‘My movies just sort of ended up being representative of the way I am’ – Burton In Hollywood, where film making is a business ruled by profit and loss columns, and respect and admiration are bestowed upon film-makers by virtue of their films’ box-office success. Tim Burton is considered to be a genius blessed by the Midas touch. But while his films have to date reaped nearly a billion dollars worldwide, they are as far from being slaves to common-denominator commercialism or audience demographics as Burton himself is to fully embracing the Hollywood mainstream in which he has rather uneasily existed throughout his career.
Burton began as an animator at Disney and has continued to operate within the studio system ever since, though he has remained largely removed from its financial imperatives and corporate mentality. Burton’s characters are generally outsiders, misunderstood and misperceived, misfits very often encumbered by some degree of duality. They operate on the fringes of their own particular society, tolerated but pretty much left to their own devices.
In many ways Burton embodies that contradiction himself: he is embraced for his successes, but in all other ways Hollywood and he maintain a respectful distance from one another. Consequently his work has remained as idiosyncratic, imaginative, delightful and refreshingly inventive as his first film, the five-minute stop-motion short Vincent.
Themes present in his work: 1. Characters are generally outsiders, misunderstood and misperceived, misfits very often encumbered by some degree of duality. – Batman and Batman Returns deeply disturbed, deeply psychological, full of frustration and characters with major personality disorders, including the hero himself.
(Danger of making big-budget movies, interested in things he relates to.) – Pee Wee Herman – alienation as a theme trying to find his bicycle. Dark Knight (not a comic book fan) disturbed alienated split personality emotional connection
Edward Scissorhands (most personal connection to a character in his films) outsider figures in society. Nightmare Before Christmas – misception, isolation and longing. Jack embraced by society but existing on its fringes and longing to find his inner happiness. Ed Wood – another outsider – a film-maker and transvestite who existed on fringes of Hollywood society, whose relationship with childhood idol Bela Lugosi, said to mirror in some ways Burtons relationship with Vincent Price. Mars Attacks – argued not to have Burtons style he says whilst the police etc can’t destroy the aliens it is the outsider, the unloved the Grandma + donut employee who find a way to kill the aliens.
2. Relationships with childhood experiences and his films are usually teenage or early years of his life. At the age of twelve he moved in with his grandmother, later into an apartment which she owned and he paid her rent – relationship with her in Mars Attack Environment of Burbank where he lived, from an early age he felt like an outsider, one feeling that he would later portray in Edward Scissorhands.
– He was moderately destructive as a child, ripping off heads of toys and terrorizing other children. Would seek refuge in cinemas on his own watching horror films. Hammer Horrors – Sleepy Hollow, casting Christopher Lee from Dracula. Huge fan of Vincent Price and actor – Vincent and Ed Wood – Price contributed the narrator in Vincent. 3. Symbolic icons in his films are recognisable. -black and white stripes are seen in almost every single one of his films – especially in clothing – Edward Scissorhands, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory etc.