ScreenRant- Oscar-nominated film composer, Danny Elfman, says that he’s very unhappy with the final cut of his score for 1989’s Batman. The famed Tim Burton adaptation took the world by storm upon its release, introducing Michael Keaton as the iconic crime-fighter and Jack Nicholson as the Joker in a film franchise that continues to thrive today.
Elfman’s opinion of Batman is slightly marred by the manner in which the acclaimed composer’s final score was handled. As Bleeding Cool reports, Elfman recently spoke about the way his score was incorporated into the film [h/t Wong Notes], and from the sound of things, the score was drastically transformed, losing much of its orchestral complexity in favor of simple percussion.
Well THIS certainly isn't the way I thought I was going to blog the 'BATMAN' (1989) commentary episode of My Mom's Basement we did today, but apparently Danny Elfman was/is "terribly unhappy" with the mix for his legendary score for that film, so let's talk about it....
If you asked me to close my eyes and think about Batman right now - what encapsulates the Caped Crusader more than anything - I believe the opening of 'Batman: The Animated Series' would immediately come to mind....
….that feels like my entire childhood in a minute and two seconds, and that's all based in Elfman's score setting the tone for Gotham City and serving as the perfect backdrop to the World's Greatest Detective's escapades.
No Elfman and I have NO CLUE what that intro is like - it's comparable to imagining a different 'Indiana Jones' or even 'JAWS' theme in my eyes - so it's a shame he doesn't look back on that iconic piece of work with fond memories.
From what I gathered, though, it's just the mix that he hates - not the theme itself, so that's reassuring. Here's the quote in full from that ScreenRant blog….
"I was terribly unhappy with the dub in Batman. They did it in the old-school way where you do the score and turn it into the 'professionals' who turn the nobs and dub it in. And dubbing had gotten really wonky in those years. We recorded [multi-channel recording on] three channels…right, center, left…and basically, they took the center channel out of the music completely. It didn't have any care put into it. I've had many scores play in big action scenes that really propelled the scene. And in the end of the [Batman] dub, I realized I could have had the orchestra play anything. I could have scored the film with some percussion, a harmonica, and a banjo because all you hear are some percussion hits in big moments, but you can't really hear what the orchestra is doing. That was my first lesson in how so-called professionals can take a score and the soundtrack to a movie and just do their thing in a very noncommittal way that is easiest for them; plunk it off to the side and just get the dialogue."
Fun Fact: Before becoming one of cinema's most famous composers, Elfman was in a ska/rock new wave band called 'Oingo Boingo'….
Elfman was handpicked by Tim Burton to write the score for 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure' in 1985, and seemingly for no reason at all. Burton just really believed that he was the right guy for the job despite Elfman barely even believing in himself (considering he'd never even thought about composing a film score before)! Burton was right, though - Elfman had an ear for movies - and the rest is history.
For more fun facts and little behind the scenes tidbits like this, check out our BATMAN 89 commentary below!