One thing you can say for sure about Tim Burton, you can recognize a film as his within the first five minutes. From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Big Fish to Sweeney Todd, very few directors can put their creative stamp on material as clearly as Tim Burton.
His background as an animator contributes to the amazing imagery in his movies, which carry his personal style as if he’d drawn them. Frustrated with being labeled childlike, he rightfully points out that his movies deal with adult themes like alienation, complex relationships and death. They are fairy tales for adults and children, with themes we all deal with blown up to operatic proportions.
Hopefully, the quotes below give some insight into his development as an artist and his creative process.
I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn`t a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer`s Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, `Goddammit, I don`t care if I can`t draw, I`m just gonna draw how I feel about it.` All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself. I`ve had very few experiences like that, and I`ll never forget it.
You always have to feel like it’s going to be the greatest, even if you know it’s going to be a piece of crap.
One person`s craziness is another person`s reality.
Children are not perverted in a way. It has more to do with the culture. When children are drawing, everybody draws the same. Nobody draws better than everybody else. There’s a certain amount of strength, there’s a certain amount of passion, there’s a certain amount of clarity. And then what happens is it gets beaten out of you. You’re put into a cultural framework, which gets beaten into you. To punch through that framework, you have to maintain a certain kind of strength and simplicity.
Why not, if something is going to be flawed, why not have it be interestingly flawed, as opposed to boringly flawed?
All monster movies are basically one story. It’s Beauty and the Beast. Monster movies are my form of myth, of fairy tale. The purpose of folk tales for me is a kind of extreme, symbolic version of life, of what you’re going through. In America, in suburbia, there is no sense of culture, no sense of passion. So those served that very specific purpose for me. And I linked those monsters and those Edgar Allan Poe things to direct feelings. I didn’t read fairy tales, I watched them.
I think the atmosphere that I grew up in, yes, there was a subtext of normalcy. I don`t even know what the word means, but it`s stuck in my brain. It`s weird. I don`t know if it`s specifically American, or American in the time I grew up, but there`s a very strong sense of categorization and conformity. I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi-oppressive, blank palette that you`re living in.
Why do I like clowns so much? Why are they so powerful to children? Probably because they are dangerous. That kind of danger is really what it’s all about. It’s that kind of stuff that I think gets you through life. Those are the only things worth expressing, in some ways: danger and presenting subversive subject matter in a fun way.