Frankenweenie (2011) (pre-production)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Corpse Bride (2005)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Big Fish (2003)
Planet of the Apes (2001)
The World of Stainboy (2000)
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Ed Wood (1994)
Batman Returns (1992)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Beetle Juice (1988)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Hansel and Gretel (1982)
Doctor of Doom (1979)
Stalk of the Celery (1979)
The Island of Doctor Agor (1971)
Date of Birth
25 August 1958, Burbank, California, USA
Timothy William Burton
5′ 11½” (1.82 m)
Tim Burton was raised in Burbank, California. He spent most of his childhood as a recluse, drawing cartoons and watching old movies (he was especially fond of films with Vincent Price). When he was in the ninth grade, his artistic talent was recognized by a local garbage company when he won a prize for an anti-litter poster he designed. The company placed this poster on all of their garbage trucks for a year.
After graduation from high school, he attended California Institute of the Arts. Like so many others who graduated from that school, Burton’s first job was as an animator for Disney. He worked on such films as The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985), but had some creative differences from that of his colleagues. Nevertheless, Disney recognized his talent, and gave him the green light to make Vincent (1982), an animated short about a boy who wanted to be just like Vincent Price. Narrated by Price himself, the short was a critical success and won several awards.
Burton made a few other short films, including his first live-action film, Frankenweenie (1984). A half-hour long twist on the tale of Frankenstein, it was deemed inappropriate for children and wasn’t released. But actor Paul Reubens (aka Pee-Wee Herman) saw Frankenweenie (1984), and believed that Burton would be the right man to direct him in his first full-length feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985). The film was a surprise success, and Burton instantly became popular. However, many of the scripts that were offered to him after this were essentially just spin-offs of the film, and Burton wanted to do something new.
For three years, he made no more films, until he was presented with the script for Beetle Juice (1988). The script was wild and wasn’t really about anything, but was filled with such artistic and quirky opportunities, Burton couldn’t say no. Beetle Juice (1988) was another big hit, and Burton’s name in Hollywood was solidified. It was also his first film with actor Michael Keaton.
Warner Bros. then entrusted him with Batman (1989), a film based on the immensely popular comic book series of the same name. Starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, the film was the most financially successful film of the year and Burton’s biggest box-office hit to date. Due to the fantastic success of his first three films, he was given the green light to make his next film, any kind of film he wanted. That film was Edward Scissorhands (1990), one of his most emotional, esteemed and artistic films to date. Edward Scissorhands (1990) was also Burton’s first film with actor Johnny Depp.
Burton’s next film was Batman Returns (1992), and was darker and quirkier than the first one, and, while by no means a financial flop, many people felt somewhat disappointed by it. While working on Batman Returns (1992), he also produced the popular The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), directed by former fellow Disney Animator Henry Selick.
Burton reunited with Johnny Depp on the film Ed Wood (1994), a film showered with critical acclaim, Martin Landau won an academy award for his performance in it, and it is very popular now, but flopped during its initial release.
Burton’s subsequent film, Mars Attacks! (1996), had much more vibrant colors than his other films. Despite being directed by Burton and featuring all-star actors including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan and Michael J. Fox, it received mediocre reviews and wasn’t immensely popular at the box office, either.
Burton returned to his darker and more artistic form with the film Sleepy Hollow (1999), starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Casper Van Dien. The film was praised for its art direction and was financially successful, redeeming Burton of the disappointment many had felt by Mars Attacks! (1996). His next film was Planet of the Apes (2001), a remake of the classic of the same name. The film was panned by many critics but was still financially successful.
While on the set of Planet of the Apes (2001), Burton met Helena Bonham Carter, to whom he is now currently engaged and has a son with. Afterwards, Burton directed the film Big Fish (2003) – a much more conventional film than most of his others, it received a good deal of critical praise, although it disappointed some of his long-time fans who preferred the quirkiness of his other, earlier films.
Despite the fluctuations in his career, Burton proved himself to be one of the most popular directors of the late 20th century.
Lena Gieseke (24 February 1989 – 31 December 1991) (divorced)
Often does the beginning credits sequence with the camera going through something (Batman (1989),Beetle Juice (1988),Edward Scissorhands (1990), or following something (Batman Returns (1992), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999) , Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (2005), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).
His films often have a Gothic feel to them, often including Christmas and/or Halloween scenes.
Plot often focuses around a misunderstood outcast.
Frequently uses composer Danny Elfman.
Frequently features dead or dismembered dogs.
He often likes to open his films with a quiet night time snowfall.
Many of his films feature townspeople who misunderstand and/or distrust the lead character.
Obsession with horror actors: he makes movies about them (Vincent (1982), Ed Wood (1994)), or he actually casts them in his films (e.g. Vincent Price, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken).
Often shows scarecrows in his movies.
His movies always opens with a personal version of the studio’s logo.
Usually includes fantasy elements in his films.
Often looks into the main character’s past through a series of flashbacks (i.e.Edward Scissorhands (1990), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)).
Fathers are portrayed in a negative light in his films. Whether they be dead (Batman (1989)), purposely ditched their children (Batman Returns (1992)), the main characters have remorse against them because of bad childhood memories (Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) or weren’t there while their child was growing up (Sweeney Todd (2007))
Stripes: characters often wear striped clothing, particularly black-and-white stripes (for example, Beetlejuice, Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd,” Katrina in “Sleepy Hollow,” and Tweedledum and Tweedledee in “Alice in Wonderland.”)
At the end of Beetle Juice (1988), Beetlejuice metamorphoses into a bizarre creature with a merry-go-round on his head. On the top of this merry-go-round is a smiling skull which became Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). The latter movie had been a pet project of Burton’s since his days as an animator at Disney.
He has an interest in clowns, and his films will often include them or make reference to them.
Credits his former fiancée, Lisa Marie, as his muse. She is often in his projects (Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), The World of Stainboy (2000), Planet of the Apes (2001)) or is paid homage in them (she was the inspiration for The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)’s Sally).
Engaged to Lisa Marie from 1992-2001.
Used the song “It’s Not Unusual”, performed by Tom Jones, in Edward Scissorhands (1990) and then in Mars Attacks! (1996).
Lives in Ojai (California) and New York.
Is a “Bollywood” fan.
Nearly everywhere he goes, he carries a pocket-size sketchbook and a small watercolor kit.
Younger brother Daniel Burton is also an artist.
Was voted the 49th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly, being the youngest director on this list of 50.
He was hired as the director of the failed Superman (1997) movie.
Among his cinematic influences are Mario Bava, Vincent Price, Roger Corman and Barbara Steele whom he homaged in Sleepy Hollow (1999).
Is a big fan of “nudie” director Russ Meyer.
He once said he never remembers his dreams, apart from five recurring dreams, one of them involving the girl he was in love with when he was a teenager and another involving his parents’ bedroom.
Played water polo and swam for Burbank High School in California.
Has made six films with Johnny Depp: Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).
Ranked #6 on Tropopkin’s Top 25 Most Intriguing People [Issue #100].
Is a big fan of Italian director Mario Bava. He once said he would like to remake Bava’s classic La maschera del demonio (1960) with his former partner Lisa Marie. He also appeared in two documentaries about Bava.
Member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997.
Grew up in Burbank on Evergreen Street, and his family lived in the 2000 block, near Valhalla Cemetary. Attended Providencia Elementary School in Burbank, California.
Was working on a documentary about Vincent Price, called “Conversations with Vincent”. After Price’s death in 1993 he shelved the project and it has never been completed.
Was slated to direct The Fly (1986) with Michael Keaton in the lead role, but he backed out and David Cronenberg took over.
Was originally set to do a re-make of Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (1920) in the early 1980s.
Is scheduled to direct the Broadway musical version of his film Batman (1989).
Bought the rights to a Topps trading card series with the intention of turning it into a film, but couldn’t decide between calling it “Dinosaurs Attack!” and “Mars Attacks!”. Jurassic Park (1993) then came out, and to avoid comparison, he made it as Mars Attacks! (1996) instead, but then it faced comparison to Independence Day (1996).
While at WDFA, he shared an office with Andreas Deja.
In October 2001, he began his current relationship with actress Helena Bonham Carter, whom he met while filming Planet of the Apes (2001), and she has appeared in all of his subsequent films. They live in adjoining houses with a hallway that connects the two homes, they have a son, Billy-Ray Burton, born on October 4, 2003, and a girl, Nell Burton, born on December 15, 2007.
Johnny Depp is a godfather of his son Billy Ray Burton.
After seeing his performance as ‘Big Boy’ Caprice in Dick Tracy (1990), he always kept Al Pacino in mind to cast as a villain in a future “Batman” installment. However, after Batman Returns (1992), Burton moved on from the franchise.
Engaged to Helena Bonham Carter [2001-present] 2 children.
As of 2009, every feature film he has directed has been nominated for some sort of Academy Award, with the exceptions of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Mars Attacks! (1996) and Planet of the Apes (2001).
[commenting on the demolition of the Landmark casino in Las Vegas for the film Mars Attacks! (1996)] “It was like watching something die.”
[genres] “I had never really done something that was more of a horror film, and it’s funny, because those are the kind of movies that I like probably more than any other genre. The script had images in it that I liked .”
[memories] “I remember when I was younger, I had these two windows in my room, nice windows that looked out onto the lawn, and for some reason my parents walled them up and gave me this little slit window that I had to climb up on a desk to see out of. To this day I never asked them why; I should ask them.”
Anybody who knows me knows I would never read a comic book. And I certainly would never read anything written by Kevin Smith.
[suburbia] “I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don’t even know what the word means, but it’s stuck in my brain. It’s weird. I don’t know if it’s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there’s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity. I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you’re living in.”
[the approach you have to take in movies] ” . . . you always have to feel like it’s gonna be the greatest, even if it’s a . . . you know . . . piece of crap.”
[Talking about the Batman characters]: “These are some of the wildest characters in comics and yet, they seem the most real to me.”
[About working with Jack Nicholson on Batman (1989)] “By the time Jack walks onto the set, he feels very clear and strong about the character. So when you’re shooting it’s great, because that’s when you toy around with the levels of how broad to go.”
I’ll always remember this image of being in line to see When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), and all the younger kids were like, ‘Dinosaurs are so cool!’ and all the older kids were like, ‘Oh, man, I hear there’s this really hot babe in this movie!’
[on WB's lame suggestions for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)] “They thought the Charlie character should be more proactive and that Wonka should be more of a father figure, and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Willy Wonka is NOT a father figure! If that’s your idea of a father figure, yikes. Willy Wonka’s a weirdo.’ ”
[on the stress of delivering a summer movie in an era when release dates are often set by studios before a script is finished] It’s like you’re a runner and they beat the shit out of you and break your legs right before you’re supposed to race, and then they say, ‘Now go win the race.’
[on cult director Edward D. Wood Jr.] “Nobody had his style. That’s something I try to do in my films. You have your own kind of cryptic messages in there – cryptic things that most people wouldn’t understand but are important to you. Things that kind of keep you going through the process.”
[on picking screenplays] I wouldn’t know a good script if it bit me in the face.
[on style] I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn’t a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer’s Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, ‘Goddamit, I don’t care if I can’t draw, I’m just gonna draw how I feel about it.’ All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself. I’ve had very few experiences like that, and I’ll never forget it.
In Hollywood, they think drawn animation doesn’t work anymore, computers are the way. They forget that the reason computers are the way is that Pixar makes good movies. So everybody tries to copy Pixar. They’re relying too much on the technology and not enough on the artists. The fact that Disney closed down its cel animation division is frightening to me. Someday soon, somebody will come along and do a drawn-animated film, and it’ll be beautiful and connect with people, and they’ll all go, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do that!’ It’s ridiculous.
[Becoming a movie director] “There was one moment, and it happened in school. I had a big final exam–we were supposed to write a 20-page report on this book about Houdini [Harry Houdini]. I probably would have loved reading it, but I didn’t, so I just decided to make a little super-8 movie based on it. I tied myself to the railroad tracks and all that. I mean, this is kid stuff, but it impressed the teacher, and I got an A. And that was maybe my first turning point, when I said, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being a filmmaker.’ ”
It is unfortunate that Disney closed down its drawn-animation unit. I find it quite upsetting, because they made a few drawn movies that weren’t successful and they went, `Well, that is dead, so we have to go to computers.’ They forget that the reason that they have been successful is because Pixar [whose films Disney distributes] makes good movies. Success is the real reason people try to copy things in Hollywood. Someday someone will do a beautiful cell- animation film that connects with people and then someone will say, `We have to go and do that again.’ The number-one priority should be that the story and the medium are compatible.
I grew up watching things like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) on Saturday afternoon television. There’s a guy with his arm ripped off and blood smeared all over the wall. I never saw it as negative. I find that stuff, when it’s not rooted in reality, to be cathartic.
I’ve always loved the idea of fairy tales, but somehow I never managed to completely connect with them. What interests me is taking those classic images and themes and trying to contemporize them a bit. I believe folk tales and fairy tales have some sort of psychological foundation that makes that possible.
I always liked strange characters.
[on Batman Begins (2005)] “I saw a tape of it. It was very touching. Very good.”