Timothy William Burton (more commonly known as Tim Burton) was born in Burbank, California on August 25, 1958. A suburban area, filled with rows of houses that all looked alike, Burbank was an area where everyone seemed to want to be just like everyone else, and keeping up with the Jones’ was a common past-time. This greatly influenced some of Burton’s works, as did growing up near Valhalla Cemetery – although, unlike the cemeteries in Burton’s movies, Valhalla Cemetery was filled with short, flat stones in lieu of the tall, ominous headstones that Burton chooses for his moves. Of course, to an impressionable child, a cemetery is still a cemetery, regardless of its headstones.
Born to Bill and Jean Burton, Tim’s family did not appear to be a close one – in fact, many mistakenly believe Tim Burton to have been an only child due to the fact that he never makes mention of his brother. He was also confused as to why his parents would eventually wall up the two windows in his bedroom, allowing him just a slit that he could peer out of, Burton claims. Childhood was obviously a very confusing time for the young man, but one that helped to create and stimulate this unique genius.
Burton did not do well at school, either, and was surprisingly not one to bury his nose in a book like many of the loners. Instead, Tim Burton enjoyed drawing and painting, as well as going to the movies. His dream, even as a young child, was to be the actor who got to wear the rubber suit and play Godzilla in the classic monster movies. Instead, he would relenquish that dream and go on to create creatures and characters that would captivate the imagination, in ways unlike any previous horror flicks. Tim Burton would pave the way to a new form of entertainment altogether.
Graduating from high school in 1976, Burton went on to attend the California Institute of the Arts and, during his second year at the school, would be accepted into the Disney animation program. He created a brief test animation at this time, titled “Stalk of the Celery,” and was immediately put to work as an animator for Disney’s 1979 animated movie, “The Fox and the Hound.” While this may have seemed a dream job for most, for Burton, it was anything but. In fact, several years of drawing the same adorable little fox over and over would throw Burton into a deep depression, his condition becoming so severe that, at times, he would sit beneath his desk or hide away in his closet, just to avoid having any contact with people. Animating other peoples’ ideas, rather than his own, was taking its toll on the artist.
In 1984, Burton was given the opportunity to create a short film, which was an opportunity which he eagerly pounced upon. Called “Frankenweenie,” this short movie was originally set to be released alongside Disney’s production of “Pinocchio.” Unfortunately, this idea was scrapped when “Frankenweenie” was rated PG (Parental Guidance), due to the fact that it was considered too dark, too morbid and, in a nutshell, simply too weird for the general audience.
Fortunately, not everyone was afraid of taking a walk on the wild side. The following year, Tim Burton would be asked to create his first full-length feature film – “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” starring Paul Reuben as the unforgettable Pee-Wee Herman. A huge success, the movie was quick to turn heads and, soon thereafter, Burton would go on to direct the 1988 blockbuster movie, “Beetlejuice.” Still, Burton had yet to become a household name.
This status would be achieved in 1990, when Tim Burton created the movie “Edward Scissorhands.” A challenge for the director, the movie would embody some of the fears, apprehensions, and disturbances that Burton experienced while he was growing up in Burbank. Nosy neighbors, religious fanatics, identical homes and a dysfunctional family all played a major roll in this unique movie and, somehow, managed to touch the hearts of almost all who saw it. Despite its dark and creepy way of looking at the world and the main character’s strange and isolated lifestyle, “Edward Scissorhands” became an instant hit amongst people of all ages and social classes. Strangely, almost everyone could identify with some part of the main character.
Of course many saw no money to be made in this genre, despite Burton’s success and when he was not seen for a couple of years, he was believed to be little more than a flash in the pan. Instead, Tim Burton would emerge in 1993 with yet another movie that would break the rules and captivate the imaginations of all, young and old alike. That movie was the dark animated film known as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and it would serve to tell the world that Tim Burton was no brief eccentricity that would disappear the next day. Instead, he has proven himself a creative genius who would go on to not only dare the critics and nay-sayers to expand their horizons, but also to influence an entirely new breed of movie-maker, that would follow in his footsteps and dare to test the limits.
Tim Burton consistently seems to favor two other famous names to work with him on many of his projects. These two individuals would be the renowned actor, Johnny Depp, and the musical mastermind of the macabre, Danny Elfman. This trio seems to be an unstoppable force in Hollywood and, apparently, anything they put up on the silver screen is quick to turn to gold.
While Burton may not have originally planned on becoming a film-maker, he has succeeded in making himself one of the most well-known artists of his time. To date, not only does Tim Burton have many movies credited to his name, but in 1997 Harper Collins published Burton’s “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories,” featuring a collection of short tales about unique children and creatures that are shunned by society, and often by their own families. He currently has several projects in the work and keeps the world waiting, with baited breath, to see what new and twisted tale will spring from the wild imagination of Tim Burton.