The Films of Tim Burton: Animating Live Action in Hollywood

Excerpts from the book by Alison McMahan, reproduced with her kind permission
Pub. Continuum, 2005
Alison's homepage is at

Chapter One

Burton Does 2-D: From Animation to Machinima

"I think best when I'm drawing."
--Tim Burton
[Selection from the chapter (section on Stainboy)]
There would be a long gap between Burton's design work for Family Dog and his next animation outing, but for the fans of his animation, it would be worth the wait. In 1997 Burton published a collection of twenty three poems entitled The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories, all about misfit eccentric children, that focused on the horror of childhood with a sweetening dose of humor. The key character in the collection is Stain Boy, who is introduced in the following poem:

Of all the super heroes,
The stranger one by far,
Doesn't have a special power,
Or drive a fancy car.
Next to Superman and Batman,
I guess he must seem tame.
But to me he is quite special,
And Stain Boy is his name.
He can't fly around tall buildings,
Or outrun a speeding train,
The only talent he seems to have
Is to leave a nasty stain.
Sometimes I know it bothers him,
That he can't run or swim or fly,
And because of this one ability,
His dry cleaning bill's sky-high.
The reference to Batman and Superman are pointed, as Burton had spent a year developing a feature film for Superman and had been removed from the project against his will. His solace was to create his own superhero, a boy who could do no more than to leave a nasty stain. Only two of the stories are about Stain Boy (Stain Boy's Special Christmas is about Stain Boy getting a dry cleaned suit for Christmas and covering it with stains in less than ten minutes). Of the other stories, three are about mismatched couples (Stick Boy and Match Girl in Love, Junk Girl, The Pin Cushion Queen), four are about parents who are horrified by their misfit children (Robot Boy, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, Mummy Boy, Anchor Baby) and fourteen are about freaks without references to parents (Staring Girl, The Boy with Nails in His Eyes, The Girl with Many Eyes, Stain Boy, Voodoo Girl, The Girl who turned into a Bed, Roy the Toxic Boy, James, Brie Boy, The Pin Cushion Queen, Melonhead, Sue, Jimmy, the Hideous Penguin boy, Char Boy) and finally three stories feature the continuing adventures of "heroes" we have already met (Stain Boy's Special Christmas, Stick Boy's Festive Season, Oyster Boy Steps Out). Looked at in terms of Burton's favorite themes, five of the stories are about Christmas, and one is about Halloween.
The Los Angeles Times described Stain Boy as a "splotch, a blob with legs, an ink stain that one might see on a Rorschach test," But The New York Times said: "Inspired by such childhood heroes as Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl, Mr. Burton's slim volume exquisitely conveys the pain of an adolescent outsider. Like his movies, the work manages to be both childlike and sophisticated, blending the innocent with the macabre." The same review quotes Burton on his inspiration for the book: "I was quiet but early on, I got deemed as weird," he said. "When someone says that and the whole world starts believing it… by the time I was a teenager, I felt weird."
In late January of 2000 the papers were announcing Stainboy's (his name was shortened from two words to one when he went digital) transition to the web. The San Francisco based netcaster,, invited several well known filmmakers, including South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, comic book icon Stan Lee, and Tim Burton, to produce animated Flash programming for the web. Burton was dubious at first, but agreed after he had a glimpse of Shockwave's Macromedia flash Player Technology. (Macromedia owns Burton agreed to produce 26 original animated episodes of two to five minutes each. Shockwave paid for all production of the shorts, retains the Internet rights to the character and Burton gets all the ancillary rights. Though if Stainboy wasn't enough of a hit online to carry over to film or TV, "Burton dryly pointed out, perhaps the characters could be featured 'in an ice show in Las Vegas."' In addition, Shockwave had plans develop digital trading cards and interactive games designed by Burton himself. In a deal similar to that brokered for the South Park creators, Burton also got a small percentage of The deal was announced at Sundance, and Burton was quoted as being excited about "the kind of textures" he could get with Flash technology.
Burton feels that "Medium and idea share a chemistry. For some stories you have to wait for the right medium. I think [the Internet's] the perfect forum to tell a sad little story like this one. Stainboy is a character that doesn't do much. He's just perfect for four minute animations." Burton also chose Stainboy as the animated frontispiece for his website,, an otherwise inactive website.
The plan was for Burton to create, write and direct the new series. Burton did a series of original watercolors, pencil sketches and gray-on-gray washes that were accented with pastel colors, and took them to Flinch Studios, a 22-person animation and Web-media production studio based in Los Angeles (the company has since relocated to Florida). Flinch was formed in 1997 by President Chris Takami and CEO and creative director Tony Grillo, whose backgrounds were in the video game and CD-ROM animation world of the early '90s. It was the first studio Burton visited and found their style to his liking; it also helped that both Burton and Flinch were represented by the William Morris Agency. Burton charged them with creating a series of animations that would be as different from the garish look of Saturday morning cartoons as possible, with an emphasis on the bizarre characters in realistic settings and using minimal effects (not even animation's characteristic stretching or squashing). Flinch's first challenge, then, was to duplicate the watercolor look of Burton's storyboards in Flash. (With subsequent episodes Burton used other mediums, moving from watercolor to gouache to oil paint; by episode four Flinch was using 3D volumetric rendering). Shockwave was considerate enough to assign them a special technical team for the task, in order to guarantee that the Stainboy episodes could be viewed without the need to download any special plug-in.
The second challenge was the animation itself: although Stainboy and his partner, Stare Girl, are superheroes of a sort, they are very inactive superheroes. They are drawn with fragile lines, and the pacing of their activity is quite different from that of traditional cartoons. According to art designer Will Amato, "Our goal was to create an animation that was not driven by incident or event. We wanted to create a story that-if they wanted to-the characters could just curl up and fall asleep."
To support a smooth production effort, the Flinch team front-loads Tim Burton with as much assistance as possible. They take rough ideas and turn them into storyboards, develop vectorized versions of characters early in the production process, making it easier to animate them once script and storyboard are approved.
Shockwave initially wanted Flinch to use bitmaps for the characters. They experimented with this technique on Stainboy, creating a body out of one or two bitmaps, then drawing twenty different heads and masking the heads onto the same body. They quickly found that the resulting files were huge, too large for web transmission. In the end, Flinch went with vector-based solutions that required the use of transparencies and transparent gradients to handle Burton's muted color palette of grays and off-grays:
Will Amato created what he calls a "baroque arrangement of multiple layers." Other experiments involved scans that were mimicked in Flash. In most cases, Amato says, "I could get the Flash file to be a smaller file than the scan." Finally he developed a combination of semi-transparent gradients and a wash look to create a multi-layered world. Controlling the gradient and using four to five layers of transparency enabled Flinch to achieve the look they were after for any given character….
To convey every little tick and gesture of Burton's original watercolors, Flinch handcrafted them in Flash at a high resolution. "We wanted to create an effect that looked like a brush had painted them onto the screen," Amato says. "I found a way to paint the gradient, as if it were popped right into wet watercolor. I did it section by section of the drawing. It was a deliberate effort to mimic Tim's pure gesture. I was an art forger."
Flinch succeeded in making the image file small, but there was not much they could do to reduce the size of the audio files. Each episode has a heavy use of sound effects, a rich score composed by Danny Elfman, and Burton regulars to voice to characters. For example, Lisa Marie voiced Match Girl, and Glenn Shadix voices Sergeant Dale and other minor characters. Dialogue was recorded into a handheld Sony DAT tape recorder (someone from Flinch would simply go over to Shadix's house and get the needed audio), and sent right into the PC.
To date, Burton and Flinch have produced only six of the planned twenty six episodes of Stainboy. After that Burton became extremely busy directing his "re-imagining" of Planet of the Apes and wasn't able to plan any more episodes. However, the six episodes, now available for viewing on, give us a fairly rounded view of Stainboy's world and some of his past history.
The first episode establishes the pattern for the rest by introducing us to Stainboy as some kind of detective that Sergeant Dale sends on special missions. In this case his assignment is to deal with Stare Girl, though once Stainboy arrives at Stare Girl's house and we see her staring at herself in a mirror it is hard to understand what threat she poses. The two enter into a staring contest. Stainboy struggles to stay awake, then finally uses his staining ability to loosen a ceiling lamp that crushes Stare Girl to death. The episode has what will become a standard coda of Stainboy going back to the police station and getting a gruff, insult-laden statement of thanks from Sergeant Dale. Elfman's score for the episode consists of theramin wails very similar to what he did in Mars Attacks.
The second episode is entitled Toxic Boy, who was called Roy the Toxic boy in the book. Toxic Boy eats noxious garbage and his home is filled with foul substances. The smell is disturbing the neighbors which is why Sergeant Dale sends Stainboy to investigate. Toxic Boy almost kills Stainboy with his acid-like vomit, but Stainboy evades him and kills Toxic Boy in turn with an air-freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree. After Toxic Boy falls dead into the dog dish, his Chihuahua comes in and takes a bite out of his head, turns blue, and dies.
The third episode, entitled Bowling Ball Head, gives Stainboy a villainous opponent for the first time (also voiced by Glenn Shadix), in a form of a huge bowling ball head that kills bowlers (because they have cheapened the sport). This episode is scary and effective, worth repeated viewing.
Episode four, Robot Boy, gives us additional insight into Sergeant Dale: he has been married at least three times, his favorite TV show is Cops without Tops. Sergeant Dale sends Stainboy to deal with Robot Boy because he is causing brownouts. As Stainboy enters Robot Boy's home he sees a magazine called Mechanics Confidential (the issue on his desk blares the headline: "Man turns son into hedge trimmer"). Behind him various pieces of junk metal form themselves into Robot Boy who immediately tries to kill Stainboy. Robot Boy chases Stainboy until he reaches the end of his power cord and it comes out of the wall, de-activating him. Stainboy returns to the police station, Robot boy parts in tow, to find that Sergeant Dale is throwing a "topless cop" party, and in spite of his success he is not very welcome. As in the poem, in a later episode we see Robot Boy serving as a garbage can.
Episode five pits Stainboy against Match Girl, whom Sergeant Dale describes as "an old flame of yours." Before Stainboy can do anything Match Girl lights herself and blows up the gas station.
The last episode is entitled Birth of Stainboy. Although Stainboy dutifully reports to Sergeant Dale, there is no mission for him so Dale sends him home. Stainboy falls asleep and in his dream relives his birth (which is shown to us from his point of view), his parent's horror, his uncontrollable ability to leave hideous stains everywhere, and his parent's decision to put him in the Burbank Charity Home for Unusual Cases, where he meets other Oyster Boy characters: Brie Boy, The Girl with Many Eyes, Jimmy the Hideous Penguin Boy, and the Boy with Nails in His Eyes. This episode contains a lot of in-jokes, such as a monster hand rising out of the muck on TV, and numerous references to other Stainboy installments.
The first episode in the series went online in October of 2000, and within the first six days had generated over a million hits. Every time a new episode was released the high volume of traffic for Stainboy slowed down the servers at Shockwave.
Critical response was positive. For example, Variety praised "The simplicity of the ink and watercolor drawings, the odd details in each frame…. And the skillful way Burton uses colors against the black-and-white backgrounds". The same article also had high praise for Elfman's score.
Shockwave had pursued animations by Hollywood talent as a response to financial pressure; while as the Stainboy series was in production (produced with a grant from Compaq) some staff was laid off, even as the company pursued advertising, sponsorship and merchandising opportunities and considered a subscription model for their series'. In other words, Stainboy was an experiment in developing revenue streams for the Web, which did not succeed, at least not financially.
However, as a result of the Stainboy series, Burton became a hero and role model for the machinima crowd.


It is impossible to talk of Tim Burton's films without also mentioning the film composer Danny Elfman, who has scored all of Burton's work since Pee-wee's Big Adventure (including his television work), with the sole exception of Ed Wood. It is only slightly less impossible to talk of pataphysical films without mentioning Elfman, who, in addition to scoring all of Burton's pataphysical films, has also scored eleven comic-book films, making his style of composition the default for the genre. Finally, it is necessary to discuss Elfman because his work is the third tent-pole (the other two being the screenplay and the production design) to what goes into making up Burton's auteur "brand". This book has referred repeatedly to the types of stories and screenplays Burton prefers and seems to do best with: the tone of production design, usually carried out by regular collaborator Rick Heinrichs; the "silent movie star" style of acting Burton prefers, often embodied by Johnny Depp; and finally, the type of music. Each of these elements has an important role to play in the making of a film that we recognize as Tim Burton's. Elfman's musical brand is also identified by the style of music he has written principally for Burton, music that is often called "dark" and "gothic". It is characterized by an emphasis on "minor keys, low-pitched melodies and textures, and frequent use of dissonance both at melodic and harmonic levels…. [he] regularly applies atonality, dissonance, and sonic experimentation to [all of his], scores, not just those written for Burton .
The goal of this chapter is not to do an in-depth musical analysis of Elfman's work, but to give the non-musical reader an overall sense of how film scores are produced and in particular how Elfman's scores work with Burton's films.
Elfman was born in 1953 in Texas but grew up in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. He taught himself to play the Sears Roebuck organ he had at home, starting with the keyboard solo to The Door's Light My fire. He fooled around with his Fender knockoff, imitating Jimi Hendrix licks. He took piano lessons, was told he didn't have long enough arms for the trombone. As a senior he settled on the violin.
When he finished high school in 1971 he spent a year traveling around Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Upper Volta and Uganda, hitching rides on the backs of trucks. He took a violin with him and learned how to play it on the trip In Africa he encountered and fell in love with "High Life", an African pop music style similar to a combination of salsa and reggae. A band performed "High Life", with seven or eight members using guitars, bongos, drums, bass and a three-piece horn section, a musical set-up that Elfman would imitate when he later formed the band Oingo Boingo. Music professor Janet K. Halfyard describes High Life as follows:
Highlife is a twentieth-century African fusion of several different musical idioms that have been finding their way to Africa since the nineteenth century. The hymns introduced by the Christian missionaries during the nineteenth century produced a musical idiom that combines European harmony with African practices. The brass instruments of British military bands from colonial days led to the use of brass as the main melodic instrumental group in a typical Highlife band, with the usual regular 4/4 meter, not typical of traditional African music, reflecting the regular rhythm of military marches. This is then blended with polyrhythmic ideas from African traditional music played on percussion in an improvisational idiom that owes a great deal to jazz, which became an influential as dance music in Ghana and Nigeria from the 1920s onward.
The trip around Africa would affect Elfman's musical thinking for the rest of his career. In fact, while in Africa he considered becoming an ethnomusicologist, with a particular interest in Java and Balinese gamelan. It was also in Africa that he became interested in building instruments, especially percussion instruments. He built three percussion orchestras, one composed of West African style balophones, which resemble xylophones. In Africa they are made of bamboo and wood and gourds, too fragile for him to take home, so he built his own. He had to invent ways to make huge gourd-like resonators, and ended up using weather balloons and fiberglass and resin. He also made an Indonesian style gamelan orchestra, using metal tubes, and a kitchen orchestra all made out of found objects such as brass pans, army surplus pots. His pride and joy is still the celeste he made out of Schlitz beer cans.
While Elfman was in Africa his older brother Richard spent four or five months in San Francisco working with a transvestite theatrical company called The Cockettes, directing and composing music for their shows. On a trip to Canada Richard had a chance encounter with an avant-garde musical theatre group called Le Grand Magic Circus. He moved to Paris to work with the group. In 1971 he returned to L.A., bringing with him a singer-acrobat, Marie-Pascal, whom he married. Together they formed a theatrical group he called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. He invited Danny to join them. It started out as a twenty person company with several female vocalists, including Marie-Pascal and Miriam Cutler (who is now a well respected film composer herself, scoring Lost in La Mancha, for example). Later he reformed it as 12-piece group and spent years playing on the streets as a kind of busker act, with Danny playing bongos, violin, and the trombone. Their money came from passing the hat. Richard was responsible for the staging and theatrical aspects, while Danny was responsible for most of the musical aspects. The Mystic Knights performed for eight years, during which Danny dutifully reenacted, reworked and transcribed Jazz numbers from the early 1930s. Their performances consisted of both original material and old Jazz classics.
In 1978 The Mystic Knights formally disbanded. Danny organized a few musicians who remained into a rock band, which he called Oingo Boingo. One of the continuing members was guitarist Steve Bartek, who would go on to become Elfman's orchestrator when he started composing for film. It was while working with Mystic Knights that Elfman learned how to write music:
That is where I learned my confidence in my ear. Cab Calloway's arrangements… could be very fast and complicated. I would listen to videocassettes of Betty Boop cartoons and old records, but I learned that if I listened hard, I could freeze it in my head and hold it there and write it down. It ended up being critical training for me, even though I didn't know it at the time.
At first, Elfman composed by hearing a tune in his head and then picking it out on an instrument. Once he could pick it out on an instrument he could write it down. Steve Bartek would then transcribe his music for the other band members. This is basically how Elfman and Bartek still work together.
In 1982 Oingo Boingo contributed songs to various films:
"Goodbye, Goodbye" for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which led to Boingo also contributing the theme songs for short lived TV series for the film. Several songs, including "Better Luck Next Time" for the film The Last American Virgin. In 1985 they wrote "Weird Science" for the John Hughes' film of same title. This would turn out to be the band's most successful song.
Oingo Boingo stayed together for 17 years, made 16 albums and numerous singles, as well as a handful of music videos. They never had a hit at the top of the charts and were never really accepted by the critics, but they had a loyal fan following especially in California and some international recognition.
Elfman wrote over one hundred songs for Oingo Boingo. He also wrote a five minute piano concerto "Oingo Boingo Piano Concerto One and a Half" for piano and small ensemble. By the time he wrote the piano concerto he had learned how to write music.
Writing music for Mystic Knights, and later for Oingo Boingo, was in fact good preparation for orchestral composition. Elfman has noted that the Mystic Knights had eleven or twelve individual instruments and each one needed its own part. This is not too different from writing for an orchestra that might have ninety instruments, but these will be divided into sections; there are still only between twelve and seventeen parts. The biggest challenge is the same: how to divide the themes among the various sections.
He still occasionally writes material that is "semi-impossible for the musicians to play" but the way he says this on the commentary track to the Edward Scissorhands DVD implies he does this on purpose just to keep his musicians on their toes (he works with the same musicians over and over again as much as possible).
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
About 6 years after he wrote the piano concerto he was asked by Tim Burton, who was a fan of Oingo Boingo and liked to go to the Whiskey club performances in Los Angeles, and Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) who had seen his brother Richard's first film Forbidden Zone (1980) to score a film starring Reuben. This was Tim Burton's first feature, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985). In the 1980s most scores produced for comedies were jazz-influenced or a synthesizer pop-score, similar to Oingo-Boingo's song for Weird Science. Elfman found a "different and effective" way to score a comic film, inspired by Nino Rota, especially by his work on Fellini's films: a music with bright colors, which constantly switches between major and minor keys. Elfman was given four and a half weeks to compose the score for the film, which he saw for the first time after it was complete (unlike his later collaborations with Burton, where he was brought in much earlier in the process).
As a result of Pee-wee's success, Elfman was asked to score numerous other comedies (Scrooged, Midnight Run, Hot to Trot, Big Top Pee-wee, and Beetlejuice in 1988 alone). In fact, Elfman did so many comedies that he thought "short little cues" and a lot of starting and stopping were normal for film scoring. It wasn't until he worked on Dolores Claiborne that he got a chance to write a twelve minute cue. There was more to the differences between comedy and drama than simply length; Elfman found that on a comedy the music has to follow the action very closely, "like close dancing" (he specifically compared it to a tango); the music can never stray too far from the action, unlike in drama. Caught rather by surprise by Burton and Reuben's request, Elfman proceeded to teach himself film scoring by listening hard to the work of classical film composers:
I still believe that the old school guys tend to be more talented than the new school guys, as a general rule. My heroes are all dead: Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver) Nino Rota (La Strada, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, Godfather Pt II), Max Steiner (The Informer, Gone With The Wind, The Treasure of Sierra Madre), Franz Waxman (The Blue Angel, Sunset Boulevard, A Place In the Sun, Rear Window), Erich Korngold (Midsummer's Night Dream, Anthony Adverse, The Adventures of Robin Hood). I don't think anybody working today can hold a candle to just about any of those guys.
And the people today I really like are Elmer Bernstein (The Ten Commandments, To Kill A Mockingbird, True Grit, Animal House), Jerry Goldsmith (Patton, Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, The Omen) and Ennio Morricone (Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, The Mission, Cinema Paradiso), so again they tend to be the older guys. I still think they're the best, and of course John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters, Schindler's List) - he really helped to re-open the door of orchestral composition for us all.
The Pee-wee score has a few recognizable themes that are used and then re-used in altered form according to thematic need. The opening cue is chase music, which will be re-used every time Pee-wee is chased throughout the film. It has a slight variation that plays with the breakfast machine and works as a "Rube Goldberg" theme , which reappears when Pee-wee starts using the amazing gadgets on his bike to elude the people chasing him on the studio lot.
When he sees the two boys doing stunts on their bikes, a quick little melody in the form of the school yard taunt "na na nana na" sounds in the score. This is a Puccini-like device, to use leitmotifs that show us what people are thinking. In this case, it is what Pee-wee thinks the boys are thinking of him, which leads him to try a few stunts of his own with painful results.
A similar very direct cue is the series of "many descending scales" as Pee-wee drives the convertible over a cliff and there is along fall through the air.
Because the film spoofed TV genres in certain sections, Elfman's music also spoofs TV music, especially in the scene where Pee-wee goes shopping on the promenade before his bike is stolen.
Elfman has avowed repeatedly that he learned much of what he knew by listening to the film scores of Bernard Herrmann over and over gain. For him, Herrmann was a role model, the perfect composer. (Elfman's admiration for Herrmann is most manifest in his score for Dolores Claiborne, which in many ways is a tribute to Herrmann's Psycho score; he also arranged Herrmann's music for Gus van Sant's remake of Psycho in 1998). There are some homages to Herrmann in Pee-wee, especially the shrieking violins when Pee-wee discovers his bike has been stolen and the dark, morose music that plays as Pee-wee wanders around dejectedly, while other on their bikes, unicycles, etc wheel all around him. As his dejection turns to obsession, the music sounds more and more like Herrmann's score for Vertigo, especially the sequences where Jimmy Stewart tails Kim Novak.
Over the length of his career Elfman has been somewhat averse to scoring romantic films, although he eventually did The Family Man (2000). It is interesting that the first time he wrote some romantic music was for Pee-wee and the waitress, Simone, for the scene where the two spend the night talking inside the dinosaur. Later when Pee-wee sees Simone about to get on the bus to go to Europe, the music is a "twisted little waltz" - very similar to the waltz music that Paul Reuben's liked so much in Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone.
Elfman and Burton have such similar tastes that it is not surprising they decided to work together again. From his Oingo-Boingo days it was clear that Elfman, like Burton, had a macabre interest in the more fantastical aspects of death. He loved monster movies from childhood, including all the same ones that Burton likes: Hammer Films, Roger Corman films, B-monster movies, with a particular fondness for characters often portrayed by Christopher Lee and Vincent Price (Elfman has stated repeatedly that he was very grateful for the opportunity to meet Vincent Price on Burton's set for Edward Scissorhands). Though Burton identified primarily with Vincent Price as a youngster, Elfman had a more particular fondness for Peter Lorre. Furthermore, Burton fell in love with stop motion when he watched Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, the same films that, along with The Day the Earth stood Still, encouraged Elfman to become a composer.
Beetlejuice (1988)
In Pee-wee Elfman had mixed major and minor keys, but for Beetlejuice his commitment to working predominantly in minor keys became firmly established:

The music is in a minor key and has an angular melody played by the brass, the sense of angularity being increased by the repeated use of an augmented fourth. This acts as a constant 'wrong note' that upsets the expected melodic outline and is symptomatic of Elfman's use of dissonance in most of his scores. The dissonance in the melody is underlined by repeated augmented fourth chords from muted trumpets, and these elements would all suggest a sinister tone to the music. However, the rhythmic character of the piece is fast-paced, bright, and dancelike. It has a scurrying, klezmerlike clarinet line and the trumpet motif comes in on a jauntily syncopated offbeat. The juxtaposition of this exuberance with the sinister character implied by the harmonic and melodic material is one of the more characteristic features of Elfman's music. It would aptly describe much of the music he wrote for Oingo Boingo, as well as for The Nightmare Before Christmas, and this particular quality is something that has been exploited by directors in a line of films that combine various genres - including thrillers, dramas, fantasy and horror films - with blackly comic elements. The combination of the dark and quirky can be found in Scrooged (1988), To Die For (1995), Freeway (1996), The Frighteners (1996) and A Simple Plan (1998) as well as almost all of Elfman's scores for Burton, the main exception being Planet of the Apes (2001).
When songs are mixed into the films Burton usually chooses them. It was Burton who chose the Tom Jones song "It's Not Unusual" for Edward Scissorhands and also the "Day-O" song for Beetle juice. In Burton's films songs, like the Prince songs in Batman, are usually diegetic (emanating from the story world and heard by the characters), whereas Elfman's score is non-diegetic, outside of the story world (and not heard by the characters). Some of Elfman's music works as a score but is also diegetic, such as the '60s style lounge music for the "waiting room in the beyond" in Beetlejuice, with a Polynesian sound but also a sense of menace. Elfman likes to parody other genres of music, especially television genres, a practice that works well for pataphysical films. For example, for Pee-wee Elfman had written music inspired by seventies TV ditties.
Batman (1989)
In pataphysical films and comic-book films the composer's contribution is close in importance to that of the screenwriter and director. The screenplays for these films are often thin and the characters archetypal rather than well-rounded, so the score adds a layer of emotional development that complements the dialogue and the actor's performances and supplements the camera's movement or its stillness. Elfman's approach to scoring the heroic theme for his comic book hero was a departure from the confident militaristic music with its regular beat and sense of action and optimism that characterizes the music usually used for action adventure heroes, especially by John Williams in films like Superman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.
Elfman's opening theme for Batman is darker, more "gothic". The Batman theme is in a minor key, then leads to a pounding march with snare drum and brass punctuation, a martial sound that functions as a fanfare for Batman.
Elfman came up with the particular heroic theme for Batman in an effort to impress Batman producer Jon Peters: "I just took the same basic theme and turned it into this march, and did it a certain way - changed the key around a little bit - and all of a sudden [Peters] leapt up out of his chair and it was completely obvious that I had found the Batman hero theme."
The title cue for Batman is two minutes thirty seconds long. It has an extraordinary number of key changes: it starts out in B minor, changes to A minor, then G minor, then F# minor, then D minor, all before reaching the one minute, nineteen second mark. At that point the sequence reaches its "faster" section, which goes form G minor to C# minor, then E flat minor, ending in dim 7 leading to a whole tone cluster. We will find out later in the film that C minor is the key most associated with Batman's theme, especially towards the end of the film when he has found his place as a man who is loved and is part of the law enforcement in Gotham. This is in direct contrast to the love theme associated with Vicki and Bruce Wayne, which is usually in C Major. The tension between the major and minor key emphasize the tensions between the two aspects of Batman's personality.
The title sequence is worth dwelling on because the title cue of any film, but especially of fantasy films, is extremely important. It is what enables the spectator to leave the real world behind and enter the story-world of the film. It gives the spectator a sense of what the conventions of this new world will be. Burton is known for his trademark title sequences, but by the time he made Planet of the Apes he didn't seem interested in doing one. Elfman had to beg to do it and finally Burton relented. As a result, Elfman ended up working with Bob Dawson to make the credit sequence, with Elfman writing some music, Dawson drawing some storyboards, Elfman writing more music in reaction to Dawson's storyboards, until the sequence was finalized.
Although Elfman establishes the Batman theme early on, Jack (who will become the Joker by the end of Act One) does not have his own theme; instead he has silence and some association with the Batman theme, to emphasize how much the two have in common and how easily Batman could have become like the Joker. Once the Joker emerges he has his own melodies, all appropriations of some sort, especially his variation on Stephen Foster's Beautiful Dreamer, and waltzes of all kinds, waltzes that have been "twisted" (as Elfman did for Forbidden Zone and very briefly for Pee-wee), mock-versions of circus-type waltzes and Strauss-type waltzes. Elfman scores Batman's theme in various different ways, so that it takes on very different meanings, form heroic, to loving, to a revelation theme, to a Fate theme. The difference in music for each character underlines the duality and opposition between them. Their relationship to power is indicated by their musical themes. The Joker's are all from songs, which are so well known that they are difficult to alter, and so the action has to comply with them; but Batman's music is part of the orchestral underscore, which is more flexible to the needs of the film. As Donnelly puts it: "One could almost say the Joker represents the triumph of musical logic over cinematic logic, while Batman represents the subordination of musical logic to cinematic logic, his image consistently invoking his musical theme."
Donnelly also points out that this relationship was inverted in Batman Returns: only one pop song was used, "Face to Face", performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees, which was co-written by Elfman, and attains a degree of continuity with the orchestral score through using leitmotifs, or musical elements from the films character themes. Batman, Penguin and Catwoman each have their own leitmotif which is heard whenever they are on screen.
Batman is 121 minutes long, ten minutes of its music are songs written by Prince, seventy minutes non-diegetic music composed by Elfman. A high proportion of screen time is therefore supported by music, reflecting the trend towards increasingly use of music in contemporary films. In the 1960s and 1970s, the standard length of a score was between forty and sixty minutes.
Batman, was, and remains, Burton and Elfman's biggest success, a breakout film that put them both on the map forever and is still their most successful film. Because of the success of Batman, the Elfman "sound" has become part of the genre of comic-book films, whether Elfman composed the score (as he did for the Darkman, Men in Black, and Spiderman series, as well as Dick Tracy and the Hulk) or not.
There is a lesson here about what it means to be a film "auteur." In today's film world, an auteur is not an individual artist working on his own. Rather an auteur name like "Burton" or "The Coen Brothers" or "Sam Raimi" represents a brand. It stands for a group of people who work consistently together to create a consistent look. Terry Gilliam almost always works with the same people. Burton works consistently with Elfman and with production designer Rich Heinrichs, and he often works with the same actors over and over again.
Elfman has described Batman as the hardest score he ever worked on, and it was while writing it that he finally became c omitted to his new identity as a film composer.

Batman Returns
Although Batman veered away from Burton's usual pataphysical approach, with Batman Returns he circled back to it, but subtly, and this shift is amply signaled in the music, which is overblown and consciously filled with musical clichés. Donnelly compares the film and its score to a classical Hollywood musical such as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), "where design and music coalesce into a world of dazzling visuals and explosive musical sound." He relates this to the style of cartoons because, like cartoons, "Batman Returns constructs its own world… with a preponderance of 'mickeymousing' (where the music directly mimics the action). A key quality of this music is that it relies on the audience's familiarity and sense of recognition for its meaning.

The Elfman Myth
Since the fall of 1989 a rumor has circulated that Elfman does not know how to write music. Janet K. Halfyard deals extensively with this controversy in her recent book, Danny Elfman's Batman: A Film Score Guide. Apparently the rumor started because in an interview Elfman is clear that he writes out twelve to sixteen staves of music and his orchestrator, Steve Bartek, places orchestral parts in the correct keys and clefs. Ironically it was the fact that Elfman was up front about the fact that he was self taught, and described specificially how he worked with his orchestrator and his conductor (at the time, Shirley Walker, who "transcribed the Mantovani-style arrangement of "Beautiful Dreamer" that Elfman incorporated into the score, a musical idea that Elfman freely attributes to Burton) that enabled an academic to respond to the article castigating the author for glorifying Elfman's "musical ignorance" which will make his students think they don't have to learn music theory or compositional technique. Elfman responded defending his status as a self-taught musician. Halfyard credits the fact that the Batman score was not nominated for an Oscar to this exchange. In fact none of his scores for Burton until Big Fish were nominated, although he did receive nominations in 1997 for Men in Black and Good Will Hunting. Halfyard quotes Lukas Kendall's assessment of Elfman's abilities:
The similarity of style from score to score, the fact that he has continued to write large-scale scores without using Shirley Walker to conduct, who people at one point assumed really wrote Batman; that the scores… Steve Bartek has done on his own have been completely different from Elfman's music; and the sheer illogic to the assumption that Elfman could have hidden an army of ghost-writers somewhere without anyone naming names or coming forward.
Bartek, in an interview with Kendall, notes that Elfman has an "unorthodox" notation practice: "…he's not good at bass clef, but he does everything in treble clef with an octave marking so you know exactly where he wants it to sound…". (Halfyard confirms this from her examination of the Batman score which is now on deposit at the University of Texas at Austin.) Halfyard also points out that the very nature of film scoring itself, poorly understood by people outside of the industry, also added to the confusion. Most people assume that all composers work like concert hall composers, who have six months to a year to complete a twenty minute symphonic composition, whereas a film composer has two months or less to write seventy to one hundred minutes of music. In addition to producing the score, Elfman and his team have to produce the recording, with specific cues of music timed to specific events in the film (called "writing to cue".) The only way to accomplish that is to work with a team, consisting of one or more orchestrators and arrangers and a conductor, as well as the orchestra, in much the same way that a director relies on the skill of his or her director of photography, art production, and editor and their crews.
Halfyard notes that Elfman's working method "echoes practices common in the Golden age of Hollywood film, where the number of films being made and the speed at which they were turned around in production necessitated the existence of studio music department, staffed by both composers and teams of orchestrators and copyists. In other words, the fact that the tight deadlines required of film composition lead to a need for a reliable, talented staff, and Elfman's candor about the contributions of his colleagues has led to his credibility being put into question. However, there seems to be no evidence to support this myth.

The Film Scoring Process
On his commentary for the Pee-wee DVD, Elfman described how he works with Burton. As with other directors he has worked with before, he often gets involved in Burton's productions early on, and reads the script before anything is filmed, though for him the real work begins when he gets to visit the set during production. This is especially important on Burton films, where the production design is so critical to the overall tone of the piece. Elfman says he takes a tape recorder with him on these set visits and starts "laying down tracks" by singing ideas for different orchestral parts into the tape recorder, the most direct way he can capture his first impressions and thoughts while on the set or on the way home from the set. For Batman, ideas suddenly started coming to him when he was on an airplane, so he had to keep running to the restroom with his tape recorder to lay down tracks and indicate "this will go on top of this". The flight attendants thought he was either ill or in dire need of illegal substances, but Elfman knew that if he didn't get the tracks down before he landed the muzak on the plane would act as a "mind eraser". He came close to panicking when he got home, as the notes on his recorder weren't very clear because of plane noise - but after listening to it repeatedly he was able to figure it out.
Once at home he transcribes what was on the tape recorder and then starts building little themes. He has described his process of finding themes as follows:
I'll take the theme and figure out whether I can play half of it and still recognize it. Then, does it work in a major and a minor key: Can I turn it from funny to spooky? Can I cut it down to just three notes and still make it recognizable: These are some of the acid tests I put a theme through while I'm composing.
He then composes the main themes, taken from key moments throughout the film, while watching a video with time-code (a numeric indicator that gives the exact position of the scene within the film as a whole) burnt into the lower frame of the image, so that he can match the timing precisely to the time-code numbers. The first step towards composing is to "map the tempo" of a scene by writing out a map of the beat of every cue. This can be time consuming, but it has to be done before he can write a single note.
He will often make numerous variations of each theme, and then when Burton comes to hear his work, he will play him a theme, if Burton doesn't like it he will play one of the variations, until they agree on a basic set of musical ideas, which Elfman will then expand. He begins really composing often as early as the rough cut stage of editing (at which stage the film may already have a "temp track", some music thrown together by another composer or even by Elfman himself for screening purposes). His describes his greatest challenge as "writing to cues" or "the business of finding timings" which means, having the music build up, be expressive, or come to a point in synchrony with a specific action on the screen - a door slams, a character throws up their hands, etc. Comedies and action films have more points to hit and so can be harder to write. Elfman has worked out his own system of writing precisely to the action and makes multiple notations to make sure that the precise bar of music will coincide with a specific action.
Elfman has often compared the process of assigning themes to key parts of the film to a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece will be three or four or even nine minutes of solid music, and he will write between three to eight of them, which he uses as a resource throughout the scoring process.
He often adds the metaphor of a painter mixing his colors up before he starts painting to the jigsaw puzzle metaphor to describe his composition process. On the Edward Scissorhands DVD he compared composing to assembling color-coded pieces like the pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle. His job is to come to an understanding of what each color group does for the movie, and then to divide the color groups into individual shapes that make up the various cues. These various pieces are then re-linked together like a puzzle.
When he describes how cues will bridge very different kinds of moments, such as the moment in the third act of Edward Scissorhands when the movie goes from storybook approach to the tide turning against Edward, he likes to compare scoring to knitting or tapestry weaving, as the knit holds together various sequences of the film that would otherwise feel very separate. Because even though the music will change in tone and tempo to bridge the changes in the scene, he will keep a melodic thread. It is this melodic thread that knits the disparate elements of the cue together.
Although for comedies Eflman usually has very little time to compose, for films like Batman he will have three months or even four, as he did for Sleepy Hollow. Since he can, at most, write about two minutes of music a day, the length of time he needs to do a score is rigidly determined; a large part of his job is negotiating how much time he will have to do the score.
Regardless of how much time he has had to compose he often has only three to six days to record. The recording sessions run in three hour segments, with a ten minute break for each segment. During recording, a fast-paced, high-pressure process, he will listen to the performance with Burton in the sound booth and re-direct his composer and musicians from there after getting notes from Burton or simply a sense of Burton's reactions. The two of them have now worked on so many films and television episodes together that this process is so intuitive that Elfman repeatedly describes their communication as "almost telepathic".
BL: What are you actually doing during a scoring session? You hire a conductor to conduct the score, and... ?
DE: Conducting for film scoring is actually a very technical job. People really get confused about that because in a Symphony orchestra the conductor is interpreting the piece. The conductor really is the director. But in a film score the conductor is really just moving things along very efficiently.
BL: Do you ever conduct?
DE: No, I never conduct… I'm listening in the booth, which is where I prefer to listen anyway because I am hearing closer to the way it's going to sound. In the room it is a wonderful sound, but you really aren't hearing the balance in a real sense.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Although Batman started a trend towards denser soundscapes, when scoring Edward Scissorhands Elfman found that allowing some scenes to play in silence, especially when the scene was well performed, would then highlight the music in the scenes that did have them. According to Elfman , Edward Scissorhands was the first film where he went into it thinking of himself as a film composer. Up until that point it was only something he had dabbled in (even though he had scored fifteen films by then). It was the only film he was sorry to be finished with once it was recorded, and as late as 1999 he was considering scoring a ballet based on Edward Scissorhands.
The opening credit cue contains both of the key themes of the film: the storybook theme carried primarily by a boy's choir with a lullaby feel to it, and Edward's theme, which has two aspects, a light evanescent theme with voices, strings, and a bell-like xylophone, and the theme that represents Edward's emotional heart. Kim, Edward's love interest, does not get her own theme, but rather a variation of his plays over her. In other words we only see her through his eyes, a rather unusual choice - not in keeping with classical Hollywood practice.
The extensive use of voices, a practice Elfman would continue with Sleepy Hollow, ties Scissorhands to Disney films such as Pinocchio (1940) and Sleeping Beauty (1959), though the Disney scores favored major keys.
The opening theme is replayed, but more darkly, when Dianne Weist's character goes into Edward's mansion for the first time. This is a packed cue with a lot of emotional variation.
There is another variation of Edward's theme in the scene where Vincent Price is teaching him about manners. Here his theme has been slowed down. Unlike in comedy, where, as noted above, the music has to match the action closely in both tone and tempo, in fairy tales or more dramatic material the music can diverge more from the action. Another difference between comedy and more dramatic scores for Elfman is that comedy scores have very short cues and the theme is often interrupted before it is played to completion. However on films like Scissorhands he can almost always play the theme all the way through, and can choose to interrupt it for effect.
The "suburbia theme" has a little bit of a muzak feel too it, too include Edward's sense of wonderment, combining Edward's sense of it all being marvelous, and the way it appears to us. The suburbia theme returns when we see the housewives approaching Peg's house, and a variation of it appears when we see the husband's driving home from work or leaving for work in the morning.
Elfman had written some 60s-inspired lounge music for Beetlejuice and he used this idea again, for some of the suburban scenes, what he called "the ballet de suburbia", which had an inserted Polynesian beat but also some sense of menace in the middle.
He used a fast paced gypsy music for scenes where Scissorhands showed his mastery with the scissors, whether it was for dog grooming or haircutting. The housewives find his mastery erotically stimulating, especially when he is working his magic on them.
Eflman's music for Edward Scissorhands has been imitated more often than everything else he has done put together, in movies and especially television commercials. His scores for Pee-wee and Beetlejuice were also imitated, but not as often as Edward Scissorhands.
The "ice dancing" scene was a major focus of the score early on. He knew it would define how he would start the movie and how he would define the entire score. This is another trademark of how he works: he identifies three key emotional moments of the film, with one especially at the center, and builds the score around the themes he writes for these moments.
Edward's musical theme is always live, it is the unifying melodic thread. Even in the theft and rampage scenes, his theme is distorted and twisted, but is still there.
An example of the music "playing away" from the action occurs in the overlap scene where Edward cuts Vincent Price's face accidentally when he is trying to be tender, and when he cuts Kim's little brother's face accidentally when saving him from the oncoming van. The music lets us know that his intent is not to hurt, he is just trying to help.
There are two moments of Puccini-like leitmotifs that convey revelation or at least, characterize a character. There is a kind of church organ refrain that appears with the pious housewife, and a variation of Edward's theme that plays briefly while Kim is watching him on the television talk show indicates that Kim is warming up to him.
Nightmare Before Christmas
Elfman's process for scoring Nightmare was quite different from standard animation practice. Burton described the film to Elfman while they were working on Scissorhands. To begin with, all that Burton had when the film went into production was a Seussian-like poem and numerous drawings. This led to the two of them working on the songs before there was a script. Burton would describe each part of the story, and Eflman would write a song. He recorded them in his home studio, singing all the voices but Sally's on the demos. Elfman would later supply the singing voice of Jack in the finished film. The animators began to work animating the songs before there was a script; screenwriter (and associate producer) Caroline Thompson actually had to write the script around the songs and flesh out characters who weren't fully formed. She likened it to designing a house after everyone was living in it.
Usually the composer receives a black-and-white pencil version of an animated film, so the score can be composed while the animation is in the works, But in stop-motion "there's either footage or there's no footage". He couldn't start scoring until film was done, though music editor Bob Badami created a tem track for screening purposes.
Because Elfman had already composed 30 minutes of songs for the 70 minute movie, half of his job was already done, and he had three years to work on it, as compared to the usual six to eight weeks. Moreover the main music themes already existed in song form, so he could adapt those themes to the dramatic needs of the underscore. The orchestra was midsized, of about 50 to 60 pieces. "I wanted a very punchy, old-fashioned sound on this" Elfman says. "I wanted it to sound as if it were recorded in 1951, even though it was in stereo."
While working with the orchestra, it was important to keep the music in close sync with the picture, so a computer was used to develop a sophisticated metronome the musicians could follow, creating the illusion that the sound and images were made together.
Sleepy Hollow
Elfman often describes the score's function in "narrative storytelling". This is clearly the primary function of his score for Sleepy Hollow. There is one main theme for the horseman, but Ichabod's memories of his mother and his reliving of her death generates a second theme which is used as contrast. As in Batman, the two themes are sometimes used interchangeably, underlining the connections between the two sets of events.
As Halfyard notes:
It is quite possible to read this use of the 'wrong' theme in a logical and meaningful manner. Both the main plot and the subplot are bound up with dark forces, witchcraft, and death. The Horseman theme is used for the Horseman, the supernatural threat he poses, and the fear he inspires. The second theme is associated specifically with Ichabod's memory of his mother's death but more generally with memory and mystery: things unknown and needing explanation, things that are not understood by those who see them, and things that are remembered and recalled, especially when those memories are not entirely revealing. As a result, it tends to be found in flashback sequences, but it also occurs in relation to the Horseman because the reason for the murders he is committing are mysterious, while the truth of his death is concealed, just as the circumstances surrounding how and why Ichabod's mother died are a mystery. The music is working to link narrative ideas at a level rather more sophisticated than simply having a theme to represent the Horseman and one to represent Ichabod, although they do work as character themes in relation to their orchestration. The Horseman's music, regardless of which theme is being used, is characterized by male-voice choir, brass, pipe organ, and low strings. When the memory theme is used for him personally, it tends to be delivered with a brass fortissimo, compared to the delicate, ethereal orchestration and children's voices used for Ichabod's memories of his mother. There are some strong narrative ideas underlying why it makes musical sense to use the second theme for the Horseman's character.
Elfman used the same kind of connection to narrative in Men in Black (1997) which was nominated for an Oscar.
Sleepy Hollow is also typical of Elfman's work from this period in that he had a typical orchestra, but giving particular weight to a certain instrument, in this case children's voices.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
The orchestra for Planet of the Apes, on the other hand, is highly unusual, consisting of a large brass section, no woodwind, no violins, six violas, four double basses, and twelve cellos. This ensemble is then augmented with an enormous amount of percussion, similar to Jerry Goldsmith's percussion-based textures in the original film of 1968.
Elfman usually lays down about 20% of his scores in the form of percussion himself. The instruments include drums, hollow bamboos, pbc tubes, bass drums and timpani (which he played with his fingers to the point where the timpani breaks, one reason why he did it himself). His first two weeks of work on the project consisted of laying out a palette of percussion for the ape marches, which he then recorded on analog synthesizers. He has "rooms and rooms" full of percussion instruments, originally inspired by percussionist Harry Partch, who also built all of his own instruments.
For Apes he laid down much more than usual, seventy-two tracks or 50% of the score, leaving the percussionists (who included Emil Richards, who had done percussion on the original), very little to do. The orchestra could not hear his tracks, as Elfman does not let them hear everything, and were forced to play his tracks rhythmically, as they had to hit the beat very precisely in order for their tracks to work with the percussion tracks.
For Apes Elfman returned to the connection between action and marches.
His first visual inspiration for the film was seeing apes in battle gear on set. Elfman used to record his tracks onto tape, but now he records them digitally so that he can make changes either at the studio or at home (he has duplicated his home studio at the recording studio).
In spite of the change in instrumentation, the film is still scored narratively: "if you just watch the picture and hear the music, or close your eyes and listen to the music you know what it going on - the classical Hollywood approach. The music was expected to carry everything and tell everything." Elfman also discusses "exposed scenes", by which he means scenes where the music is foregrounded, such as in action scenes like the charge of the apes, where he switched tempos and went to percussion, and the camp raid.
Another favorite cue was Leo and the other prisoner's first arrival into Ape City. There were various different layers of diegetic music all going on at the same time, great fun to write, as was the boombox music of the ape teenagers in the scene where Leo and his friends escape, which gave Elfman the opportunity to write "a corny hip teenage bad ape music." The scene where Ari tries to exchanger her favors for Thade's mercy for her human friends is a "sick, twisted version of the romantic music for the romantic scene," an inversion that Elfman loves.
Stretching the boundaries of the frequency range
In addition to considering the various aspects of the music itself, Elfman must also be conscious of the fact that his music shares a frequency range with human voices and the sound effects.
This is a technical aspect of Elfman's writing that breaks with some long-standing traditions relating to instrumental pitches and the voices of the actors. One of the reasons that it is more usual to find melodies in the higher ranges in classical Hollywood scores is the fact that they are further removed from the pitch of the actor's and actresses' speaking voices, so avoiding the possibility that the music might either obscure the dialogue or be obscured by it. Concentrating on lower-pitched melodic lines effectively gives an alternative solution to the same problem, in that the melodic line is usually removed from the pitch area occupied by the voices but in the opposite direction to that dictated by convention. However, this is not always the case: in Batman's "Descent into Mystery", the musical material, in particular the choir, is pitched at exactly the same level as Kim Basinger's voice, and Elfman thins the texture considerably when she speaks to prevent one interfering with the other.
As the trend towards denser soundtracks, begun with Batman, continues, sound effects play a larger and larger role in the soundscape, to the point where the sound designers have to consciously work for moments of quiet, especially in comic films which have a lot of "wham-bam-pow" sounds. In addition, these films tend to be so noisy that not all the sounds can be foleyed (recreated in the studio for the soundtrack), as there would be too many; the sound effect designers focus only on the sounds that we need to hear for greatest emotional impact.
For Spiderman 2 Elfman created a "template" of sounds before he started really composing. He names these sounds, sometimes with texture names such as "metal." As Kevin O'Connell, the sound re-recording mixer on the film, pointed out, in a comic book film there are no rules as to what things should actually sound like. For this particular film sound effects carry about fifty percent of the emotional drive, with the rest carried by the music; a stark contrast to the practice of even the recent past where most of the emotional impact was carried by the music. We must wait and see before we can know if this is a development unique to comic book films or if it is an industry trend.
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