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Biography : Tim Burton Site Map     Search

(Baseline's Encyclopedia of Film)

Tim Burton is the young director known for his comic-strip visual sensibility (rooted in his early apprenticeship as a cartoonist and a Disney animator) and black, surreal humor.During his stint with Disney, Burton made a six-minute animated short, Vincent, narrated by Vincent Price. The film used the skewed perspectives of German expressionism to portray the dual life of a tortured, but seemingly normal suburban child; it won a number of awards and was released commercially in 1982. His next venture, the 29-minute live-action film Frankenweenie (1984), was deemed such an unsuitable Disney product that it did not receive a proper release until 1992 when it finally became available on video and on the Disney Channel. Nonetheless this short grim fairy tale landed Burton his first feature directing assignment on the superlatively silly Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Next came Beetlejuice (1988), an inventive, campy ghost story, with outstanding special effects, which became a sleeper hit of 1988; its live-action cartoon style made Burton an intriguing choice to direct Batman (1989), an enormously popular feature that emphasized a dark, brooding atmosphere and stylish visuals but was marred by a clunky story and somewhat leaden action sequences.

Burton consolidated his position as Hollywood wunderkind of the early '90s with Edward Scissorhands (1990), a very personal suburban fable of a youth with scissor shears instead of hands. As the title character, former teen idol Johnny Depp was extremely effective in his mute wide-eyed performance. The role of the "inventor" responsible for Edward's bizarre deformity was played by Vincent Price, whom Tim Burton cites as an important influence—especially in his Roger Corman collaborations of the early '60s—on his directorial sensibility. That same sensibility was again on elaborate display in Batman Returns (1992). While the film grossed over $150 million, its box office performance was lackluster compared to that of its predecessor.

Burton returned to animation with his next feature as the producer, creator, and guiding sensibility behind Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), a wildly imaginative excursion into the macabre. While not directed by Burton, the film boasted his trademark visual and thematic concerns, including expressionist lighting, stylized and detailed production design, unrequited love, a misunderstood protagonist on the outside of society, and a lively score by Danny Elfman. Nightmare Before Christmas also had the distinction of being the first full length stop-motion animated film produced by Disney.

Burton remained at Disney for his return to the director's chair for his first period piece, the biopic Ed Wood (1994). Shot in glorious black and white, the film starred Johnny Depp as "the world's worst director" and featured Martin Landau as a debilitated Bela Lugosi. While the film was smaller in scope than his last three outings, Ed Wood was also the first Burton movie to be grounded in a truthful, if bizarre, historical reality, unlike the internally consistent but fictional worlds of Edward Scissorhands and the Batman movies. This was also Burton's most personal film since Scissorhands, with many critics citing parallels between Wood's relationship with Lugosi and Burton's with his mentor Vincent Price.

Burton kept his hand in the Batman franchise when he produced the third entry of the series, Batman Forever (1995). Reportedly feeling that he had taken the Batman character as far as he could, Burton handed over the reins to Hollywood craftsman Joel Schumacher who turned in a vibrant comic-book movie.

1996 marked the return for the dark director with his big budget sci-fi film Mars Attacks, based on the Topps cards produced during the cold war of the sixties. The cards depicting huge brained aliens that come to earth in a war of the worlds style invasion, helped Burton and his crew assemble one of the most unique and well cast films to date. Despite it's big budget and great cast, Mars Attacks failed to do well at the box office, but it was loved by his legions of fans and hailed as a masterpiece.

This year Burton brought the tale of Sleepy Hollow to the big screen, continuing his reign as the master of gothic storytelling. The films visuals are sure to win many awards, and the over all feel of the film is superb. Despite mixed feeling from critics, Sleepy Hollow still did extremely well at the box office, and a large video and merchandise run is expected.


"Vincent" (1982) - director, writer, story
"Hansel and Gretel"(1982)- director
"Frankenweenie"(1982)- director, story
"Faerie Tale Theatre: Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp" (1984) - director
"Pee Wee's Big Adventure" (1985) - director
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Jar" - director
"Beetlejuice" (1988) - director
"Batman" (1989) - director
"Beetlejuice: the animated series"- executive producer
"Edward Scissorhands" (1990) - director, producer, story
"Conversations with Vincent"- documentary about Vincent Price
"Batman Returns" (1992) - director, producer Cameo in Singles
"Family Dog" [animated] - producer
"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) - producer, story
"Cabin Boy" (1994)- producer
"Ed Wood" (1994) - director, producer
"Batman Forever" (1995) - producer
"James and the Giant Peach" - producer
"Mars Attacks" (1996) - Director, Producer
"Sleepy Hollow"(1999?) - Director, Producer

art by Tim Burton

Cool Stuff

On October 31st, 1999 - Yahoo & presented a special Halloween web-cast with Tim Burton. Click here for the Tim Burton chat video!

I just found the official Tim Burton website, not much there yet, but you can sign up to receive an e-mail letting you know when it is updated. The little flash animation on the opening page was enough for me to bookmark it, but you may want to see more.

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