“Alice’s Theme”: Music & Lyrics by Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman’s soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland will be released on CD (an ancient kind of optical disc used to store digital audio) next Tuesday, March 2nd, and there’s some short clips at the Amazon store if you desire a teaser. I couldn’t help noticing the opening song – with children’s voices singing “Oh, Alice, dear where have you been?” – and I found the complete lyrics at a blog called cinemusic.net. I’ll include them with that website’s charming introduction:

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp as Elijah Wood The Mad Hatter begins pissing off prickly Lewis Carroll purists on March 5, 2010 in theaters everywhere in eye-popping 3D. Lending musical support is Burton’s constant composer Danny Elfman, AKA film music’s most awesome red head.

Threaded throughout the score is an original song penned by Elfman, called “Alice’s Theme”, and it opens up the Disney Records score album due in stores on March 2 (obligatory Amazon link). Here’s a sneak peek at the song’s lyrics (thanks to the supremely talented LD for these)…

“Alice’s Theme”

Music and Lyrics by Danny Elfman

Oh, Alice, dear where have you been?
So near, so far or in between?
What have you heard what have you seen?
Alice, Alice, please, Alice!

Oh, tell us are you big or small
To try this one or try them all
It’s such a long, long way to fall
Alice, Alice, oh, Alice

How can you know this way not that?
You choose the door you choose the path
Perhaps you should be coming back
Another day, another day

And nothing is quite what is seems
You’re dreaming are you dreaming, oh, Alice?
(Oh, how will you find your way? Oh, how will you find your way?)
(There’s not time for tears today. There’s no time for tears today.)

So many doors – how did you choose
So much to gain so much to lose
So many things got in your way
No time today, no time today
Be careful not to lose your head
Just think of what the doormouse [sic] said…Alice!

Did someone pull you by the hand?
How many miles to Wonderland?
Please tell us so we’ll understand
Alice…Alice…Oh, Alice

(Oh how will you find you way? … Oh, how will you find you way?)

Sing along!

I’ve never met a prickly Lewis Carroll purist, let alone a pissed-off one, but I would presume they’re easily decapitated with a vorpal sword. Or defenestrated with a defibrillator.

Anyway, if you are not familiar with Mr. Elfman, he is the film composer and long-time collaborator with Mr. Burton, the man wrote the iconic music for Batman, The Simpsons theme, and those wonderful songs for The Nightmare Before Christmas. He has done less-than-stellar work for some of Mr. Burton’s more recent mediocrities. Elfman is often mocked in the classical world for basically having a team of composers do his work for him, although I sometimes feel this criticism is harsh. (After all, Renaissance painters employed whole crews of apprentices, Dale Chihuly has a studio to manifest his glass-art masterpieces, and George Gershwin didn’t do the orchestrations for Rhapsody in Blue (free round of drinks if you can name the composer who did!) Art is not always the product of an agonized solo genius, sometimes she can be more of an architectural designer, et cetera, especially in the film music world. Thus ends this parenthetical rant.)
As dear to my adolescent heart as Elfman’s music for The Nightmare Before Christmas is, there’s many cringeworthy lyrics (e.g., “I wish my cohorts weren’t so dumb / I’m not the dumb one / You’re no fun / Shut up! / Make me!”) I would pay a large sum of money to hire William Shatner to read the lyrics to “Alice’s Theme” as a beat poem accompanied by bongos and upright bass (as he did for Sarah Palin’s verbiage). In conclusion, Mr. Elfman should hire a real librettist.

13 comments to “Alice’s Theme”: Music & Lyrics by Danny Elfman

  • I fear I am in danger from a vorpal sword, purist that I am. But I’ve decided to regard this as Tim Burton not Carroll, and hope for the best. From the stills I’ve seen even the “real world” scenes are hopelessly inaccurate as to Victorian dress and style ( but I”m sure it will be beautiful.

  • zs

    like usually with Hollywood movies, historical accuracy is unimportant. the real thing tends to be boring, so they make it more glamorous. and Alice really is visually stunning :)
    thanks for the lyrics btw. pretty lame, but… what can you expect from a composer :D I have no idea why they let Danny Elfman write the lyrics to this anyway.

  • mr. limes

    Well, actually Mr. Elfman had a band many years ago before his second life as a movie composer … so he’d written lots of songs before. As well as all the lyrics on Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and of course the Floop theme lyrics in his Spy Kids score – so that’s why they actually let him write it I s’ppose…

  • Ferde Grofe, who wrote quite a few fine, unjustly neglected works of his own. I believe he orchestrated American in Paris as well. And if he was still around, he’d probably be in Elfman’s employ.

  • Mary E. Lowery-Nelson

    I’d gotten the soundtrack to Mr. Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ a few days ago, and found myself increasingly in love with all the tracks on the release, but especially Alice’s Theme. I knew there were lyrics, but just could not quite discern what they all were. A quick trip to Google brought me here. In leaving a reply,I was prepared to sound so very scholarly and remark about how the lyrics seem to fit with the anxiety Alice was experiencing in the movie, how Elfman’s use of the stringed instruments lent a sense of urgent speed, the woodwinds and timpani brought a hero’s element to the theme… instead I think I’ll just write the one thing I thought when I finally got to READ what was being sung… and that was…”Squeee!!! Lyrics!!!”
    Thank you SO much for posting them!

  • Being a flower child of the 60s, I love DElfman. I loved Oingo Boingo. He’s a genius. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t getting it. Alice is haunting & melodic. I listen to it over & over. Like the Beatles, Elfman uses different instruments & the way they are played to create addicting music. There’s not a bit of his music I don’t like. & after 15 years of classical piano training to be concert pianist (what would Mozart have done in this generation-wow) I have a very fine tuned ear. Simon has nothing on me for music critic! TBurton & DElfman together are genius. Sorry for you if it doesn’t give you chills.

  • kerry

    I though the original Batman theme was Elfman’s best work. But this is pure genius. Anything that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every single time I hear it has got to be special. I think he finally topped his Batman theme by a mile here. And for all the haters here, all I have to see is the critique of the lyrics and I know right away, you don’t know or understand anything about music. YOU are the reason lyrics are required. Think about that and maybe you’ll understand. I could hear the genius in this song even though I could not even understand any of what was being sung (other than “how will you find your way”).

  • sora k

    alice theme surly is haunting and melodic! can’t help listening to it over & over & over & over.
    most of Elfman’s pieces are very inspiring like this one.

  • leewashere

    truly in luv with all tracks from alice in wonderland ost. alice theme is very inspirational! i think this one becomes my top fav followed by edward scissorhands.another epic work mr.elfman! 엘프만은 천재인듯..

  • MalS

    I will not claim to know anything about music, scores, or any of the above. But I will tell you that I am in love with this song and most of Elfman’s work with Tim Burton. Honestly, the cryptic yet adolescent feel this gives off is very Tim Burton. He toys with innocence and fear in a way that makes it completely irresistible. I think that the immaturity and simplicity of the lyrics with the chill of the music really play to that. Besides when I listen to good music that catches my attention I generally don’t pay much attention to the lyrics anyways. I like the feel of the song. Again, I know very little (if anything) about this topic. But I had to defend this song.

  • Boo

    I really, really love this tune! <3 it was really well done. <3 <3

  • DevynRaye

    When I first got the album the song I thought I would love the most would be the Avril Lavinge song but I ended up loveing all of them especially “Her Name is Alice” by Shinedown and this song. I feel in love with this one, I would attempt to sing it without knowing the actual lyrics, which was quite amusing. Finally I decided I would look them up and I thought they were some of the most simple yet deep lyrics i’ve ever heard. (If that makes sence to anyone besides me.)

  • Riley Christensen

    Personally, i have always admired Danny Elfman. His lyrics and his songs are so amazingly creative, and they always fit the movie perfectly like a glove. (although none of my gloves have ever fit particularily well, so i don’t understand this saying.) I love this song, and bought it as soon as i could. As for the tim(burton)-helena(bonham carter)-and johnny (depp) partnership, i have always found it to be the best in hollywood. I think this new version was much better than the old disney version, which always freaked me out and left me yawning at the same time. i have heard some of my friends saying that the movie looked like the director was on an acid trip, and i said right back that just because they had never done anything creative in their lives did not mean that they could insult someone who had more creativity in his finger than they did in their entire body. These lyrics are simple, yet with a hidden depth that is astounding. cead mile failte, Riley.