Elfman goes (chocolate-covered) nuts
Things got a little crazy at composer Danny Elfman's home studio when he began
creating the singing parts for the Oompa Loompa songs in Tim Burton's Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory.
"Once I started having fun with it, I literally got to the point where
it was nuts. I'd be laying one part after another, then I'd be screaming falsettos
and my wife (actress Bridget Fonda) would come down to check on me because she
thought I !was going nuts."
But it's probably a bit nuts to write Oompa Loompa songs anyway. The score
to the first adaptation of Roald Dahl's book, the 1971 Willy Wonka &
the Chocolate Factory, had much-loved songs like "Candy Man" and
"Pure Imagination" by Anthony Newley and Lesley Bricusse.
Burton and Elfman decided that in Charlie only the Oompas would sing.
In Dahl's book, they either sang (or chanted - it's not clear) after each child
departed. The pair decided to use the author's words.
"I'm already expecting to catch a lot of flak at my end for turning these
charming Oompa Loompa things into Bollywood extravaganzas," says the 52-year-old
composer and father of a 6-month-old son. He has two daughters from a previous
There are five songs in "Charlie" - "Wonka's Welcome Song"
(sort of a deranged "It's a Small World"-style ditty) and four tunes
for the children ("Augustus Gloop," "Violet Beauregarde,"
"Veruca Salt" and "Mike Teavee"). Burton and Elfman wanted
to model the numbers after big Bollywood productions.
After he wrote "Augustus," Elfman says it was Burton's idea to go
in a completely different direction for each song, and the pair started "clowning"
around with ideas like "ABBA meets the Mamas and Papas meets the Byrds."
"Veruca" became "kinda psychedelic and '60s hippie," while
"Mike" was the rock number, and "Violet" was influenced
by '70s blaxploitation movies and groups like Earth, Wind and Fire.
So the songs could be choreographed, Elfman started laying down the vocals
in his home. Elfman did every part six times. "Depending on the song, I
would take two of the voices and modulate them up a little bit - which slightly
Munchkin-izes them. Then I might take two more and shift them even further."
But he decided not to make all the voices sound like Munchkins and instead gave
them a total range; so you'll hear some Oompas singing bass, even if they all
look the same.
This is the 11th film that Elfman has scored for Burton.
"In a way, he's like another actor in the film," the
director says of Elfman. "His music has always been a guidepost, a way
to help define the various elements of the story and draw it all together."