Television and film composer Dean Elliott was born in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1925 and was educated at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in music and economics. After graduation he became staff arranger for the CBS-owned WBBM radio station in Chicago. His first TV composing work was for the Four Star Revue comedy program in 1950 and he was orchestra leader for The Colgate Comedy Hour on NBC in 1951. He went on to compose for animated shorts such as United Productions of America (UPA)'s Mr. Magoo series (1956-59).
Away from TV scores, Elliott was orchestral arranger for Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Eddie Fisher, Mel Torme and others, and also had his own career in pop music. 'Dean Elliott and His Orchestra' were credited backing Martha Tilton on two Capitol Records singles in 1947 (Connecticut and I Wonder, I Wonder, I Wonder), and in 1957 he released his first album, The Hi-Fi Sound Of The Dean Elliot Dance Band (Kapp KL-1056). He also scored films such as Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), and his soundtrack to College Confidential (1960) was issued on LP (Chancellor CHL 5016). In 1962, he released Zounds! What Sounds! (Capitol ST-1818), credited to 'Dean Elliott and His Swinging Big, Big Band'. This experimental pop album was inspired by Elliott stopping at a traffic light and hearing the rhythm of a cement mixer nearby, and was put together with the assistance of cartoon sound effects editor Phil Kaye. It was billed as "A Sonic Spectacular Presenting MUSIC! MUSIC! MUSIC! With these special Percussion Effects! Cement Mixer, Air Compressor, Punching Bag, Hand Saw, Thunderstorm, Raindrops, Celery Stalks (the crunchiest), 1001 Clocks, Bowling Pins and Many Many More!!" It has since gained a cult following as a "space age pop" lounge classic. In 1963 he followed it up with Heartstrings, subtitled "A Thrilling New String Sound In Romantic Moods For Dancing And Listening, arranged and conducted by Dean Elliott" (Capitol ST-1864).
Elliott worked extensively with Chuck Jones during the animation legend's tenure at MGM, composing for many of his Tom and Jerry shorts (1965-67) and for features including his highly-regarded score for The Bear That Wasn't (1967, narrated by Paul Frees) and The Phantom Tollbooth (1970). Jones gained permission from his friend and former war colleague Ted "Dr. Seuss" Geisel to make cartoon adaptations of his popular books, and the third instalment (following How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Horton Hears a Who!) was The Cat in the Hat (1971), which featured memorable songs created by Elliott. The Cat in the Hat was produced jointly by Chuck Jones with DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (DFE Films, which included many of Jones' former 'Warner Bros. Cartoons' colleagues), but that arrangement did not work out, and subsequent Dr. Seuss animated specials were produced by DePatie-Freleng without Jones, but with the continued involvement of Dean Elliott. He wrote the songs for The Lorax (1972), Dr. Seuss on the Loose (1973) and The Hoober-Bloob Highway (1975), and other work with DFE included Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975), a revived Mr. Magoo series (1977) and The Fantastic Four (1978). Elliott reunited with Chuck Jones at Warner Bros. during 1979 and 1980 and composed for many re-packaged Looney Tunes shorts featuring Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (though he doesn't seem to have been involved in the original Warners and DFE Looney Tunes productions, as is sometimes stated). He was also musical director for the Ruby-Spears animation studio from 1978–87, where he contributed music to such shows as Fangface (1978), Heathcliff (1980), Thundarr the Barbarian (1980–81) and Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-87) before his retirement. Dean Elliott passed away from Alzheimer's Disease in 1999.
- Dean Elliott's Return to the Planet of the Apes score remains the only Planet of the Apes screen project not to be released as a soundtrack album.
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- Dean Elliott biography at TV.com
- Dean Elliott at Space Age Pop Music
- Dean Elliott's Return to the Planet of the Apes soundtrack