Director, producer, and screenwriter Tim Burton was born in 1958 in California. One can only imagine how poorly this pale geeky lad fit in in the land of the terminally blonde and tanned. He wasn't particularly good in school, and engrossed himself in watching the horror films of Roger Corman and drawing goblins and spooks.

After graduating from high school he enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts, Disney's breeding ground for new talent; he majored in animation and was soon drafted into Disney. The work there bored him to death: he worked, for example, for some time on The Fox and the Hound, drawing frame after frame of those silly characters. Recognizing that his talent was going to waste, they gave him a little more of a creative role, but did not know what to do with his output: the shorts "Vincent" - an homage to his childhood hero and the film's narrator Vincent Price; and "Frankenweenie", a film which, because of its PG rating, was a non-starter for the G studio at the time (though they did eventually release it when he became famous).

The time at Disney was not a total loss for Burton, however, for Paul Reubens got wind of Frankenweenie and knew that Burton was the director for him. Thus Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was born. After his adventure with Pee-Wee, Burton began to make a name for himself with a string of quirky movies like "Beetlejuice", "Batman", the bizarrely touching "Edward Scissorhands" and "Ed Wood" (two of my favourites), plus the others you can see listed below. Though Burton's movies are not always critically acclaimed, he has pursued the integrity of his vision, and is today one of the more powerful directors in Hollywood, able to make big budget blockbusters like this summer's Planet of the Apes.

Besides his work in movies, Burton has published a book, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories, which features Stainboy. The book, written and illustrated by Burton, is not suitable for truly happy-go-lucky children, but only rather ghoulish ones. But you probably guessed that from the title.

As for his personal life, while a student Burton met Julie Hickson, who got producing credit for "Frankenweenie", and the two were an item for some time, though they had split up by the time of Pee-Wee. Burton no longer comments on that relationship, or, indeed, on many people from his past. He is distant from his parents and younger brother, and seems to have troubled relations with many people, even long-term musical collaborator Danny Elfman. Burton falls out with people and, more often than not, never goes back, though this is not the case with Elfman, apparently, for the score for Burton's most recent release was, as usual, done by Elfman. As Batman was rising Burton married German artist Lena Gieseke, though by the time Batman returned the two had split up. At the tail end of the same year he met model and now actor Lisa Marie (who is not, as I'd thought, the daughter of Elvis Presley), and they were together for many years. Childless, the two had a chihuahua (you may have seen it in Mars Attacks!) which, sadly, passed away. During the filming of "Planet of the Apes" he started going out with that homewrecker Helena Bonham Carter (implicated in the breakup of Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh) and the two had a child in 2002.

Tim Burton is clearly a quirky character. He has called himself a "happy-go-lucky manic depressive", and it's not hard to believe this is accurate. Just look at any one of his wonderful yet disquieting films: they are dark brooding haunting visions featuring strange twisted and lonely characters. Burton himself has the air of a mad genius: his impossibly messy hair, his insect-eye tinted glasses, his scruffy five o'clock shadow and bad teeth; his manic laugh; his seeming inability to complete more than one in five or six sentences.

The official Tim Burton website (, at least when I visited it today, featured only a cute animated guy with big eyes and a Superman t-shirt. Telling in its own way, I guess, but not much help in researching the man's life. Much more useful is the Tim Burton Collective at

Burton's movies:

Tim Burton is known for his strange films. While the genre he usually works in, which lies somewhere in between horror and humor, is not unique -- Ed Wood (the subject of one of Burton's own films) invented the genre with his own incredibly poor films, director Sam Raimi pioneered making such films intentionally with his Evil Dead movies, and Peter Jackson's big claim to fame (before Lord of the Rings anyway) was Dead Alive, in which a priest "kicks ass for the lord" -- while the genre is not unique, Burton's approach to it is.

Rather than juxtaposing humor with horror to make each more so in relation to the other, as most directors in the genre do, Burton unifies humor and horror along their unified element: the strange. Both humor and horror arise, most commonly, when we see something that is completely unexpected in the normal world around us.

With his films, such as Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, Burton places strange and horrific elements into the everyday world around us. However, he also accentuates the strangeness of what we consider normal, making everything around wonderful and terrible at the same time. The topiary sculptures that Edward makes in the suburban california town he comes to live in look in place, and yet they are also larger than life -- reality and that which exists outside of the normal reality coexist here in their oddity to one another, and the conjunction is both delightful and disturbing. The same can be seen in Beetlejuice where the main characters, who are ghosts, are comparatively normal next to the people who come to live in their house, whose sculptures and architecture are as strange and horrific as anything in the underworld scenes.

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