Throughout his legendary career, composer John Debney has seen himself in equal demand for holiday classics such as Hocus Pocus and Elf, tentpoles like Iron Man 2, The Jungle Book, and The Greatest Showman, and the powerful epic The Passion of the Christ, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. Debney’s key to success is his immense versatility, composing for comedies (Bruce Almighty, Liar, Liar), action (Predators, The Scorpion King), horror (End of Days, Dream House), romance (Marry Me, Valentine’s Day), and family films (Clifford the Big Red Dog, Dora and the Lost City of Gold) with the same confidence and panache. Debney is also known for his work in such films as Princess Diaries 1 & 2, Sin City, Spy Kids, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, No Strings Attached, The Emperor’s New Groove, Chicken Little, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Ice Age: Collision Course, Isn’t It Romantic, Come Away, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, Home Sweet Home Alone, and The Beach Bum.
His more recent projects include Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids: Armageddon for Netflix, Paramount Pictures’ Tom Brady-produced 80 for Brady, Apple+ and Skydance Animation’s Luck, Universal’s Jennifer Lopez starrer Marry Me, and Disney+’s Hocus Pocus 2.
Upcoming projects include Kevin Costner’s 2-part western epic Horizon: An American Saga for New Line Cinemas, Columbia Pictures’ animation Garfield starring Chris Pratt, Paramount Pictures’ Under the Boardwalk, Netflix’s In Your Dreams, and Amazon Prime’s Space Cadet.
Born in Glendale, California, Debney studied music composition at the California Institute of the Arts, and afterward began his career orchestrating and composing scores for Walt Disney Studios and various television series. He won his first Emmy Award in 1990 for the main theme for western series The Young Riders, and has since won three additional Emmy Awards and received nominations for a total of seven, with his latest being Disney+’s smash hit Hocus Pocus 2 in 2023. Debney has also worked with industry titan Seth MacFarlane on numerous episodes of his sci-fi space series The Orville, utilizing nearly 100-piece orchestras to record his bombastic adventure scores. His first foray into videogame scoring—Sony’s 2007 medieval adventure Lair—resulted in a BAFTA nomination and a Best Videogame Score award from The International Film Music Critics Association.
Debney has collaborated with acclaimed directors as diverse as Jon Favreau, Kevin Costner, Robert Rodriguez, David E. Talbert, Harmony Korine, Kat Coiro, Brenda Chapman, Mel Gibson, Peggy Holmes, the late Garry Marshall, Adam Shankman, Kenny Ortega, and the late Ivan Reitman. In 2005, he was the youngest recipient of ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Career Achievement Award.