Composition of The Batman Score Ended Up Scaring Passengers Mid-Flight

“That hit me at the worst possible time”

Tim Burton was the first director to kickstart Warner Bros.’ initial Batman film series with 1989’s Batman. While both Burton-directed Batman films have been lauded for their cast and exemplary storytelling, the score had been immensely praised as well whose credit goes to renowned Hollywood film music composer, Danny Elfman. But while both Batman and Batman Forever’s soundtracks were composed by Elfman, it is the former he remembers more fondly as in the process of making its score he ended up scaring all the passengers on his flight. 

“That hit me at the worst possible time,” Elfman told WTF with Marc Maron when asked about Batman’s famous score that earned him a Grammy Award. “On the way home, the thing f**king hits me. And it was like, what do I do? I’m on a 747. How do I do this? I am going to forget this all. I’m going to land and they’re going to play some f**king Beatles song, and I’m going to forget everything.”

“I start running in the bathroom [and hum phrases] and I go back to my seat, and I’m thinking, I’m thinking. Ten minutes later, back in the bathroom,” Elfman said. “And then back to my seat and then back to the bathroom, because I couldn’t do this with the guy sitting next to me. Ten minutes later, I am back in the bathroom, And I open the door and this time there are three flight attendants. And they were probably going, ‘What the f**k he is doing so frequently? You can’t do that much blow. You can’t shoot up that often. What is he doing in there?!’ And I piece by piece was working out the Batman score in my head.”

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But even though Elfman still fondly remembers how the famous Batman score came into existence and even has an award to highlight the same, he wasn’t happy with how it was used in the film itself. “I was terribly unhappy with the dub in ‘Batman’,” Elfman shared in a recent episode of Premier Guitar while talking about 1989’s Batman score. “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,” he said, adding that he learned that “so-called professionals” often do this- “plunk it [the music] off to the side and just get the dialogue.”

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