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: