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Danny Elfman - Early career, and Tim Burton, Musical Influences, Trivia

score film oingo boingo

Known for little more than being ‘the whitest white kid,’ in the culturally diverse area of Los Angeles called Baldwin Hills, Danny Elfman pursued his passion for music from,an early age. He accompanied his brother to France after making the decision to drop out of school. Elfman earned money by playing the violin on the street, later teaming up with his older brother. The two became part of Le Grande Magic Circus, a theatrical griup known for their musical innovation. He later moved to Africa before returning home to the U.S. to be part of The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo- his brother’s theatrical music ensemble. After the completion of a movie, The Mystic Knights changed their name to Oingo Boingo, producing multiple albums while performing in venues throughout the country.

Danny Elfman and Tim Burton

As a student, Tim Burton had seen Oingo Boingo perform and, liking what he saw, made the decision to allow Elfman the opportunity to write the score for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure- Burton’s first film which was released in 1985. Subsequently, Elfman worked on many other Burton films including his first orchestral score for Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990),and Batman Returns (1992) In 1993, Elfman sang the part of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas along with providing the speaking voices of characters Barrel anf The Clown withe the Tearaway Face.Sleepy Hollow followed in 1996 and box-office flop Planet of the Apes in 2001. Elfman wrote the score for Big Fish (2003) and supplied the voices for the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). His most recent work with Burton was on Corpse Bride where he voiced the character Bonejangles.

Musical Influences

Described sometimes as somber and morose, and other times as beautiful and heartfelt,Elfman’s film scores are known for their manically crazed darkness. This is due to the influence of several compsers whose styles have shaped his perception of music througout his life. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951) is noted by Elfman as being the first time he ‘noticed’ the score of a film, igniting his love of film music with a score by Bernard Herrman (Russell and Young, 2000).Elfman is also inspired by the music of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Carl Orff whose use of choirs Elfman would soon make his own.


Elfman made a cameo as himself in the 1986 film Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield. In the film, Elfman performed “Dead Man’s Party” with his band Oingo Boingo. The score for Batman (1989) was written on a plane where jet noise made the recordings difficult to hear, resulting in hours of playbacks to reconstruct the score. In 2003, Elfman married Bridget Fonda in Los Angeles.Elfman has a cameo in Sam Raimi’s vehicle The Gift as a strange fiddler during one of the film’s dream sequences.Composer, Hans Zimmer has scored for movies in the same franchises as Elfman, namely the Batman and the Hannibal Lecter, The Simpsons and Mission Impossible. Much of Elfman’s music is in Phrygian mode. Elfman is the uncle (through marriage) of actress Jenna Elfman.
Dante Alighieri [next] [back] Daniels, William “Billy”(1915–1988) - Singer, actor, Chronology, Works in the Theater, Accomplishments in Television and Film, Family Life

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