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Mychael Danna

Composer/keyboardist Mychael Danna released a handful of ambient neo-classical albums early in his career, including 1991's Sirens, while embarking on what would become a long, award-winning career in film and TV scoring. His varied, mostly orchestral work in the medium spans animated family films (Disney Pixar's The Good Dinosaur), award-winning dramas (Moneyball), indie comedies (Little Miss Sunshine), and long-running partnerships with directors Ang Lee and Atom Egoyan. Also an Emmy and Golden Globe winner, Danna won an Academy Award in 2013 for his score to Ang Lee's Life of Pi. While he most often works alone, his brother, Jeff Danna, is a frequent co-composer, and he shared credit with Henry Gregson-Williams on 2022's Return to Space. Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Danna showed musical talent early in life. Singing and piano lessons defined his childhood and early adolescence, but a hand injury at age 14 ended his piano career. As a result, he switched to synthesizer and concentrated on his composing skills. After earning a degree in composition from the University of Toronto and winning the prestigious Glenn Gould Composition Award his final year there, he provided the score for Canadian director Atom Egoyan's 1987 film Family Viewing. It was followed by a quick succession of mostly low-budget crime and horror films, as well as Egoyan's Speaking Parts in 1989. In the meantime, Danna spent time as composer-in-residence for the McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto. His albums for their programs included 1988's Planets, Stars and Galaxies and Mars: The Journey Begins. He followed those with his own new age compositions: Sirens, released by Hearts of Space in 1991, and Skys, which arrived a year later on the same label. Recorded in 1993 and 1994, North of Niagara: Impressions Along the Bruce Trail, a project with prior collaborator Tim Clément (credited as Danna & Clément), was released in 1995. Inspired by views along Canada's oldest and longest footpath, it included natural sounds. The '90s also saw him score films such as 1996's A Celtic Tale: The Legend of Deirdre, with his younger brother Jeff Danna; Egoyan's Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997); and Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997) and Ride with the Devil (1999). The new millennium brought a busy schedule of composing for multiple films each year over the next decade for Danna. Highlights include Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman (2005); Best Picture Oscar nominee Little Miss Sunshine (2006); the Jeff Danna collaborations Fracture (2007) and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009); and Egoyan films not limited to Where the Truth Lies (2005) and Chloe (2009). In the early 2010s, he scored Best Picture nominee Moneyball (2011) and was nominated alongside his brother for an Emmy for their theme to TV's Camelot (2011). Mychael Danna took home the Emmy in 2013 for the miniseries World Without End. That same year, he won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for his score to Ang Lee's Life of Pi (2012). Danna's subsequent work included the Disney Pixar feature The Good Dinosaur (2015), which he wrote with his brother, Jeff Danna. They also collaborated on the 2016 animated film Storks. Danna's score for the The Man Who Invented Christmas, about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol, followed in time for holidays in 2017. Working again with his brother, Jeff, he composed the score for the animated feature The Breadwinner in 2018, capping off the year by scoring the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex. Danna's scores for films including A Dog's Way Home and After the Wedding appeared in 2019, as did The Addams Family, which he worked on with his brother. He teamed up instead with Henry Gregson-Williams for the 2022 documentary Return to Space, resulting in an Emmy nomination, and earned sole credit on his score for the 2022 mystery Where the Crawdads Sing.
© Marcy Donelson & Heather Phares /TiVo
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