The weirdness and wonder of Tim Burton

Tim Burton is probably one of the most well-known and talented American directors, producers, writers, and artists.

He is most known for many classics including Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), as well as more recent films, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd (2007), the live-action Alice in Wonderland (2011), Dark Shadows (2012), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016), and another live-action Disney movie, Dumbo (2019). Having started his career with Walt Disney Studios, and after realising that the job didn’t fit his style after not being able to draw a fox for Disney’s Fox and the Hound (1981), Tim Burton discovered his own quirky and wonderfully strange way to draw and come up with characters and stories.

It’s quite easy to tell when you are watching a Tim Burton film. Now commonly known as a genre called ‘Burtonesque’, Tim Burton's darkly whimsical art, gothic fantasy, and semi-horror themes of gloominess, weirdness, and essences of a beautiful sadness in his films - not to mention the incredible musical scores that go along with them - are what make people fall in love with them. Because they are unique! Even in his animated films, the characters are drawn stick-like along with gloomy and deathly artwork but also with stunning use of colours and design. Burton also loves collaborating with many of the same actors, like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee, Winona Ryder, and Michael Gough. The reason being that they are most likely his muses, and actors he could rely on bringing to life to the characters in the right way and who really embody their work. Actors like Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter really transform into their characters, always “knowing the assignment” as some might say. Burton has mentioned previously at a Masterclass for local students of the Academy of Performing Arts in Hong Kong that he loves to create and direct expression from the eyes of a character, drawn or live-action, stating about his long-time colleague and friend Johnny Depp, “He had that soulful, expressive quality,” says Burton. “Johnny also understands physical humour and movement and things like that. And he’s just got expressive eyes. That’s almost one of the more important things to me.”

“I’ve always loved people with expressive eyes. I like people that can express things without speaking. It’s like old silent movie stars. There’s something that’s quite beautiful about just looking into people’s eyes.”Tim Burton


A lot of Tim Burton’s characters possess a sense of not belonging in the world, which is said to be based off himself at an early age, and this resulted in the creation of Edward Scissorhands, about a man created with, yeah you guessed it… Scissorhands. All of Burton’s characters are developed this way, and their stories tell of adventures they go on and experiences they have that in the end, makes them stronger and realise that being different is the best way to be, like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, the children in Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children, Edward Scissorhands and many more. The thing is with these characters, is that they can be strangely relatable. As previously mentioned, many of Burton’s characters are based on him, the odd one out, different, weird, and always searching for something else, a purpose of some sort. As a fan of his films myself, I’ve noticed that there's a lot to learn through Burton’s stories, and as the years go on and I keep coming back to these films, I realise that these teachings can be hidden and may not be noticeable by children or even adults.

Several of the directors’ concepts in his children’s films focus on themes such as life, death, and love. These concepts can at times be highly misunderstood even by adults, so how would children understand these things? Some adults might even find these films concerning and inappropriate for their children to watch because of their “dark themes”. However, it is true that watching movies from a young age can affect the way we think and feel. We may think about life, our loved ones, the films might inspire us to be like a character and obtain their morals, or even awaken a dream for the future. When we are young and without even knowing it, films can provide us with a greater understanding of things like life, death, the afterlife, and the rare and sad beauty of it all, as seen in one of my favourite Tim Burton movies, Corpse Bride (2005). These topics are ones that society feels the need to shy away from in a lot of other films, people don’t want to have to think about these things and that’s fair. However, Burton brings these topics to his audience in a very clever and unnoticeable way, presenting them with more visual techniques.

As you all probably know by now from my blogs... I'm a huge cinephile (I hate that word), and I adore Tim Burton's work. There's something about these gloomy, weird, and beautiful films that bring me ultimate comfort as I remember watching a lot of them when I was a kid and getting to experience that familiarity of those themes and the artwork through his newer films as I grow older. As I mentioned previously about the themes Tim Burton explores through his characters and stories including life, death, afterlife, reality, and being different and accepting that, gives me an understanding of how life really is and gives me hope in a weird way. And I like it. Can't wait to show them to my kids one day :)

Reminisce about your childhood or discover a new love by watching Tim Burton's films on Netflix, Stan and Disney+ or wherever else!

Stay weird, stay different, stay you!

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