Danny Elfman

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Danny Elfman
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Elfman at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con
Daniel Robert Elfman

(1953-05-29) May 29, 1953 (age 66)
Bridget Fonda (m. 2003)
Musical career
Occupation(s)Composer, singer, songwriter, record producer
Years active1972–present
Associated acts

Daniel Robert Elfman (born May 29, 1953) is an American composer, singer, songwriter, and record producer. Elfman first became known for being the lead singer and songwriter for the band Oingo Boingo from 1974 to 1995. He is well known for scoring films and television shows, particularly his frequent collaborations with director Tim Burton. One of Elfman's notable compositions is The Simpsons theme, which he wrote in 1989.

Oingo Boingo was an American new wave band, formed by songwriter Danny Elfman in 1979. Oingo Boingo emerged from a surrealist performance art theatrical troupe, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, founded in 1972 and led by Danny Elfman's brother Richard Elfman.

Tim Burton American filmmaker

Timothy Walter Burton is an American filmmaker, artist, writer, and animator. He is known for his dark, gothic, and eccentric horror and fantasy films such as Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Dark Shadows (2012), and Frankenweenie (2012). He is also known for blockbuster films, such as the adventure-comedy Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), the superhero films Batman (1989) and its first sequel, Batman Returns (1992), the sci-fi film Planet of the Apes (2001), the fantasy-drama Big Fish (2003), the musical adventure film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), the fantasy film Alice in Wonderland (2010), and the film adaptation of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016).

<i>The Simpsons</i> Theme theme music of The Simpsons

"The Simpsons Theme", also referred to as "The Simpsons Main Title Theme" in album releases, is the theme music of the animated television series The Simpsons. It plays during the opening sequence and was composed by Danny Elfman in 1989, after series creator Matt Groening approached him requesting a retro-style theme. The piece has been noted by Elfman as the most popular of his career. The theme, as used for the opening sequence, was re-arranged during season 2, and the current arrangement by Alf Clausen was introduced at the beginning of the third season.


In 1976, Elfman entered the film industry as an actor. In 1980, he scored his first film, Forbidden Zone , directed by his older brother Richard Elfman. Among his honors are four Oscar nominations, a Grammy for Batman , [4] an Emmy for Desperate Housewives , [5] six Saturn Awards for Best Music, the 2002 Richard Kirk Award, [6] and the Disney Legend Award. [7]

<i>Forbidden Zone</i> 1982 film by Richard Elfman

Forbidden Zone is an American musical fantasy comedy film directed and produced by Richard Elfman, and co-written by Elfman and fellow Mystic Knights member Matthew Bright. The film was released in 1982, but many sources erroneously list it as being a 1980 release. Originally shot on black-and-white film, the film is based upon the stage performances of the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. and revolves around an alternate universe accessed through a door in the house of the Hercules family.

Richard Elfman American film director

Richard "Rick" Elfman is an American actor, director, producer, screenwriter, journalist, author and magazine publisher.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also officially and popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The statuette depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style.

Early life and career

Elfman was born on May 29, 1953 [8] in Los Angeles, California to a Jewish family [9] from Poland and Russia. [10] He is the son of Blossom Elfman (née Bernstein), a writer and teacher, and Milton Elfman, a teacher who was in the Air Force. [11] He was raised in a racially mixed affluent community in Baldwin Hills, California. [12] 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. Stating that he hung out with the "band geeks" in high school, he started a ska band. After dropping out of high school, he followed his brother Richard to France, [13] where he performed with Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group.

History of the Jews in Poland spans the period 966 to present times

The history of the Jews in Poland dates back over 1,000 years. For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Poland was a principal center of Jewish culture, thanks to a long period of statutory religious tolerance and social autonomy. This ended with the Partitions of Poland which began in 1772, in particular, with the discrimination and persecution of Jews in the Russian Empire. During World War II there was a nearly complete genocidal destruction of the Polish Jewish community by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, during the 1939–1945 German occupation of Poland and the ensuing Holocaust. Since the fall of communism in Poland, there has been a Jewish revival, featuring an annual Jewish Culture Festival, new study programs at Polish secondary schools and universities, the work of synagogues such as the Nożyk Synagogue, and Warsaw's Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

History of the Jews in Russia aspect of history

The history of the Jews in Russia and on areas historically connected with it goes back at least 1500 years. Jews in Russia have historically constituted a large religious diaspora; the vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest population of Jews in the world.

Clare "Blossom" Elfman was an American novelist.

He was never officially a student at the CalArts, but an instructor there encouraged him to continue learning. Elfman stated, "He just laughed, and said, 'Sit. Play.' I continued to sit and play for a couple years." [14] At this time, his brother Richard was forming a new musical theater group. [15]

California Institute of the Arts University located in Santa Clarita, California, US

The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is a private art university in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, California, United States. It was incorporated in 1961 as the first degree-granting institution of higher learning in the US created specifically for students of both the visual and performing arts. It offers Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees through its six schools: Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater.


Oingo Boingo

In 1972 Richard Elfman founded the American new wave band/performance art group, originally called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. They played several shows throughout the 1970s until Richard Elfman left the band to become a filmmaker. As a send-off to the band's original concept, Richard Elfman created the film Forbidden Zone based on their stage performances. Danny Elfman composed his first score for the film and played the role of Satan (the other band members played his minions). By the time the movie was completed, they had taken the name Oingo Boingo and begun recording and touring as a rock group. From 1976 and on, it was led by Danny Elfman, until 1995 when they suddenly retired. The semi-theatrical music and comedy troupe had transformed into a ska-influenced new wave band in 1979, and then changed again towards a more guitar-oriented rock sound, in the late 1980s.[ citation needed ]. Oingo Boingo, still led by Danny Elfman, performed as themselves in the 1986 movie Back to School . Additionally, Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek reunited on October 31, 2015 to perform the song "Dead Man's Party" "for the first time in 20 years to the day", as Elfman said to the audience during an encore at a Halloween celebration at the Hollywood Bowl. [16]

New wave is a genre encompassing numerous pop-oriented music styles popular in the late 1970s and the 1980s with ties to mid-1970s punk rock. New wave moved away from traditional blues and rock and roll sounds to create pop and rock music that incorporated disco, mod, and electronic music. Initially new wave was similar to punk rock, before becoming a distinct genre. It engendered subgenres and fusions, including synth-pop.

Performance art artistic performance presented to an audience

Performance art is a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated, spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent. It can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. Performance art can happen anywhere, in any type of venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.

Satan Figure in Abrahamic religions

Satan, also known as the Devil, is an entity in the Abrahamic religions that seduces humans into sin or falsehood. In Christianity and Islam, he is usually seen as either a fallen angel or a jinn, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but rebelled against God, who nevertheless allows him temporary power over the fallen world and a host of demons. In Judaism, Satan is typically regarded as a metaphor for the yetzer hara, or "evil inclination", or as an agent subservient to God.

Film and television scoring

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. [17] 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 immediately developed a rapport with Burton [17] and has gone on to score all but three of Burton's major studio releases: Ed Wood , which was under production while Elfman and Burton were having a serious disagreement, [18] Sweeney Todd and, most recently, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children . Elfman also provided the singing voice for Jack Skellington in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and the voices of both Barrel and the "Clown with the Tear-Away Face". In 1990, Elfman composed the iconic orchestra piece, "Ice Dance", for the Tim Burton film Edward Scissorhands . Years later he provided the voice for Bonejangles the skeleton in Corpse Bride and the voices of the Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory .

Paul Reubens American actor, writer, film producer, game show host, and comedian

Paul Reubens is an American actor, writer, film producer, game show host, and comedian, best known for his character Pee-wee Herman. Reubens joined the Los Angeles troupe The Groundlings in the 1970s, and started his career as an improvisational comedian and stage actor. In 1982, Reubens began appearing in a show about a character he had been developing for years. The show called The Pee-wee Herman Show, ran for five sold-out months, and HBO produced a successful special about it. Pee-wee became an instant cult figure and, for the next decade, Reubens was completely committed to his character, doing all of his public appearances and interviews as Pee-wee. His feature film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), directed by the then-unknown Tim Burton, was a financial and critical success, and soon developed into a cult film. Its sequel, Big Top Pee-wee (1988), was less successful. Between 1986 and 1990, Reubens starred as Pee-wee in the CBS Saturday-morning children's program Pee-wee's Playhouse.

A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film for the actors. The score forms part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes pre-existing music, dialogue and sound effects, and comprises a number of orchestral, instrumental, or choral pieces called cues, which are timed to begin and end at specific points during the film in order to enhance the dramatic narrative and the emotional impact of the scene in question. Scores are written by one or more composers, under the guidance of, or in collaboration with, the film's director or producer and are then usually performed by an ensemble of musicians – most often comprising an orchestra or band, instrumental soloists, and choir or vocalists – known as playback singers and recorded by a sound engineer.

<i>Pee-wees Big Adventure</i> 1985 movie starring Paul Reubens directed by Tim Burton

Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a 1985 American adventure comedy film directed by Tim Burton in his full-length film directing debut and starring Paul Reubens as Pee-wee Herman with supporting roles provided by Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, and Judd Omen. Reubens also co-wrote the script with Phil Hartman and Michael Varhol. Described as a "parody" or "farce version" of the 1948 Italian classic Bicycle Thieves, it is the tale of Pee-wee Herman's nationwide search for his stolen bicycle.

In 2002 Elfman composed the soundtracks for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man series, except for Spider-Man 3 , to which he contributed a variety of work on the soundtrack, but did not compose the soundtrack.

In October 2013, Elfman returned to the stage to sing his vocal parts to a handful of Nightmare Before Christmas songs as part of a concert titled Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton. [19] [20] He composed the film score for Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), and composed additional music for Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) together with Brian Tyler.

Elfman composed the score for all three of the Fifty Shades films (2015–2018). [21]

Elfman's film scores were featured in the 2017 production SCORE: A Film Music Documentary. Also that year, he took over the place of composer in the DCEU's Justice League and was able to reprise parts of his own score from Tim Burton's 1989 Batman for the new incarnation of the character. [22] [23] [24]

Classical projects

In 2004 Elfman composed 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 non-existent musical" and called the piece "The Overeager Overture".

2017 saw the premiere of his 40-minute Concerto for Violin & Orchestra ('Eleven Eleven') in Prague, with soloist Sandy Cameron (for whom it was written) and conducted by John Mauceri with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. It was jointly commissioned by Prague Proms, Stanford Symphony and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and has subsequently been performed in Germany and the US, with further dates planned. A 4-movement, 21-minute Piano Quartet was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Piano Quartet as part of their US tour in 2018. The Violin Concerto and Piano Quartet were released on a Sony Classical recording in 2019. Elfman continues to compose his film scores in addition to these other projects.

Other projects

In November 2010, it was reported that Danny Elfman was writing the music for a planned musical based on the life of Harry Houdini, [25] but, as of January 2012, he was no longer attached to the project. [26]

In 2011 Elfman composed the music for the Cirque du Soleil show Iris , which was performed at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood from July 21, 2011 to January 19, 2013. [27]

In October 2016, Elfman composed a horror score for when Donald Trump "loom[ed]" behind Hillary Clinton at the second United States presidential election debates, 2016. [28] [29]

Musical influences

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. [30] 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, [30] [31] and Nino Rota, who served as a significant influence and the main inspiration for Elfman's score for Pee-wee's Big Adventure . [31] Elfman's work in pop music was influenced by The Specials, Madness, the Selecter, and XTC. [32]

Personal life

As a teenager, Elfman dated his classmate Kim Gordon, who would later become one of the members of the rock band Sonic Youth. [33]

He has two daughters, Lola (*1979) and Mali (*1984), from his marriage to Geri Eisenmenger. [34] Mali is a film producer and actress. [35] Elfman and his daughter collaborated on her 2011 film Do Not Disturb. [36]

On November 29, 2003, Elfman married actress Bridget Fonda. [37] They have a son, Oliver. [38] In 1998, Elfman scored A Simple Plan , starring Fonda. [39]

He is the uncle of actor Bodhi Elfman, who is married to actress Jenna Elfman. [40]

Elfman has been an atheist since the age of 11 or 12. According to him, he is a cynicologist. [40]

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." [41] In 2008, he expressed support for Barack Obama and said that Sarah Palin was his "worst nightmare". [42]

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. [43] [44] [45]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Danny Elfman among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [46]

Awards and nominations

Danny Elfman awards and nominations
Academy Awards
Annie Awards
BMI Film & Television Awards
British Academy Film Awards
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
Emmy Awards
Golden Globe Awards
Grammy Awards
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards
Satellite Awards
Saturn Awards
Sierra Awards
World Soundtrack Awards
Awards won35

American Film Institute

Elfman's scores for Batman and Edward Scissorhands were nominated for AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.


See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Only a Lad</i> 1981 studio album by Oingo Boingo

Only a Lad is the full-length debut album by American new wave band Oingo Boingo, released in 1981, following their self-titled EP.

<i>Dead Mans Party</i> (album) 1985 studio album by Oingo Boingo

Dead Man's Party is the fifth album by American new wave band Oingo Boingo, released in 1985. The album cover art is an homage to the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos.

<i>Dark at the End of the Tunnel</i> 1990 studio album by Oingo Boingo

Dark at the End of the Tunnel is the seventh studio album by American new wave band Oingo Boingo, released in 1990.

<i>Boingo Alive</i> 1988 live album by Oingo Boingo

Boingo Alive is a double live album by American new wave band Oingo Boingo, released in 1988. During recordings, the band performed live in a studio with no audience; hence it is not a traditional "live" album. Released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the band's inception, the song selection spans the group's entire discography, as well as including several previously unreleased pieces.

<i>Boingo</i> (album) 1994 studio album by Oingo Boingo

Boingo is the eighth and final studio album by American new wave band Oingo Boingo. It was the band's only album recorded for their new label, Giant Records, as well as the only album to be released by the band's 1994 5-piece line-up.

Dale Turner is an American trumpet player, best known for being a member of the American new wave band Oingo Boingo.

<i>Forbidden Zone</i> (soundtrack) 1983 soundtrack album by The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo

The Forbidden Zone OST is the soundtrack to Forbidden Zone, the 1980 cult film directed by Richard Elfman. The album marked the soundtrack debut of future film composer Danny Elfman, who composed all of the original songs and performed them with his band The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.

Weird Science (song) 1985 song performed by Oingo Boingo

"Weird Science" is a song by Oingo Boingo. Written by frontman Danny Elfman, it is the theme song to the Weird Science film and television series. It was released on the film's soundtrack, as well as Oingo Boingo's 1985 album, Dead Man's Party, as a longer mix. The song reached #45 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #21 on the US Dance Club Charts.

Steve Bartek is an American guitarist, film composer, conductor and orchestrator. He is best known as the lead guitarist in the band Oingo Boingo and for his orchestration work with composer Danny Elfman.

<i>Batman</i> (score) 1989 film score by Danny Elfman

Batman: Original Motion Picture Score is the score album for the 1989 film Batman by Danny Elfman. According to the Batman DVD Special Edition, Elfman said that producer Jon Peters was not sure about him as a composer until Tim Burton made him play the main titles. Elfman admitted he was stunned when Peters announced that the score would be released on its own album, as releasing a separate score album for a film was something that was rarely done in the 1980s.

Appearances by Danny Elfman as a composer, or as a member of Oingo Boingo:

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"Little Girls" is a song by American new wave group Oingo Boingo and the opening track of their debut album Only a Lad.


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