He is the son of Blossom Elfman (née Bernstein), a writer and teacher, and Milton Elfman, a teacher who was in the Air Force. He spent much of his time at the local movie theater discovering classic sci-fi, fantasy and horror films and first noticed the music of such film composers as Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman.
After finishing high school early with plans to travel the world, Elfman followed his brother Richard to France, where he performed violin with Jérôme Savary's Le Grand Magic Circus, an avant-garde musical theater group. He then embarked on a ten-month, self-guided tour through Africa, busking and collecting a range of West African percussion instruments until a series of illnesses forced him to return home. At this time, Richard was forming a new musical theater group in Los Angeles and ask his brother Danny to serve as musical director of his street theatre performance art troupe The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.
The Mystic Knights performed on the street and in nightclubs throughout Los Angeles until Richard left in 1979 to pursue filmmaking. Richard created the film Forbidden Zone based on The Mystic Knights' stage performances. Elfman composed the songs and his first score for the film, and also appeared as the character Satan. Before the release of Forbidden Zone, Elfman had taken over The Mystic Knights as lead singer-songwriter in 1979 and shortened the name to Oingo Boingo.
As fans of Oingo Boingo and The Mystic Knights respectively, Tim Burton and Paul Reubens invited Elfman to write the score for their first feature film Pee-wee's Big Adventure in 1985.
Following Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Elfman scored mainly quirky comedies in the late 1980s.
In 1989, Elfman's influential, Grammy-winning score for Burton's Batman marked a major stylistic shift to dark, densely orchestrated music in the romantic idiom.
Since the mid 1990s, Elfman has expanded his craft to a range of genres, including thrillers, indies, family, documentary, straight horror as well as comedy horror and comic book – inspired action film.
With Batman, Elfman firmly established a career-spanning relationship with Burton. Highlights include Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010).
In addition to frequent collaborations with Burton, Raimi and Gus Van Sant, Elfman has worked with esteemed directors such as Brian De Palma, Peter Jackson, Joss Whedon, Errol Morris, Ang Lee, Richard Donner, Guillermo del Toro, David O. Russell, Taylor Hackford, Jon Amiel, Joe Johnston, and Barry Sonnenfeld.
His scores for Sonnenfeld's Men in Black, Van Sant's Good Will Hunting and Milk, and Burton's Big Fish all received Academy Award nominations.
For his film scores, Elfman draws musical inspiration almost exclusively from viewing a cut of the film, and occasionally from visits to the set while the film is in production (he famously wrote and orchestrated his theme for Batman on an airplane to Los Angeles after visiting the set in London). While he prefers not to work from script, story or concept, notable exceptions are The Nightmare Before Christmas, for which ten songs needed to be written in advance of filmmaking, and Dumbo, for which he composed the main theme before filming began.
Elfman often incorporates choral or vocal arrangements into his film scores and sometimes adds his own vocals into compositions. In 2005 he provided the voice of the character of Bonejangles in Corpse Bride, as well as Oompa-Loompa vocals for Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that same year. In addition to writing the score and ten songs for the Burton-produced stop motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elfman also provided the singing voice for main character Jack Skellington, as well as the voices for side characters Barrel and the Clown with the Tear-Away Face.
The clown with tearaway face
In addition to his music for film, Elfman has had a prolific career in television, penning themes for The Simpsons, Tales from the Crypt, Good Omens, The Flash and Desperate Housewives, which won Elfman his first Emmy.
According to en.wiki.org