Educated at the University of Wisconsin, Elliot's first composing work was for Four Star Revue an early comedy program which debuted in 1950. From here, he went on to compose for various cartoon series, most prominently Mr. Magoo in the 1950s, but later he struck an alliance with master Animation director Chuck Jones and went on to compose the scores for many of his Tom and Jerry cartoons between 1965 and 1967, starting with Duel Personality and finishing with Advance and Be Mechanized Chuck Jones's final Tom and Jerry cartoon in 1967.
In 1962, Elliott released an LP on Capitol Records entitled Zounds! What Sounds!, credited to "Dean Elliott and His Swinging Big, Big Band." The LP header read "Music and Sound Effects in a Stereo Spectacular!" and the subtitle captured the basic goals, sound, and feel of the album well:
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!!
The LP was made with the assistance of Phil Kaye, a sound effects virtuoso who worked with Elliott on the Tom and Jerry cartoons. The LP is now firmly ensconced in the pantheon of "space age pop" or lounge classics, having been cited in RE/SEARCH #14: Incredibly Strange Music (1993) which played a large part in the lounge revival of the 1990s. A track from the album ("Will You Still Be Mine") was later anthologized on one of Rhino Records' influential Cocktail Mix CDs. As the space age pop/lounge revival grew in popularity, two more tracks from the album ("You're the Top" and "The Lonesome Road") were anthologized on one of the many volumes of Capitol Records' Ultra-Lounge series.
After this Elliott went on to compose for a number of Dr. Seuss's cartoon's before joining DePatie-Freleng Enterprises in 1975 to commence work on their Return to the Planet of the Apes series for which he provided incidental music. He also wrote all the music for the cult animated New Fantastic Four series in 1978 before moving to Warner Brother's with Chuck Jones where he provided all the music for his Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Movie in 1979 and later his Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24th 1/2 Century and Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over in 1980, the latter of which was nominated for an Emmy. He also was musical director for Ruby-Spears from 1978–1987, where he was contracted to contribute music for the likes of such shows as Fangface, Plastic Man, Heathcliff, Saturday Supercade and Alvin and the Chipmunks series.
His music has re-appeared in various productions including: The Bugs n' Daffy Show, That's Warner Bros!, Merrie Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and Friends and The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show.
Dean died in 1999 as a result of Alzheimer's disease.
- RE/SEARCH #14: Incredibly Strange Music, Volume I, eds. V. Vale & Andrea Juno (San Francisco, 1993), p. 105
- Cocktail Mix, Vol. 1: Bachelor's Guide To The Galaxy (Rhino Records CD R2 72237, 1995), now out of print.
- Ultra-Lounge Volume Three: Space Capades (Capitol Records CD CDP 7243 8 35176 2 6, 1996).