Sunday, December 03, 2006


Shirley Walker, 1945-2006

I am saddened to hear of the passing of one of the great animation composers, Shirley Walker.

She was every bit Danny Elfman’s equal. For the first episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, I believed I was hearing the music of Elfman but proved myself wrong when I became old enough to desire reading the end credits of animated shows. Her name popped up numerous times in the end credits of numerous animated programs. You can always feel an artist’s sensibility through their music, and Shirley’s was one of sophistication. Yoko Kanno, Joe Hisashi and Hajime Mizoguchi are the only other composers for animated works (that I can think of as of this writing) who possess this quality characteristic.

She took writing music for animation as seriously as she did for her live-action projects. To her there was no distinction. It was all about what the story required. Artists today composing music for animated entertainment would do well to internalize Shirley’s concept of writing music for story and not animation. The end product not only elevates the story’s sophistication and resonance with its audience but animation in its entirety, which the genre really needs these days. Which brings me to my next point. The loss of Shirley Walker represents a big loss not only to the music community but to the animation community, and indeed animation as a whole, being that her work cemented in our memories the gloriousness of the storytelling in Batman: TAS and all of its incarnations, the film based upon the animated series, Mask of the Phantasm, representing the need for artists to take creating music for animation more seriously as this is what is necessary to increase the genre’s potential and our respect for it, as Shirley has done.

It will be a very long time, possibly not even within our lifetimes, before we will see an American composer in possession of the particular brand of talent Shirley had. Meanwhile, we still have Yoko Kanno, Joe Hisashi and Hajime Mizoguchi. . .


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