Tim Burton’s prolific career as a filmmaker, producer, animator, writer, and conceptual artist is unparalleled in adherence to personal vision. Burton"s aesthetic and sense of self are inextricable from his work, making his art instantly recognizable. Born in 1958 in Burbank, California, Burton experimented with stop motion techniques – making silent 8mm shorts. Burton found comfort in art – specifically the poems of Edgar Allen Poe and science-fiction literature and film – and was not particularly social. Misunderstanding would later become a strong motif in his creative work. After high school, Burton attended CalArts to study character animation. Post-graduation, hetook a job at Disney, where he worked as an animator and storyboard artist. While at Disney, Burton wrote and directed a number of short films, among them: Vincent, Hansel & Gretel, and Frankenweenie. After the completion of Frankenweenie, it was clear that Burton’s artistic style did not match the Disney prototype and he was fired. Leaving Disney gave Burton the opportunity to actively pursue his film-making career and he went on direct, produce, and write some of the most beloved cult films of all time, including: Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Sleepy Hollow. But Burton’s genius isn’t restricted to the niche audience, his blockbuster films have included: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, the Batman franchise, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland (which is now the 6th highest grossing film of all time).
Though it may seem far fetched, my feeling is that Tim Burton is a modern day Hitchcock. His films are well received by critics and audiences alike – not compromising entertainment value, but adhering to his artistic aesthetic. Burton chooses story that defies genre – creating monsters that are terrifying, but redeeming – even lovable. His films aren’t fully romances, or horror films, or science-fiction, or action thrillers – they touch all the bases.
The Tim Burton Retrospective comes to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on May 29th, 2011. The exhibit, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, includes over 700 drawings, paintings, photos, moving-image works, puppets, concept artworks, manquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera (READ MORE). Even if you aren’t a Tim Burton fan, it is inspiring to see such a comprehensive evolution of one man’s personal vision.