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.
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. 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. 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 Ruther Bader Ginsburg biopic, On the Basis of Sex. Danna's score for A Dog's Way Home appeared in early 2019. ~ Marcy Donelson & Heather Phares