WIth his new film, Frankenweenie, Tim Burton reaches back to the beginning of his career for a remake of his 1984 short of the same name. And aside from the style of animation and 3D, it almost seems like it was made around 25 years ago. Fans of early Burton films like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands should enjoy it, and likewise fans of early Danny Elfman scores to early Tim Burton films should appreciate the music, which is appropriately reminiscent of the same era.
Remember when both the filmmaker and the composer seemed like they'd always be stuck in familiar imagery and sounds, when owning a copy of the Elfman compilation Music for a Darkened Theatre was all you needed as a fan of the former Oingo Boingo frontman? Of course, even then, you could hear that not all of his scores sounded like Nino Rota and Camille Saint-Saens joined up and returned from the dead with a choir of ghosts by their side. Listen to the music from Midnight Run and Wisdom and you'd realize Elfman could easily have been on a path to scoring Jerry Bruckheimer productions if he hadn't joined forces with Burton.
Ironic, then, that when I consider my favorite non-Elfman Elfman scores are those by Hans Zimmer for the Sherlock Holmes movies and Christopher Nolan's Batman films. Elfman himself hasn't totally abandoned the xylophones and bells and such, but around the time he hit his peak in predictable and self-parodic terms with Men in Black he also branched out again for some less recognizable works like Good Will Hunting and A Simple Plan. I consider it the start of his "Weepy Donuts" period, since that was a recurring track title for fairly sappy pieces of music, the first of which was for To Die For.
Now he's very much a mixed bag, still doing his most famous sounds for Elfman, while also doing more-mainstream action blockbuster themes like those for the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and Hulk, a kind of fake but expanded upon Philip Glass style for the Errol Morris documentary Standard Operation Procedure, a retro folk rock-infused thing for Taking Woodstock and other styles that I'm forgetting in part because I forget a lot of Elfman's scores that aren't "Elfmanesque." He did the score for the Biggie biopic Notorious? Hmm. And Real Steel? Okay.
I can't say that I'm any kind of expert when it comes to music scores or music in general, and it's probably pretty boring of me that most of my favorite Elfman themes are his early ones, though I bet few of you get as happy as I do when the Back to School soundtrack is on. Throughout this post are clips of the movie scores of his I like best. I can't say they are the best from any sort of authority, but they're the ones most dear to me. Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands are therefore probably obvious, yet third pick is the very schizophrenic score for To Die For, which sounds like Tim Burton-movie Elfman and Oingo Boingo Elfman are having a rumble.
What is your favorite Danny Elfman movie score?
To kick things off, here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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