Burton, seen here staring into your soul.
|Date of birth:||August 25, 1958|
|Birth location:||Burbank, California, United States|
|Death location:||Transylvania (reservation pending)|
|Other name(s):||Tim Burton!, Dr. Timothy Burtoni|
|Academy Awards:||Most Fabulous Set Design, Best Makeup, Best Makeout, Best Soul-Crushing Darkness|
|Spouse:||Lena Gieseke (1989–91)|
Timothy William "Tim" Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an American film director and producer most known for creating several dark and quirky themed films such as Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Festivus. He mostly makes films with a personal circle of friends (Danny Elfman, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter), only casting other actors outside this circle when extremely necessary, and only in minor, unimportant roles.
Though he is known for directing more unusual types of films, he has also directed mainstream films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice In Wonderland, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Recently some detractors have criticized Burton for "pandering to the bourgeoisie," due to the ever-increasing normality of his films. However much his works may seem to be drifting into the mundane, he is still by far the all-time strangest director to most average movie-goers, although relatively bland compared to Lars von Trier.
Timothy William Burton was raised in an extremely happy part of Burbank, California, filled with many typical white picket fences and rambling roses. The son of Jean, a gift shop worker, and Will Burton, a former baseball player, Tim felt out of place in the American suburbs. In his youth Tim was often taunted at school for being "the strange one." His teachers worried about him as well. 8th grade history teacher, Mrs. Custer, said of him, "Timothy was fairly creative, but only in the sense that he could produce schoolwork solely if copied and modified from his classmates' work. He would often take little Betsy's reports and repackage them with references to creepy dead things and gothic elves. Quite frankly, he scared me, and I don't want to talk about him any more."
Indeed, this skill of repackaging other people's material with strange gothic references would serve Burton well throughout high school; particularly in writing class. Tim also excelled in drama, though remained an underachiever at everything else. His teachers did not appreciate his "artistic vision" being scribbled all over text books and worksheets. "As such," wrote Principal Huntington in one school report, "skeletons and old derelict cathedrals do not help one solve in Algebra, nor do shadowy gargoyles explain why Japan attacked Pearl Harbour."
Burton still somehow managed to graduate with a GPA of 2.2. With high school diploma in hand, he was off to the wild and artistic atmosphere of film school. He attended the California Institute of the Arts to study character animation along with future Pixar creative head John Lasseter. The two were often confrontational, with Lasseter accusing Burton of plagiarism on dozens of occasions. Luckily he managed to talk his way out of every single accusation, reasoning that Lasseter's works only minutely inspired his own darker, more gothic productions. Recently though, sketches that strangely resembled several Pixar classics with a neo-gothic twist were found scattered all over a janitor's closet; Burton stated that the reason the sketches resembled characters of films such as Toy Story, and A Bug's Life were "purely coincidental".
1979–1984: Early career
After graduating from CalArts in 1979, Burton was hired at Walt Disney Productions' animation studio, where he worked as a concept artist on The Fox and the Hound (1981). Originally depicting the hound as a lumbering demon and the fox as an undead corpse, his personal artistic tastes constantly clashed with the Disney house style (as they wished to inspire joyful memories with their films as opposed to harrowing nightmares).
While at Disney in 1982, Burton made his first short titled Vincent, a six minute black and white stop motion film depicting a young boy who fantasizes that he is his hero Vincent Price, with Price himself providing narration. The film is entirely autobiographical as Burton's hero is in fact Vincent Price, whom Burton would spend hours fantasizing about as a young man. This was followed by Burton's first live-action production Hansel and Gretel, an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale that took many liberties with the original; climaxing in a kung-fu fight and then a incestuous/occult sex scene between Hansel, Gretel, and the witch. He may have been slightly too weird during this period, but he stuck to his formula of adding neo-gothic twists to already well established works of art.
Next was the live-action short Frankenweenie, an homage and parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This film also took liberties with the original's plot as, set in the modern day, it revolves around a child who creates a machine to resurrect his dead dog, Sparky. The animal terrifies the neighborhood, and an angry mob hunts it down at a local miniature golf course and sets its refuge, the mini-windmill, on fire. The boy nearly dies in the blaze, but Sparky rescues him from the flames only to be crushed himself a second later by the toppling windmill. The mob realizes its error, and use their cars, along with jumper cables, to "recharge" the now-lovable Sparky. He is revived, and all celebrate. In a strange peyote-inspired-twist, Sparky later falls in love with a gothic poodle.
1985–2000: Classic Burton
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
Not long after actor Paul Reubens saw Frankenweenie, he chose Burton to direct the cinematic spin-off of his popular character Pee-wee Herman. Burton turned the character into a caricature, with the external structure of a bratty precocious child, controlled by the incubus — the manifestation of evil itself. Paul Reubens stars as the insane crazed serial murderer/rapist, who goes on a nationwide killing spree looking for the other incubus who did him wrong. Critics said it was a "delightful family-friendly comedy romp; that is, if the family mentioned is creepy and kooky or mysterious and spooky". The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met during Film School.
In 1988, Burton received his next big project: Beetlejuice, a supernatural comedy horror about a young couple forced to cope with life after death, including removing the infestation of humans haunting their house. Irony and special effects replace any realistic human interaction or character development. Michael Keaton stars as the obnoxious bio-exorcist Batman. I mean, Beetlejuice. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met during Culinary School.
Burton's ability to produce hits with low budgets, high special effects and no storyline impressed studio executives and he received his first big budget film, Batman. For the title role, Burton chose to cast Michael Keaton as Batman, based on their previous collaboration in Beetlejuice. Burton was impressed with his average physique, inexperience with action films, and reputation as a comic actor. Considering it ridiculous to cast a bulked-up he-man as Batman, Burton insisted that the Caped Crusader should be an ordinary (albeit fabulously wealthy) man who dressed up in an elaborate bat costume to frighten criminals by suddenly appearing from the sides of the camera frame. Despite having snail-pace plotting, stilted dialogue, and poor acting, Burton was praised for his originality and artistic vision, with many reviewers paying particular attention to the lavish scenery and gothic atmosphere. The musical score for the film was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met during Jujitsu class.
In 1990, Burton co-wrote and directed Edward Scissorhands. Considered by some to be Burton's best movie, it was the first to star Johnny Depp, a teen idol at the time, know primarily for his work on the hit TV series 21 Jump Street. Depp played Edward, the creation of eccentric actor Vincent Price. Edward looked human, but was left with scissors in the place of hands and a fetishistic catsuit due to the untimely death of his perverted creator. Edward is brought into mainstream society when an Avon lady decides to call on his gothic mansion, inexplicably situated in the middle of a wholesome American suburb. However, Edward terrifies the neighborhood, and an angry mob hunts him down and destroys his refuge, the gothic mansion, in the process. Edward nearly dies, but Winona Ryder rescues him and tricks the town into thinking he's dead by taping a pair of scissors together and posing them as remains.
In an ironic twist, the film was later adapted by rapper Ice Cube into the hood movie, Barbershop. In 2004, Matthew Bourne came to Burton with the idea to turn the story of Edward into a ballet. This was considered even worse than the Cube's adaptation. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met in a Salon.
A sequel to Batman '89 was commissioned, titled even more imaginatively than the first, as 1992's Batman Returns. The set design of the sequel was deemed even more imaginative than before, and the makeup and special effects were also heavily praised, winning the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. The plot was also rumoured to be slightly more intangible compared to the first, marking a bold step forward for the director. The musical score for the film was provided by Danny Elfman, a rocket-launcher penguin whom Burton met in icy underground catacombs.
The Nightmare Before Festivus
When Burton produced and co-wrote his 1993 musical, The Nightmare Before Festivus, he had no idea that it would become a franchise for Disney, who had previously expressed disdain over his tendency to frighten small children. The story centers on the efforts of Jack Skellington to get over Halloween-burnout and to stop a traumatized but cute puppet from stalking him. Contemplating retirement, Jack takes a walk and finds a tree with a door that leads to another dimension/holiday/mushroom trip, Festivus. Once there he decides to kidnap Frank Costanza, take his place, and direct the airing of grievences and feats of strength himself.
Skellington's plan goes awry when instead of the aluminium pole, Jack puts up a bloody cardboard refrigerator box, chokes George Costanza to death during the feats of strength, and sends the onlookers running by stabbing Elaine Benes through the chest with his forearm (now considered to be a true Festivus miracle!). Jack retreats back to Halloween-land, marries the stalking sockpuppet, and, refreshed from his adventure in terrorizing the local populace, prepares to host next year's Halloween festivities.
After the filming of this documentary, Burton was institutionalised briefly to shake the storyline from his damaged subconscious and to escape several copyright attorneys. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met during their stay in adjoining padded cells.
In imitation of the man named "The Greatest Film Director of All-Time," the visionary Burton wrote, directed and starred in the biopic Ed Wood. Burton was inspired to tell the story of Edward D. Wood Jr. who, as a young visionary, had been inspired by Orson Welles. As a young visionary, Welles wrote, directed, and starred in the biopic Citizen Kane. Burton's movie showed how Wood, as a young visionary, wrote, directed and starred in the biopic Ed or Eddie (retitled for British release as "Glen or Glenda".) The movie received Burton's first R rating as censors considered the split screen scenes of Burton making out with himself to be masturbation.
While the movie did poorly at the box office, Burton, who applied his own make up, won the Academy Award for Best Make Up for his creative use of black and white pancake. He also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Make Out, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In a break with tradition, the musical score was provided by Howard Shore, whom Burton never met.
For this new 1999 adaptation of the 1820 novel about a homicidal headless horseman, which was re-imagined with more blood and more supernatural slayings, Burton experimentally decided to cast similarly dark and bizarre actress Christina Ricci to play alongside the star, Johnny Depp. Though the movie was received wonderfully by critics, who were shocked by its creativity and artistic direction, Burton, to the dismay of many of his friends, rejected Ricci from his circle, further isolating her from society. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met while trick-or-treating.
Planet of the Apes
In 2001, Burton decided to adapt the 1968 film based on a deep, gripping story of violent talking monkeys. Strangely, Burton took the non-obvious route, and took what would seem to be an outrageous story, and simplified it down, making it more realistic, rather than adding in a bizarre concept such as bestiality. Unfortunately for Burton, quite a few highly respected people noticed and were disappointed as such. While all of Burton's biggest fans were joyously thrilled by the talking animals (the fact that they were monkeys only served to further enthrall the fans), few critics applauded the film due to a lack of Burton's usual originality, and artistic vision. In a return to tradition, the musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met at the zoo.
For 2003's Big Fish, Tim warily decided to cast "outsider" Helena Bonham Carter. The story, which was a heart-wrenching tale of the reconciliation between a father and a son, also included a gigantic murderous aquatic vertebrate consuming everyone in town. The success of the film (whose originality and artistic vision was applauded by critics) would lead to Bonham Carter joining the enclosed circle of employees Burton referred to as friends, making her the first new inductee since Christopher Lee in 1999. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met at a fishing tournament.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Feeling that he hadn't done enough to reach out to the children, Burton decided to adapt the family favorite movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (which, redundantly, was already an adaptation). The movie, finally starring both Depp in Carter, was strangely filled with candy and happy kids, both of which Burton was in no way used to, and was somewhat uncomfortable. Yet he was able to twist even this by forcing extreme physical abnormalities onto the children, and pushing one into an mysterious inferno. However, even Burton had his limits, and when the suggestion came to repeat the previously successful move of hiring little people (whom Burton was horrified by) to play the Oompa-Loompas, Burton shocked hundreds by replacing them with computer generated versions of circle-member Deep Roy. Yet the movie was still too cheery for his taste, so to frighten the audience a little bit more, the songs of the Oompa-Loompas were recreated and performed by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met at a food court. Critics applauded the film's originality, and artistic vision.
In 2005, Burton decided to direct a stop-motion children's film based around the surprisingly little-touched subject of necrophilia. Once again he casted Johnny Depp in the starring role. In a throwback to The Nightmare Before Festivus, Burton decided to make the film into a musical, in order to more forcefully push the film onto children, though this backfired, due to the children screaming in horror and innocence destroying trauma. Despite the intended child audience responding to the film with an outbreak of sickness and nightmarish fantasies, critics applauded the film's originality, and artistic vision. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met at a graveyard whilst defiling a corpse.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
In 2007, after realizing that he had yet to remake a musical, Burton took on an adaptation of the Broadway hit, Sweeney Todd, a play about a cannabalistic barber. However, by doing so, he took on his biggest challenge to date: remaking something that was already as bizarre as he was. To play things safe, Burton once again requested the assistance of Depp and Carter, casting them in the starring roles. In order to face the big issue presented before him, Burton decided to take the gruesome story, and add slightly more gallons of blood than needed and a few more meaningless murders. After doing so, complaints arose from Depp and Carter about the likability of the secondary characters, Anthony and Johanna. In order to keep his go-to actors in the spotlight, Burton took the risky move of making the secondary characters incredibly boring. Fortunately, these actions were universally praised. Critics applauded the film's originality, and artistic vision. The musical score was not provided by Danny Elfman, as Burton decided to use most of the original source material, an unusual move for the director.
After noticing the expansive success of the 11-minute short film in 2005, Burton jumped at the chance to remake it, and released his feature-length version in 2009, a mere four years after the original was released. The first interruption of production occurred when the short film's creator, Shane Acker, stated his opposition to Burton's vision of cannibalistic sacks filled with various human parts (as voiced by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter). Acker's continuous stalls kept the movie in production three years longer than Burton had planned, until Burton finally agreed to Acker's "Hollywood star" cast, on the condition that the film would include a giant robot snake. The new time constraints restricted Acker from forcing the film to use a plot, which allowed Burton to finish it inside his own comfort zone, resulting in positive critical reception. Critics applauded the film's originality, and artistic vision. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton embarrassingly met at a cinema-screening of the flamboyant musical Nine.
Alice in Wonderland
After exhausting every other film technique he knew of, Burton made an attempt at the new "Disney Digital 3-D." He insisted that the film was in 3-E, but the theaters stated otherwise. The remake of the classic decided to mix up the usual cast by not putting Depp and Carter as the stars. Rather, they were co-stars, which Burton claims was entirely different, though every advertisement for the movie was nothing more than pictures of the two of them. Burton's fans were wary at first about the creation of such a warm and friendly movie, but all was well when he inserted Johnny Depp doing a funny dance. He also promoted the movie's over-the-top effects, made up of characters throwing various objects at the screen. Critics applauded the film's originality, and artistic vision. The musical score was provided by Danny Elfman, whom Burton met at his annual tea party.
Directing and artistic style
Over the years of his career, Tim Burton has been consistently lauded for his deep, unique, and sweeping artistic vision. His stylised art of storytelling, as well as his trademark gothic set design, have earned him an enormous following of fans over the years, who have been known to admire his films to a somewhat violent degree. This serves only as a testament to his magnetic quality as a film-maker. However, there have been those few who level petty criticisms towards him in a desperate seek of attention. Most notably of these would be Roger Ebert, who only gave three and a half stars to The Nightmare Before Festivus, Sleepy Hollow, and Ed Wood, rather than the four out of four that they deserve. He also had the gall to give the rest of his movies a mixture of two stars, and three stars, justifying this with blatant exaggerations such as "his movies skate by on their aesthetics, rather than storyline or any human drama." Now his mortality is impending, it is expected that he will return to his old reviews and correct them.
During his weekly visit to a graveyard, a paparrazo followed him, in the hopes of catching him committing necrophilia. The pictures he submitted were proven to be fake, as it was actually Helena Bonham Carter that Burton was having sex with, and not a recently deceased corpse. The photographer's endeavour was not in vain, however, as Burton had accidentally left behind a small memorandum of sorts, in which he had scrawled a set of unpolished notes, on how to make his own films. Written on black paper with red crayon, they provide a poignant insight into his movie-making approach, that few have been able to analyse before.
- (Notes before this are unreadable due to some kind of jello stain.)
- "...and raped the virgin. And so that is why I feel it necessary to make these notes on my movie-making method. I wish the living could appreciate alliteration. There, I did it again. Anyway, the call of the undead is near. I just turned 50 the other day, how long do I have left? A year? Two? If my brain is too decomposed to remember anything, I'll need to make myself notes so I can still figure out how to do stuff, like in Memento. I wish I had made Memento. It was good, but I feel there was something missing from it. Maybe if I put a dark, gothic spin on it, people would like it more. Yeah, I think I have my next project. Anyway, enough of this self-indulgent stream of consciousness.
- There are a lot of ideas out there that could be done better, and it's my duty as an intelligent and imaginative film-maker to do this. Therefore, I should keep a look out for any popular franchises, preferably older ones considered classics, as that way I'll be able to cater to both the older generations, as well as introduce those... children... things to it as well. Yeah. There should be a lot of visual opportunities as for me to redo gothic style. If there's one thing I've learnt over my years of directing, it's that most of the conformist movie-goers are f***ing stupid, and love to look at pretty pictures. Like those Transformers movies; they're crap but they make a buttload of money because of all the explosions and stuff. Explosions aren't the way I'd have done it. I'd have created some really imaginative twists on the audience's pre-conceptions about the transformers. Like, instead of stupid robots, they'd all be cars that could turn into gargoyles or something.
- Next, hire a screenwriter to create an adaptation of it for you. Then, ignore most of their ideas or suggestions. The one thing I learnt while filming Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, was that writers are f***ing stupid, and have no idea about making real movies. And what's with their obsession with uber-grittiness and cutting-edge dialogue. It's totally unrealistic to have character's talking about football games, or even watching one. If I acted like that when I attend my S&M club every Sunday afternoon, I would get my ass kicked. It's bullshit. So remember, screenwriters should mostly be ignored, as they have no idea what they are talking about.
- Once you've taken out all the fake bulls**t, give Johnny Depp a call. I think he's speed-dial number seven, on the phone in the living room. Y'know, the one that's designed to look like a phonograph, but it's really digital. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, see if you can get whatsername, Helena something- my wife, to star in it as well. You've got to be strict with her though. She can cry all day about her entire family getting killed in a bus crash in South Africa, but when I'm filming, I demand total commitment from my stars. They're probably much happier now any way, having skeleton tea parties in their big spooky mansions. I wish I was there.
- It'll probably take anywhere between 12 months to 4 years to get the CGI and the props and set design right. After that, spend 2 weeks filming the actor's lines; possibly 4 weeks if there's... children... involved. Don't be tempted to spend any longer though; you need to focus on the film as a whole. Then hire Danny Elfman to write the musical score. If he has trouble remembering you, remind him about that time when you met. I think it was when I was sat on a bus, wondering about what it would be like if your brain rotted and you had no short term memory. Then I decided to write a guide to making my movies, and I asked Danny Elfman, who was sitting next to me, if I could borrow a pen. Oh wait, that's right now, lol.
- Normally at this stage, the film would be released, but because I'm such a dedicated, smart director, I like to go back and work on the special effects for another month, to make sure they have that dark, gothic sheen of quality. If you've got enough funding, try and make it in 3D. That hack director who only makes geeky sci-fi movies with the same actors and composer, did that Avatar film, and all the conformists went and threw a buttload of money at it. Why? Because it was in lame-ass 3D. He may be laughing now, but he won't be when I release my new super-secret viewing format. Mine will take in not only the 3rd dimension, but the true 4th dimension. I shall call them "3-E Glasses"! They're pretty cool. I even wear them when I'm not watching movies. They make your vision a little blurry, but everything looks really cool and gothic. If I look at my wife while wearing them, I swear to God she looks just like a corpse! Awesomeness... The only downside is that I can't really see where I'm going very well, and I keep dropping things. Real important things, like that umbilical cord Johnny Depp gave me after his... child... was born. I write my ideas on random scraps of paper a lot too, so if I lost them, that could be really bad for my next movie. This pen Danny Elfman lent me is starting to run out, so I'll have to stop writing soon. Hold on, where did Danny Elfman go? How long have I been sat on this bus? Where am I?"
Burton was married to a German-born artist for two years, whom he left to live with slightly more gothic model and actress Lisa Marie. Burton then decided to make a gothic upgrade with Helena Bonham Carter, whom he met while filming Big Fish. Marie responded to this redundancy by holding an auction of Burton's personal belongings, including an umbilical cord, a pair of shoes signed by Walter Matthau, and a large collection of 3-E glasses. Burton and Bonham Carter have a son, Billy-Ray Burton, named after the country singer and father of Miley Cyrus, and a daughter, Nell Burton. Burton and Bonham Carter divide their time together in the dour city of Los Angeles, the dark streets of London, and the desolate crypts of Prague.
Close friend Johnny Depp is a godfather of Burton's son. In Burton on Burton, Depp wrote the introduction, stating, "What more can I say about him? He is a brother, a friend, my godson's father. He is a unique and brave soul, someone that I would go to the ends of the earth for, and I know, full and well, he would do the same for me. At least, I think so. Everytime he makes a new film, I still have to call for an audition, read the part, and hand him my resume to remind him who I am."
Despite Depp's countless collaborations, he will never match those between Burton and Danny Elfman, whom he met a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...
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