In a guest appearance on a recent episode of the Premier Guitar podcast, Wong Notes, with Cory Wong of Vulfpeck, Danny Elfman revealed his displeasure with the way his score was used in Tim Burton‘s 1989 Batman film. The composer said he was “reasonably happy” about the final mix of the score, but was ultimately disappointed with the way the music was implemented into the film.
“I was terribly unhappy with the dub in Batman,” said Elfman. “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.”
Elfman says that the experience was his first lesson in how “so-called professionals” take scores and lazily implement them into films in a way that makes dialogue and sound effects more prominent. It’s unclear if this was the only time the issue came up in Elfman’s history working with Burton. Batman was the third collaboration between the two after Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice.
“It didn’t have any care put into it,” continued Elfman. “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.”
While it may not be the most popular film centered around billionaire Bruce Wayne donning a bat suit and fighting crime, the score has remained one of, if not the most memorable score in the entire franchise. Elfman may be disappointed with the way it sounds in the film, but it wouldn’t be the same without it.