Tim Burton Week: The Genius of Danny Elfman

To celebrate the release of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Sarah looks at the great relationship between Danny Elfman and Tim Burton (yes, we know Eflman doesn’t score the new film.) 

It seems that when people think of Danny Elfman’s work, they go straight to Tim Burton. After all, he has scored all but two of Burton’s movies.

But Elfman’s work goes much beyond the partnership with Burton and some of the most iconic theme songs and scores have been birthed from this musical genius.

Elfman has been one of the masters of the sound of cinema.

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Raised in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles; Elfman’s love of scoring came from spending so much of his time in the local movie theatres. Inspired by the work of Bernard Herrmann citing Herrmanns work on The Day The Earth Stood Still as the first time he really heard and understood music. Hanging out in bands from ska to new wave in school, Elfman followed his brother to France then continued travelling through the lands of Africa. When he returned home to the states, he took up but never fully completed studying Balinese music lessons at CalArts

In 1972, Elfman’s brother Richard formed a new wave performance art band called Oingo Boingo. Although the project fell through, the brothers took a script short film the band had produced called Forbidden Zone. This now cult movie is a hilarious music science fiction movie and was one of the first movies that Danny Elfman scored. It is, indeed, a movie that attracted the attention of a filmmaker that goes by the name of Burton.

Burton and actor Paul Reubens approached Elfman to write the music for their movie Pee-Wees Big Adventure. Apprehensive due to the lack of training, Elfman was hesitant up until he heard his music played by a full orchestra. Feeling the thrill, Elfman was hooked and sparked up the magnificent movie moments in Burton’s movies. Over the past years, the composer has created the music for the directors movies from Edward Scissorhands (some tear inducing scenes) to Planet of the Apes. Only two of Burton films hasn’t had the Elfman flair through argument and the fact that Sweeny Todd ws solely composed by Stephen Sondheim.

Elfman has not only worked with Burton, creating the eerie line between childhood and nightmares. Elfman has gone on the compose scores for eighty movies and television shows. His most famous works include Spider-man, Red Dragon, Silver Linings Playbook and Men In Black 3. Check out his extensive list, you’ll be surprise to learn that Elfman has scored some of your favourite movies. Elfman has even created one of the most recognisable theme songs by being the mastermind being The Simpsons theme. Most recently he has scored Cirque De Soliel’s Iris show and even scored American Hustle and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

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Elfman has such an iconic influence on movie music. Whether he is voicing Jack Skellington or sending us on an epic adventure to Oz. He not only manages to capture the true nature of the movie, but the subtle changes in score encompass a character. The light hearted spirit of Pee-Wee to the sleazy joker Beetlejuice, Elfman has carved movie moments for all of us to remember.

His most acclaimed piece has to be The Nightmare Before Christmas, we celebrate Elfman. Creating all the songs and singing as Jack Skellington, the songs of the man were pure brilliant. From the sorrow filled ones such as Sally’s Song to the thrilling Oogie Boogie song, this movie is filled with some remarkable tunes. The soundtrack to Nightmare is a purely wonderful one and has even been revisited twice with some incredible covers (check out Amy Lee’s version of Sally’s Song.) It still punctuates Christmas and Halloween holidays, swimming through the air and Eflman’s voice caught generations of surreal and weird kids.

Elfman is, indeed, a legend.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is out 30th September

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