zone Satan Directed by Richard Elfman
1981 Urgh! A Music War Himself Part of Oingo Boingo
1984 Good Morning, Mr. Orwell Himself Part of Oingo Boingo
1985 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Himself Part of Oingo Boingo
1986 Back to School Himself Part of Oingo Boingo
1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington (singing), Barrel Voice only
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Oompa-Loompas Voice only
Corpse Bride Bonejangles Voice only
2006 Finding Kraftland Himself Documentary directed by Elfman's agent, Richard Kraft

This is a list of films with scores composed by Elfman:

Year Film Director Film Score/Soundtrack
1980 Forbidden Zone Richard Elfman Soundtrack (soundtrack with The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo)
1985 Pee-wee's Big Adventure Tim Burton Soundtrack (film score, rerecording paired with Back to School)
1986 Back to School Alan Metter (film score, rerecording paired with Pee-wee's Big Adventure)
1987 Summer School Carl Reiner Soundtrack(various artists)
Wisdom Emilio Estevez, Robert Wise
1988 Beetlejuice Tim Burton Soundtrack (film score with Harry Belafonte)
Midnight Run Martin Brest Soundtrack released by MCA
Big Top Pee-wee Randal Kleiser
Scrooged Richard Donner Suite included on Music for a Darkened Theatre, Vol. 1
1989 Batman Tim Burton Soundtrack (film score)
1990 Nightbreed Clive Barker
Dick Tracy Warren Beatty Soundtrack (film score)
Darkman Sam Raimi Soundtrack (film score)
Edward Scissorhands Tim Burton Soundtrack
1992 Article 99 Howard Deutch Soundtrack released by Varese Sarabande
Batman Returns Tim Burton
1993 Sommersby Jon Amiel
Army of Darkness Sam Raimi Soundtrack (theme only)
The Nightmare Before Christmas Henry Selick (Golden Globe Nomination)
1994 Black Beauty Caroline Thompson Soundtrack (film score)
1995 Dolores Claiborne Taylor Hackford
Dead Presidents Alberl Hughes Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
To Die For Gus Van Sant
1996 Mission: Impossible Brian De Palma Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
The Frighteners Peter Jackson Soundtrack (film score)
Freeway Matthew Bright
Extreme Measures Michael Apted
Mars Attacks! Tim Burton
1997 Men in Black Barry Sonnenfeld (Oscar Nomination)
Flubber Les Mayfield
Good Will Hunting Gus Van Sant (Oscar Nomination)
1998 A Simple Plan Sam Raimi
1999 Instinct Jon Turteltaub Soundtrack (film score)
Sleepy Hollow Tim Burton Soundtrack (film score)
2000 Proof of Life Taylor Hackford
The Family Man Brett Ratner
2001 Planet of the Apes Tim Burton
2002 Spider-Man Sam Raimi Soundtrack (film score)
Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
Men in Black II Barry Sonnenfeld
Red Dragon Brett Ratner
Chicago Rob Marshall Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
2003 Hulk Ang Lee
Big Fish Tim Burton (Golden Globe & Oscar Nomination)
2004 Spider-Man 2 Sam Raimi Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Tim Burton Soundtrack (film score)
Corpse Bride Tim Burton Soundtrack (film score with various artists)
2006 Deep Sea 3D Howard Hall Serenada Schizophrana
Nacho Libre Jared Hess Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
Charlotte's Web Gary Winick Soundtrack (film score)
2007 Meet the Robinsons Steve Anderson Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
Spider-Man 3 Sam Raimi Soundtrack (themes only)
The Kingdom Peter Berg
2008 Standard Operating Procedure Errol Morris Soundtrack (film score)
Wanted Timur Bekmambetov Soundtrack (film score)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Guillermo del Toro
Milk Gus Van Sant (Oscar Nomination)
2009 Notorious George Tillman, Jr. Soundtrack (soundtrack with various artists)
Terminator Salvation McG Soundtrack (film score)
Taking Woodstock Ang Lee
9 (themes) Shane Acker
2010 Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton

He has also written the theme music for several television series, including:

  • 1986: Pee-wee's Playhouse (some episodes)
  • 1986: Sledge Hammer!
  • 1989: Tales from the Crypt
  • 1989: Beetlejuice
  • 1989: The Simpsons
  • 1990: The Flash
  • 1992: Batman: The Animated Series
  • 1997: Perversions of Science
  • 1997: The New Batman/Superman Adventures
  • 1999: Dilbert
  • 2004: Desperate Housewives
  • 2005: Point Pleasant

His other work includes:

  • 2004: The opening title theme of the 2004 video game Fable.
  • 2008: Soundtrack to the 2008 video game Lego Batman: The Video Game (various tracks from the soundtrack of the movie: Batman).
  • 2008: The opening title theme as well as major themes of the 2008 video game Fable II.
  • 2009: The opening title theme as well as major themes and soundtrack of the 2009 video game Wanted: Weapons of Fate.

Awards and nominations

Award Wins Nominations
Academy Awards 0 4
Annie Awards 0 1
BMI Film & Television Awards 24 24
British Academy Film Awards 0 1
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards 0 2
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 0 4
Emmy Awards 1 2
Golden Globe Awards 0 2
Grammy Awards 1 10
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 0 1
Satellite Awards 1 6
Saturn Awards 5 12
Sierra Awards 1 2
World Soundtrack Awards 0 2
Total 33 73
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Danny Elfman


  1. Danny Elfman Biography (1953-)
  2. Danny Elfman 's Music For A Darkened People: Danny Elfman in L.A. Times
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fanfare Article

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Danny Elfman

  • Danny Elfman at the Internet Movie Database
  • Danny Elfman at Allmusic
  • Danny Elfman at Discogs.com
  • {{{name}}} at MusicBrainz
  • dannyelfman.info - A site by Danny Elfman fans
  • Official Serenada Schizophrana site
  • Danny Elfman's Music For A Darkened People
  • The Elfman Zone
  • Beyond Insanity- A Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo website
  • The official Oingo Boingo website
  • Danny Elfman podcast interview from Synthesis (magazine)
  • Danny Elfman Interview With Entertainment Weekly
This page was last modified 14.11.2009 16:53:57

This article uses material from the article Danny Elfman from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.