Elfman at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con
Daniel Robert Elfman
May 29, 1953
|Occupation||Composer, singer, songwriter, record producer, actor|
Bridget Fonda (m. 2003)
Daniel Robert Elfman (born May 29, 1953) is an American composer, singer, songwriter, voice artist and record producer. He first became well known as the singer-songwriter for the new wave band Oingo Boingo in the early 1980s, and has since garnered international recognition for writing over 100 feature film scores, as well as compositions for television, stage productions and the concert hall.
Frequently working with directors Tim Burton, Sam Raimi and Gus Van Sant, notable compositions have been the scores for Burton's two Batman films, Raimi's Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, Van Sant's Good Will Hunting and Milk, all of the Men in Black and Fifty Shades of Grey films to date, the songs and score for the Burton-produced The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the theme for The Simpsons.
Elfman was born on May 29, 1953 in Los Angeles, California to a Jewish family with Polish and Russian roots. He is the son of Blossom Elfman (née Bernstein), a writer and teacher, and Milton Elfman, a teacher who was in the Air Force. He was raised in a racially mixed affluent community in Baldwin Hills, California. He spent much of his time in the neighborhood's local movie theater, adoring the music of such film composers as Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman, and stated that he hung out with the "band geeks" in high school.
After dropping out of high school, he followed his brother Richard to France, where he performed violin with Jérôme Savary's Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group. He then embarked on a year-long, self-guided tour throughout Africa, performing violin on the street and collecting a range of West African percussion instruments. At this time, Richard was forming a new musical theater group in Los Angeles.
After returning to Los Angeles from his tour of Africa in the early 1970s, Elfman was asked by his brother Richard to serve as musical director of his street theatre performance art troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.:22
Elfman was tasked with adapting and arranging 1920s and 1930s jazz and big band music by artists such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Django Rheinhardt and Josephine Baker for the ensemble, which consisted of up to 15 performers swapping 30 instruments. He also composed original pieces and helped build instruments unique for the group, including an aluminum gamelon, the 'Schlitz celeste' made from tuned beer cans, and a "junkyard orchestra" built from car parts and trash cans.
The Mystic Knights played throughout Los Angeles until Richard left in 1979 to pursue filmmaking.:15 As a send-off to the group's original concept, Richard created the film Forbidden Zone based on The Mystic Knights' stage performances, for which Elfman composed his first film score and played the role of Satan with other ensemble members playing his minions.
Before the release of Forbidden Zone, Elfman had taken over The Mystic Knights as lead singer and songwriter, paring the group down to eight players, shortening the name to Oingo Boingo, and recording and touring as a ska-influencednew wave band. Their most successful album was 1985's Dead Man's Party, featuring the hit song "Weird Science" from the movie of the same name. The band also appeared performing their single "Dead Man's Party" in the 1986 movie Back to School, for which Elfman also composed the score. Elfman shifted the band to a more guitar-oriented rock sound in the late 1980s, which lasted until Oingo Boingo's final concert in 1995.
On October 31, 2015, Elfman and Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek performed "Dead Man's Party" – "for the first time in 20 years to the day" of Oingo Boingo's retirement concert, as Elfman said to the audience – as an encore after a live-to-film performance of The Nightmare Before Christmas score at the Hollywood Bowl.
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 and having never scored a studio feature, but with orchestration assistance from Oingo Boingo guitarist and arranger Steve Bartek, he completed his score to wide acclaim, while paying homage to his love of early film music and influential film composers Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann. In the booklet for the first volume of Music for a Darkened Theatre, Elfman described the first time he heard his music played by a full orchestra as one of the most thrilling experiences of his life.
Elfman mainly scored quirky comedies throughout the 1980s following Pee Wee's Big Adventure, including Back to School starring Rodney Dangerfield, Burton's Beetlejuice and the Bill Murray vehicle Scrooged. Notable exceptions were the all-synth score to Emilio Estevez's Wisdom and the big band, blues-infused music for Martin Brest's Midnight Run.
Elfman's influential, Grammy-winning score for Burton's Batman in 1989 marked a major stylistic shift to dark, densely orchestrated music in the romantic idiom, which would carry over to his scores for Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy, Sam Raimi's Darkman and Clive Barker's Nightbreed, all released in 1990.
With Batman, Elfman firmly established a career-spanning relationship with Burton, scoring all but three of the director's major studio releases. Highlights include Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). In 2005 he wrote the score and songs for Burton's Corpse Bride and provided the voice of the character of Bonejangles, as well as providing the score, songs and Oompa-Loompa vocals for Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that same year. In addition to writing the score and ten songs for the Burton-produced stop motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elfman also provided the singing voice for main character Jack Skellington, as well as the voices for side characters Barrel and the Clown with the Tear-Away Face, among others.
In addition to frequent collaborations with Burton, Raimi and Gus Van Sant, Elfman has worked with esteemed directors such as Brian De Palma, Peter Jackson, Joss Whedon, Errol Morris, Ang Lee, Richard Donner, Guillermo del Toro, David O. Russell, Taylor Hackford, Jon Amiel, Joe Johnston, and Barry Sonnenfeld.
Among his franchise work, Elfman composed the scores for all four Men in Black films (1997-2019) and all three Fifty Shades of Grey films (2015-2018). Elfman scored Raimi's Spider-Man in 2002 and Spider-Man 2 in 2004, themes and selections from which were used for Raimi's Spider-Man 3, though Elfman did not compose the score. He also provided the score for the first film in the Mission: Impossible series, adapting themes for the original television series by Lalo Schifrin as well as composing his own.
For three high-profile reboot projects in the 2010s, Elfman incorporated established musical themes with his own original thematic material, including the DC Extended Universe's Justice League,The Grinch and Dumbo.
Elfman's first piece of original concert music, Serenada Schizophrana, was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, who premiered the piece on February 23, 2005, at Carnegie Hall. Subsequent concert works include his first Violin Concerto "Eleven Eleven", co-commissioned by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Stanford Live at Stanford University, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, which premiered at Smetana Hall in Prague on June 21, 2017, with Sandy Cameron on violin and John Mauceri conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra; the Piano Quartet, co-commissioned by the Lied Center for Performing Arts University of Nebraska and the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet, which premiered February 6, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska; and the Percussion Quartet, commissioned by Third Coast Percussion and premiered at the Philip Glass Days And Nights Festival in Big Sur on October 10, 2019.
In 2008, Elfman accepted his first commission for the stage, composing the music for Twyla Tharp's Rabbit and Rogue ballet, co-commissioned by American Ballet Theatre and Orange County Performing Arts Center and premiering on June 3, 2008, at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center. Other works for stage include the music for Cirque Du Soleil's Iris in 2011, and incidental music for the Broadway production of Taylor Mac's Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus in 2019.
In October 2013, Elfman returned to the stage for the first time since his band Oingo Boingo disbanded to sing his vocal parts to a handful of The Nightmare Before Christmas songs as part of a concert titled Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton, featuring suites of music from thirteen of Tim Burton's films newly arranged by Elfman. The concert has since toured internationally and has played in Japan, Australia, Mexico and throughout Europe and the United States. Since 2015 Elfman has appeared annually in a Hollywood Bowl Halloween concert featuring full orchestra performing the Nightmare Before Christmas score live to the film.
In 2019 it was announced Elfman had been commissioned to write a piece for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain set to premiere at the 2020 Proms festival, and a percussion concerto for Colin Currie and the London Philharmonic Orchestra for spring 2021. Other works in the planning phase are a cello concerto and a project that involves chamber orchestra and Elfman's own voice.
In addition to his music for film, Elfman has had a prolific career in television, penning themes for the The Simpsons,Tales from the Crypt, The Fash and Desperate Housewives, which won Elfman his first Emmy. He also adapted his original themes for the animated versions of Batman and Beetlejuice. Occasional forays into serial television include episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Amazing Stories, and Pee-wee's Playhouse, as well as the miniseries When We Rise, co-composed with Chris Bacon.
Elfman provided background music for Luigi Serafini's solo exhibition il Teatro della Pittura at the Fondazione Mudima di Milano in Milan, Italy in 1998 and for the Tim Burton exhibition at MoMA in 2009.
In November 2010, it was reported that Danny Elfman was writing the music for a planned musical based on the life of Harry Houdini, but, as of January 2012 , he was no longer attached to the project.
The style of Elfman's music has been influenced by modern composers including Béla Bartók, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Carl Orff, Harry Partch, Sergei Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, as well as Romantic composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Elfman has said that the first time he noticed film music was when he heard Bernard Herrmann's score to The Day the Earth Stood Still as an eleven-year-old; afterwards he became a fan of film music. Elfman's influences in film music include the work of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, David Tamkin, Franz Waxman, and Nino Rota, who served as a significant influence and the main inspiration for Elfman's score for Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Elfman's work in pop music was influenced by The Specials, Madness, the Selecter, and XTC.
He has two daughters, Lola (*1979) and Mali (*1984), from his marriage to Geri Eisenmenger. Mali is a film producer and actress. Elfman and his daughter collaborated on her 2011 film Do Not Disturb.
Describing his politics during the 1980s, Elfman said, "I'm not a doomist. My attitude is always to be critical of what's around you, but not ever to forget how lucky we are. I've traveled around the world. I left thinking I was a revolutionary. I came back real right-wing patriotic. Since then, I've kind of mellowed in between." In 2008, he expressed support for Barack Obama and said that Sarah Palin was his "worst nightmare".
During the 18 years with Oingo Boingo, Elfman developed significant hearing damage as a result of the continuous exposure to the high noise levels involved in performing in a rock band. Afraid of worsening his condition, he decided to leave the band, saying that he would never return to that kind of performance. His impairment was so bad that he could not "even sit in a loud restaurant or bar anymore." However, he found performing in front of orchestras more tolerable, and returned several times to reprise his live performance of Jack Skellington.
Since the second Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons aired in 1991, launching the the alternate "scary names" tradition in the credits, Elfman has been alternately credited for the theme music as "Red Wolf Elfman," "Danny Skellingelfman," "Li'l Leakin Brain Elfman," "Boris Elfmonivich," "Danny Elfblood," "Danny 'Hell'fman," "The Bloody Elf," "Danny Elfbones," "Elfmunster" and "Daniel Beilzebelsman."
In the 2007 sixth season Star Wars parody "Blue Harvest", Family Guy lampooned Elfman's orchestral style. A scene shows Elfman replacing an incenterated John Williams to conduct a full orchestra playing the score, only to be decapitated by a lightsaber after performing a few bars of oom-pah music.
In October 2016, Elfman produced a video clip for Funny or Die with original "horror" music composed to footage of Donald Trump pacing around Hillary Clinton at the second United States presidential election debates, 2016.
Notable highlights of Elfman's compositions:
|Year||Film/Show||Role||Director||Studio/Distributor||Notes / Accolades|
|1976||"The Gong Show"||Himself (uncredited)||Chuck Barris (Host/Producer)||NBC||Performed trombone with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo; the group won the episode scoring 24 points out of 30|
|1977||I Never Promised You a Rose Garden||Drummer (uncredited)||Anthony Page||Shout! Factory||Appeared with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, who performed music as "tribal members" in a dream sequence|
|Hot Tomorrows||Singer||Martin Brest||American Film Institute||Appeared with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo performing the song "St. James Infirmary Blues"|
|1981||Urgh! A Music War||Himself||Derek Burbidge||Lorimar||As lead singer/songwriter of Oingo Boingo|
|Longshot (aka Long Shot Kids)||Himself||E.W. Swackhamer||Greentree Productions||As lead singer/songwriter of Oingo Boingo|
|1982||Forbidden Zone||Satan||Richard Elfman||Fantoma||Also composer/arranger/performer with The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo|
|1984||Good Morning, Mr. Orwell||Himself||Nam June Paik||WNET TV, NYC / Centre Pompidou, Paris||As lead singer/songwriter for Oingo Boingo|
|1986||Back to School||Himself||Alan Metter||Orion Pictures||As lead singer/songwriter for Oingo Boingo|
|1993||The Nightmare Before Christmas||Jack Skellington (voice)||Tim Burton||Touchstone Pictures||In addition writing and producing the score and ten original songs, Elfman provided the singing voice of main character Jack Skellington, among others|
|2000||The Gift||Tommy Lee Ballard||Sam Raimi||Paramount Classics|
|2005||Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||Oompa-Loompas (voices, uncredited)||Tim Burton||Warner Bros.||In addition to composing the film's score and songs, Elfman provided the singing voices for all Oompa Loompa characters.|
|Corpse Bride||Bonejangles (voice)||Tim Burton||Warner Bros.|
|2008||Proud Iza||Narrator||Anna Condo||Fern Films||In addition to providing narration, Elfman's music from Standard Operating Procedure was used for this short film|
|2010||DemiUrge Emesis||Narrator||Aurelio Voltaire||Self produced by Voltaire||Part of Voltaire's stop motion short film series "Chimerascope" featuring voice-overs by music icons including Deborah Harry, Richard Butler and Gerard Way|
|2015||Live from Lincoln Center: Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton||Himself||Andrew Carl Wilk, Jim Fagan||PBS||Performed songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas|
Won Outstanding Music Direction at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards, Elfman's second Emmy Award
|2016||Score||Himself||Matt Schrader||Gravitas Ventures||Appeared among over 50 film composers discussing the craft of writing music for movies and influential figures in the business|
Beginning with his first score on Tim Burton's Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Elfman has scored over 100 films...
I took a year off to travel Africa when I was 18. On my 19th birthday I crossed into Nigeria... I spent time in Mali, Ghana, Zaire, Uganda, Kenya... I have all my drums from India, Africa, plus my gamelan (percussive music set) from Bali...
8. Burton's friend and composer Danny Elfman wrote the songs and music for the film without a script or storyboard... 9. Elfman also provided the singing voice for Jack...11. Elfman also provided the voices for Barrel and the Clown with the Tear-Away Face.
The only people from the original franchise that are involved in this movie are me and Laurie, Emma and Danny Elfman, who did the music for all of them.
We ask Danny Elfman, better known as Tim Burton's collaborator on spooky fairy tales, about composing the music for all three Fifty Shades of Grey movies.
...once Elfman felt his own heart grow two sizes when it came to Christmas, incorporating the original songs become one of the highlights of writing his score for The Grinch. "The 'Welcome' song was easy," he says. "We were playing the song twice in the film, so it was just how to score it and then pick up the melody and have it kind of lift up and explode when his heart does." When it came to the other hit song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," Elfman had a slightly more complex task, collaborating with rapper Tyler the Creator on the iconic tune first recorded by Thurl Ravenscroft.
"This is a cultural icon," the composer says, "and I was happy to pay homage." So "Pink Elephants on Parade," "When I See an Elephant Fly" and the train motif "Casey Junior" all make appearances...
Matt Schrader's "Score: A Film Music Documentary" spotlights such a rich and fascinating topic -- the craft of motion picture scoring -- that its mere presence proves a feast for the eyes and ears...the film is largely devoted to feting some of Hollywood's most influential composers...
The Elfman Percussion Quartet will have its world premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, as part of the Days and Nights Festival.
Danny Elfman was the main attraction on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl during a live concert performance of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas."...The screening of the 1993 stop-motion animated movie, with a live orchestra, felt almost like a decadent dessert to the main course... Elfman saved his entrance for last, sending the audience into a frenzy of cheering and fan worship.
I have accepted a symphonic commission for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for next summer's Proms festival in London 2020. Should be wild! One hundred and sixty-five extremely talented young musicians, all on stage together. I've also accepted a concerto for percussion and orchestra written for Colin Currie who's an amazing British percussionist, to be played with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in London, spring of 2021. I'm also hoping to finalize plans for a cello concerto that I'm super excited about, but it's not finalized yet. I'm also working on a "semi-secret" personal project that involves a chamber orchestra and my own voice.
Also effective is Burton's frequent music collaborator Danny Elfman, who offers a grandiose, orchestral score to the Stainboy's adventures.
In the mid 90s my friend Luigi Serafini, who's an amazing artist, asked me to write something to play for his gallery show in Milan, Italy. I put this together as a semi-composed, semi-DJ'd experiment for him.
Tim Burton is ridiculed for having Johnny Depp play main characters in all of his movies, and for using "the same crappy music" (meaning Danny Elfman) in all of his films.
In Elfman's new clip, titled 'Trump Stalks Hillary,' the swell of the music overwhelms Hillary's words. The composer builds anxiety with a tense string section, screechy, jarring effects and a haunting choir.
...movie maestro Danny Elfman and his brother Richard Elfman were the leaders of the sprawling weirdo performance art/musical troupe, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Formed in early 70s Los Angeles, here's a look at what their act back then was like, with this 1976 appearance on The Gong Show... Danny is playing the trombone... They won that episode, receiving 24 points out of a possible 30, without getting gonged.
In 1977, Danny Elfman and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo appeared in a movie about a mentally ill teen girl who retreats into a delusional fantasy world when her real life problems become too much to bear, called I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. The band appear during the girl's hallucinatory dream sequence.
At the club, an eerie-looking combo in heavymakeup is playing "St. James infirmary"... Paracise Ballroom sequence performed by the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo...
Trivia tidbit: I'm not an Oingo Boingo fan, but for whatever it's worth, they perform at the Foosball Spectacular.
Things got a little crazy at composer Danny Elfman's home studio when he began creating the singing parts for the Oompa Loompa songs in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... Elfman laid down the vocals in his home. He did every part six times.
Narrators involved in the Chimerascope series so far include Deborah Harry of Blondie, Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and Danny Elfman.
Outstanding Music Directions - 2016 Winner - Danny Elfman, Music Direction by - Danny Elfman's Music From The Films of Tim Burton (Live From Lincoln Center) - PBS - A Lincoln Center Media Production.