Tim Burton (Photo: Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Quirky, original and eccentric are just three adjectives that could be used to describe Tim Burton. The writer/director/producer/artist/animator extraordinaire has created a style of filmmaking that his entirely his own and his genre films, predominantly horror and fantasy, have entertained audiences since his career began in the late 80s. However, Burton’s style is matched by substance aplenty as a unifying theme that his work often explores is the notion of the unconventional and ostracised outsider who is determined to find their place in the world.

Born in 1958, Burton first began to explore his passion for filmmaking as a pre-teen when he would make short films on 8mm cameras using stop motion animation. During his high-school years, Burton was an introvert and not particularly studious and he preferred to take comfort in watching films and exercising his artistic talents. He would later go on to undertake an animator’s apprenticeship at Walt Disney where he contributed concept art to the films The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985). However, all of his work was deemed too dark by Disney and none of it featured in the finished films. While at Disney, Burton made the gothic shorts Vincent (1982) and the original Frankenweenie (1984) but the company dismissed the director for producing content that would be too scary for children to see. A year after Frankenweenie, Burton made his feature debut with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and the film went on to gross more than $40 million at the North American box office against its $8 million budget. Burton developed a talent for producing commercially successful films with low budgets, evidenced further by Beetlejuice (1988) starring Winona Ryder and Michael Keaton. This string of box-office triumphs led to studio executives hiring him to direct Batman (1989). Much to the chagrin and disapproval of the movie’s producers, Burton hired former collaborator Keaton as the titular caped crusader. Burton later said of the controversial casting, “He’s got all that wild energy in his eyes, which would compel him to put on a batsuit…He does it because he needs to, because he’s not this gigantic strapping macho man.” The gamble paid off and Batman remains one of the best big budget superhero films ever made. While Burton and Keaton clearly share an affinity for one another, Burton is famed for another one of his creative partnerships, that being his numerous collaborations with Johnny Depp. Their working relationship began with Edward Scissorhands (1990) and spawned a further seven films including Ed Wood (1994) and Sweeney Todd (2009). Burton posits that it’s their shared abstractness that bonds them, “It’s very nice to have someone that you can have a completely abstract conversation with and leave the room, feel like everything’s fine, and then realise that if you pick it apart, you have absolutely no idea what either of you said.”

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp on set of Edward Scissorhands (Photo: Zade Rosenthal)

Up next for Burton is the live-action reimagining of the 1941 animated classic Dumbo. Burton has enlisted the help of repeat collaborators such as Eva Green and Michael Keaton and recruited some fresh faces with the likes of Colin Farrell to retell this beloved children’s tale. The original Dumbo featured a handful of unforgettable cinematic moments, the most memorable being the psychedelic pink elephants on parade sequence that either enchanted children or plagued them with nightmares for the remainder of their childhood. The trailer for the live-action remake, set to hit cinemas in 2019, captures all of the same magic that made us first fall in love with the big-eared flying elephant and demonstrates that Burton’s sensibilities are a perfect match for the 40s favourite. Unmissable Picks
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010)
By Evie Brudenall
Author: Estelle


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