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Danny Elfman: Making Music, Part 4—On Animation and the Future

In Part 4 of our Danny Elfman interview, the composer/musician discusses his approach to composing for animation and what's on his plate in the near future.

Danny ElfmanMix sat down with film composer/recording artist Danny Elfman to discuss his new album, Big Mess, and much more. In Part 4, he discusses his approach to composing for animation and what’s on his plate in the near future. Don’t miss Parts 1, 2, and 3!

Are your methods different for animated projects?

Yes and no. It’s similar to doing Batman or a Marvel movie, or any other fantasy of a certain type. I’m trying to define themes very clearly around characters—not because it’s animated, but because of the type of story it is. There’s a villain theme and a love theme, and it’s more of a classical approach to scoring because of the structure of the story. In a different kind of film, it may not be as clear who’s the good guy or who’s the bad guy, or if we’re more fighting demons within ourselves. In certain movies, animated or live, there’s no doubt: Here comes Darth Vader. But in other films, like Edward Scissorhands or Milk, you’re really not following characters that way. You’re following a more general feeling that suits the movie.

The outboard credenza in Elfman's studio.
The outboard credenza in Elfman’s studio.

When you’re doing orchestral work, what are some of your favorite studios?

I’ve loved them all in different ways. A lot of them are gone now, so it’s getting kind of scary in that regard. I’ve done so many scores at Fox and Sony, which used to be MGM, of course. Sony was a great room when they recorded The Wizard of Oz there, and it’s a great room now. I also love working at Air Lyndhurst in London and Abbey Road. Paramount used to have a lovely room, as well as Todd-AO. God help us when Fox or Sony disappears; that would be catastrophic for orchestral scoring.

Always on hand in Elfman's studio is the Melotron.
Always on hand in Elfman’s studio is the Melotron.

What are your plans for projects coming up, in as much as anyone can make plans?

I’m in the middle of a film called 65 for Sony—a fun, wild sci-fi adventure. Then I move straight into Dr. Strange 2 with Sam Raimi. The first concert anybody dared re-book is for this coming Halloween, and fingers crossed that stays on schedule. Other than that, we’re looking at next year for concerts. Will my violin concerto find a re-scheduled debut with the BBC Concert Orchestra in London? I hope so, but I don’t know. It’s crazy trying to guess how the world is going to be.

Click for Part 5, where Mix sits down with Elfman’s engineering crew.