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Tim Burton is one of Hollywood’s most left of center film directors. His directing style emphasizes the dark side of human nature and a dark humor pervades his work. It is impossible to see a Tim Burton film without realizing one has stepped into a bizarre world of Burton's own creation. Some of his films are received well, while others fail grandly. As a child of Hollywood, born in Burbank, California, in 1958, he can be said to have turned Hollywood on its ear. His later films have proven commercially successful, yet their gothic influence is remarkably unlike traditionally slick Hollywood productions.
Tim Burton expressed an early interest in campy horror films, and began making his own films with Super 8 cameras as a teen. He was interested in animation and was accepted as a student at the California Institute of Arts. Disney animators taught the courses, keeping Burton’s interest in animation fresh.
Disney immediately hired Tim Burton when he graduated from the institute. Burton’s style was out of step with Disney traditions regarding family films. Two short animated films from Burton’s early work with Disney enjoyed a limited release. The first work is the 1982 six minute short Vincent, which is a claymation tribute to Vincent Price. The second, Frankeweenie is a thirty minute short film about a boy who loses his dog and then attempts, in Frankenstein style, to bring him back from the dead.
On the strength of the second film, Peewee Herman asked Tim Burton to direct Peewee’s Big Adventure. The film was not critically favored, but did enjoy box office returns. 1988 saw the release of another cult classic Beetlejuice, which featured a critically acclaimed performance by Michael Keaton. Batman followed in 1989, strongly emphasizing gothic themes. Danny Elfman composed a dark and suitable score. It has been one of the most successful Tim Burton films. Though Batman had its share of critics, few criticize the scene-stealing performance of Jack Nicholson as the Joker. The Joker celebrates evil and the perverse. Batman, played by Keaton, is dark, morose, and though ultimately succeeding in destroying the Joker, he is less fun to watch.
Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp in 1990, was also well received by critics. It is a Pinocchio-style fairy tale, with a tragic ending. A boy with scissors for hands is injected into a very suburban world, and is at first embraced but then cast out by the suburbanites. It is interesting that the true ugliness of the film is not this bizarre boy with scissors for hands, but the boyfriend of the main female character, a jock that does everything he can to hurt and destroy Edward.
1992 and 1993 saw the release of Batman 2 and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nightmare was produced by Tim Burton, and was his return to stop-motion animation. It is significant in its fantastic musical numbers written, composed, and performed by Burton’s long time partner in film, musician Danny Elfman.
Ed Wood is a 1994 biopic, again starring Depp, as the bizarre director Ed Wood, who frequently enjoyed cross-dressing. The film is shot in black and white and critics praised particularly Depp and Marin Landau’s performances. The film cannot be said to have found much of a commercial audience, though fans of Depp now consider it a one of the best films of his career.
In the late nineties, Tim Burton released Mars Attacks! (1996), and Sleepy Hollow (1999), neither of which received much in the way of media attention or box office success. In 2001, Burton directed a remake of the science fiction classic, Planet of the Apes, which was also largely unpopular among critics and fans.
Tim Burton's success turned with the 2003 Big Fish, earning him an Oscar nomination for the film. In 2005, Corpse Bride, produced by Burton, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, directed by Burton, were both released. Though much darker than the classic Willy Wonka, Burton's version is truer to his own style and to the book by Roald Dahl.
Animation, dark colors, and themes of misery, death, and incongruity are the hallmarks of Tim Burton's body of work. As with many filmmakers who have a unique style, he has established a production team, artistic colleagues, and acting talent that he continues to work with. Burton's upcoming project, a film remake of the Steven Sondheim musical Sweeny Todd is a fine example of this, employing Johnny Depp and other colleagues from his previous projects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Tim Burton and what is he known for?
Tim Burton is an iconic American film director, producer, artist, and writer, renowned for his distinctive visual and narrative style. He is best known for creating dark, gothic, and quirky fantasy films such as "Beetlejuice" (1988), "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993). Burton's films often feature outsider characters and explore themes of the misunderstood. His collaboration with actor Johnny Depp has been particularly notable, resulting in several box office successes.
What are some of Tim Burton's most successful films?
Tim Burton has directed a number of commercially successful and critically acclaimed films. Among them, "Batman" (1989) and "Batman Returns" (1992) are particularly noteworthy for their impact on the superhero genre. "Alice in Wonderland" (2010) grossed over $1 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Other significant works include "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005) and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007), both of which have enjoyed both critical and commercial success.
How has Tim Burton's unique style influenced the film industry?
Tim Burton's unique gothic and fantastical style has had a significant influence on the film industry, inspiring a generation of filmmakers and artists. His visual aesthetic, characterized by stark contrasts, surreal landscapes, and a blend of horror and whimsy, has become instantly recognizable. Burton's approach to storytelling, which often centers on outcasts and the peculiar, has broadened the scope of how character-driven narratives can be depicted in mainstream cinema.
Has Tim Burton received any awards or recognition for his work?
Yes, Tim Burton has received numerous awards and nominations throughout his career. He won the National Board of Review Award for Best Director for "Edward Scissorhands." Burton was also honored with a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival in 2007. Additionally, several of his films have received Academy Award nominations, with "Alice in Wonderland" winning two Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
What is Tim Burton's background and how did he get into filmmaking?
Tim Burton was born on August 25, 1958, in Burbank, California. He attended the California Institute of the Arts, studying animation, and soon after began his career at Walt Disney Studios as an animator. However, his unique style didn't quite fit the Disney mold, leading him to pursue his own projects. Burton's early work on short films like "Vincent" (1982) and "Frankenweenie" (1984) caught the attention of Hollywood, paving the way for his feature-length directorial debut with "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (1985).