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The Nightmare Before Christmas has arrived in Los Angeles’ County Museum of Art…well not exactly, but the museum did a retrospective of the career and works of the film director Tim Burton. The exhibition features over 700 pieces of art associate with Burton’s movies including puppets, storyboards, costumes, photographs, and more from both popular and little known projects from the director.
Tim Burton (Timothy William Burton, 25 August 1958, Burbank, California, USA) 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.
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.
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. And as of this writing, he is currently signed on to direct Johnny Depp once again, this time in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), a film that promises to be just as quirky as anything he’s ever done.