It’s a Dead Man’s Party, Who Could Ask for More
Danny Elfman is afraid of you. And tidal waves. From his symphonic scores, you’d expect him to arrive astride an elephant, followed by a circus of goth ballerinas waving giant rainbow feathers. But he’s quiet, unassuming, and very kind.
Around Christmas this year, they’ll be releasing a giant box set of all of Danny Elfman and Tim Burton’s collaborative efforts over the past 25 years. It’s 14 discs — covering all thirteen of the films they’ve worked on together. Auteur directors tend to latch on to a specific composer, because the musical element then becomes yet another layer they can control. Burton has that sort of carnivalistic feel to all of his films — and the guy whittling away at the calliope has always been Danny Elfman.
Elfman and Burton share a childhood as weird kids tearing around the suburbs of LA, raised on a steady diet of fantasy, sci-fi and horror. Burton admired Vincent Price, Elfman adored Peter Lorre — this established their relationship as torturer and tortured. This began on Burton’s first major flick Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which Elfman agreed to score because he’d been a fan of Paul Reubens’ work with the Groundlings.
Elfman claims his toughest project was Batman, since the studio, producers and most of the folks behind the film didn’t want him working on the movie. The studio was hoping to have Michael Jackson do the Batman theme, Prince do the Joker theme, and George Michael do the love theme, with Elfman as the “captain of the ship.” Elfman left the film for a while, but finally returned, and proved that he and Burton were capable of creating a major action blockbuster film.
Elfman’s favorite projects — sort of like choosing a favorite child — Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, because they were smaller films that nobody knew about and they left them alone for the most part, which gave them more creative freedom. Elfman wrote all the music for The Nightmare Before Christmas in about a month. Burton would come by and tell him an element of the story, and Elfman would shoo him away for three days, and then write the song for his return.
Burton likes to use Elfman to ground his fantasies. He was extremely nervous about Alice in Wonderland because it was his first foray into greenscreen — he’s a visual director. As Burton developed as a director, swapping genres, Elfman was able to develop complexity as a composer.
Sadly there will be no secret Oingo Boingo treasure chest release. But the box set should be released in December.
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