Music for Disney’s Poignant Pachyderm

March 22, 2019

Danny Elfman’s DUMBO Score Album Takes Flight Soon from Sony

– Randall D. Larson

DUMBO by ElfmanWalt Disney Records will release Danny Elfman’s score to DUMBO, the studio’s new live-action remake of the 1941 animated classic. The new film is directed by Elfman’s frequent collaborator, Tim Burton, who expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. The film stars Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker.

In addition to Elfman’s orchestral score, the soundtrack includes new versions of the song “Baby Mine,” written by Frank Churchill & Ned Washington, and performed in the new by actress Sharon Rooney film and by Arcade Fire for the end credits sequence (which can be downloaded now from Amazon now).

“We knew we would have to find a musical identity for Dumbo that was purely Dumbo,” Elfman said in a press release, quoted at classicfm.com. “Tim wanted me to find a very simple theme because he feels it’s a simple story.”

Elfman added that he’d been inspired by the baby elephant’s heartfelt story and the expressiveness of the CGI creature. He enhanced Dumbo’s sad moments with a low flute, while elsewhere circus-style music is used to create the environment in which the story takes place. “Dumbo definitely has a theme,” he explained. “It’s very simple, which is what Tim wanted, and it’s used throughout the entire score.”

Elfman had worked with Burton on a previous Disney remake, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010), but with DUMBO the composer was able to carry over some of the more memorable musical motifs from the earlier film. “There’s no question DUMBO is going to be old school in the construction,” Elfman said, in an interview with moviefone posted on March 20. “It’s a classic movie and it’s also a period movie. There’s was nothing about it that says synthesizers, you know? I think that was pretty clear from the get go. And the trick was how to find some way to make it still feel that a fresh score.”

Elfman felt it important to include some homage moments to the original film in his score, but Burton as traditional against incorporating music from the original films he remakes – avoiding any reference to the TV show in Elfman’s BATMAN score or to the source films of PLANET OF THE APES and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

“So this time around it’s like, ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’ is a pretty good tune,” Elfman confided to moviefone. “And he was like, ‘Okay, all right.’ You know, he kind of grew into it. And then I was a little sneakier with the ‘Casey Junior’ stuff… I said, ‘This is my moment!’…I did pure ‘Casey Junior’ for 16 bars and he said, ‘Alright!’ So I was really happy.”

Synopsis: Circus owner Max Medici (DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Farrell) and his children Milly (Parker) and Joe (Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

The soundtrack will be released digitally on March 29 and physically on April 5 by Walt Disney Records.

Watch the film’s trailer:

 

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