Danny Elfman Hated What The 1989 Batman Movie Did To His Score

Danny Elfman speaks up about his famous Batman score.

By Hayden Mears | Published

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Tim Burton’s 1989 adaptation of Batman, starring Michael Keaton, is still one of the best comic book movies to ever grace the silver screen. One of that film’s best and most memorable elements was famed Hollywood composer Danny Elfman‘s iconic score. And it could have been even better if the composer’s score had actually made it into the final version of the film. Now, Elfman himself is vocal about his disappointment in the score. Or at least, in the mix of the score that he originally did.

During an interview on Premier Guitar podcast, Wong Notes, (via The Hollywood Reporter), Danny Elfman revealed to Vulfpeck’s Cory Wong that he was not pleased with his score as it sounded in the final cut of Burton’s Batman. Granted, he admitted that he was only “reasonably happy” with the mix he turned in to Burton and the members of his creative team, but what he ended up hearing completely bastardized his musical interpretation of Tim Burton’s story.

Here’s a portion of his quote about Batman pulled from the full interview:

“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.”

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Judging from his above comments, not only was Elfman unable to recognize his score after several rounds of heavy edits and mixes, but he also found it so different from what he did that he could have used different instruments and it would not have made even the slightest difference. It is difficult to imagine any artist not getting at least a bit angry about that. He probably even feels like he shouldn’t even be credited as Batman‘s composer.

But there are plenty of his scores that made the jump from editing room to theater screen. And nearly all of them are featured in movies you have almost certainly seen at least once. In addition to scoring Batman and its sequel, Batman Returns, Danny Elfman is also known for conducting the scores for The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mission: Impossible, Mars Attacks, Men in Black, Flubber, Good Will Hunting, the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes, Men in Black II, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, the astounding Spider-Man 2, and countless others.

And he’s far from done. In fact, you could easily argue that Batman was just the beginning for Elfman. Up next for him is next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will see him replacing Michael Giacchino as the film’s composer.

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It may seem silly that Danny Elfman is still upset about his Batman score decades later, but try to put yourself in his shoes for a minute. He was hired to do a job, he did the job, and then the studio basically changed it into something that didn’t feel like his work. That had to have been profoundly disappointing.

But there are only great things ahead for the great composer. He may not be scoring a Batman flick, but he is tackling Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will reunite him with director Sam Raimi. You can catch his score when the film finally hits theaters on March 25, 2022. Until then, immerse yourself in his decades-spanning work. He’s one of the greats for a reason.