Born in Germany, composer Hans Zimmer has scored more than 160 projects which, combined, have grossed more than $28 billion worldwide. Hans has been honored with an Academy Award® , two Golden Globes®, three Grammys®, an American Music Award, and a Tony Award®.
Hans first gained fame as a member of the pop music group The Buggles, whose music video for “Video Killed the Radio Star” launched the genre on MTV.
Hans brought a unique sensibility from these ventures into film scoring, combining electronic music with traditional orchestral performances.
After breaking into film scoring and making a name for himself as composer on a handful of projects, in 1988 he received his first Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Score for Rain Man. Soon afterward, he began what would become a significant collaboration with The Walt Disney Company, providing additional music for White Fang (1991) and co-writing the score for the John Candy comedy Cool Runnings (1993). But he made history with his groundbreaking instrumental score for The Lion King (1994).
Although Hans had never done anything for an animated film before, he had another reason for accepting the project. As the father of a young daughter, he wanted to do something she could experience.
“I started with ‘Circle of Life,’” he remembered, “and I had this perfect idea, that my friend Lebo M… a fantastic African musician, composer, lyricist, etcetera, would come in, and he’s got this great voice.” Musically, he told audiences this was going to be a journey, an adventure, something very different. He reveals, “The music you hear in that sequence is the first thing I did on The Lion King. Not only that, but it’s the original demo, with the original guide vocals. Since I was supposed to make [Elton John’s songs] ‘more authentically African,’ I needed to see just how far I could go. So I built this really big piece.” The problem was, it was supposed to be 30 seconds long, and segue into a dialogue sequence. He planned to cut it down, but after hearing it the producers went into a huddle and came back saying, ‘We’ve thrown the dialog out, and we can make it two minutes long. Just give us this big boom at the end, and we’ll put the title there. We won’t even have any credits at the beginning. This really works.’ Since that day, it never changed,” Hans says with pride. “Sometimes, without thinking about it, you just get it right.” Hans really got it right; his masterful score and orchestrations for The Lion King won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. The Lion King was also honored with two Grammy Awards, the American Music Award, a Golden Globe, and a Tony® .
Many Disney scores soon followed The Lion King, including: Crimson Tide (1995, composer), Muppet Treasure Island (1996, instrumental score composer), The Rock (1996, composer), Pearl Harbor (2001, composer), King Arthur (2004, composer), and Iron Man (2008, executive music producer). Perhaps most notably, Hans is the guiding force behind the music of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, serving in various composing, editing, and producing capacities. And, coming full circle, Hans recently composed the music for the re-imagining of The Lion King (2019).
Hans believes music contributes to the overall emotional impact of a film. “I think music is a great way of telling a story especially where words don’t quite reach you. Emotions are universal, and music is the universal language.”