How does an Irish-American born in Sacramento, California, raised in
Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and returning to the U.S.,
become a leading name in children's animation music? This diverse
multi-cultural background makes Denis M. Hannigan a unique talent.
A prolific film and TV music
composer and one of the most sought-after names in animation music,
Hannigan has contributed to more than 500 episodes for television
and numerous film projects, many of which have been honored with Emmy,
Cable Ace, and International Monitor awards. His music is heard on
many of today's most popular children's programs, including Disney's
Recess, CatDog, Rugrats and Beakman's World,
as well as Disney's Adventures in Wonderland.
Hannigan's recent projects include: The Disney animated feature films,
Recess: School's Out, Recess: Miracle on Third Street, Recess: All Growed Down, and Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. Previous feature films include the animated CatDog and the Great Parent Mystery; Fetch, a CatDog short;
and live-action films, The Girl Next Door, It's Pat, and The New Shaggy Dog.
This gifted composer's
resume reflects a wide range of musical influences. The son of a state
department operative stationed in Vietnam, Hannigan spent his teenage
years traveling throughout Southeast Asia. While living in China,
he finished high school and attended college, becoming fluent in
Chinese. Studying with Asian music masters, he also became
proficient in Asian music and woodwind instruments. Hannigan was the
only Caucasian member of the musical group, Mother Goose. The band
enjoyed national fame performing original rock and jazz music, selling
out clubs and concert venues, and appearing on national television
After the Vietnam War,
Hannigan returned to the U.S. and spent several years in the San Francisco
area. Continuing his studies at the College of Marin, Hannigan further
expanded his knowledge of international music. The ethnomusicologist
added saxophone and other ethnic instruments to his repertoire, while
performing with local jazz and Latin bands. After graduation, Hannigan
moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA's Film Scoring Program under
the direction of Don B. Ray (Gilligan's Island, Hawaii Five-O).
In Los Angeles, Hannigan
met Mark Mothersbaugh, best known as lead singer of the band, Devo.
Technologically ahead of his time, Hannigan was one of the first composers
to score for television using computers and synthesizers. He helped
Mothersbaugh build a sophisticated computer-based music studio designed
for film and television composing. Mothersbaugh was building a reputation
as a television composer and hired Hannigan to write music for Adventures
in Wonderland. Hannigan went on to write original scores under
Mothersbaugh for Adventures in Wonderland, Rugrats, and
Beakman's World before departing to do the series Beakman's
World on his own.
Having worked closely with
Rugrats co-creator Paul Germain on that series, Hannigan was
a natural choice to compose the music for Disney's
Recess, the animated television series created by Germain and
Joe Ansolabehare as part of Disney's One Saturday Morning line-up.
Says Germain, "Denis' music has contributed enormously to the
success of Recess."
Soon afterward, Hannigan
met CatDog creator Peter Hannan. "Because the show is
so off-the-wall, I wanted CatDog to have a unique musical palette
with mostly live instruments and original synthesizer sounds,"
explains Hannan. "Denis gave CatDog just what it needed,
For Recess: School's
Out, Hannigan has created an original score that covers the musical
gamut from a kazoo rendition of "Bridge Over the River Kwai" to dramatic
sequences played by a 77-piece orchestra. Hannigan also arranged the
re-recorded songs, including those sung by stage legend Robert Goulet,
who belts out a new interpretation of the Lemon Pipers' hit "Green
Tambourine" featured on the movie's psychedelic end title sequence
and the Walt Disney Records soundtrack.
Along with TV and film
credits, Hannigan has contributed to many commercial campaigns, including
Nickelodeon, Nickelodeon International, Girls Inc., Kraft Foods and
Michelin Tires. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Composers and Lyricists.