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Tim Burton: A Life In Pictures

20 November 2012

Acclaimed director Tim Burton discussed his career with humour and intimate detail in A Life In Pictures interview sponsored by Deutsche Bank conducted by Francine Stock.

Throughout the interview Burton openly discussed his career aspirations, ambitions and inspirations. His fascination with the craft of stop motion was a reoccurring theme and he expressed a hopeful desire to keep the art alive despite the obvious dominance of computer animation today.

He even revealed that he had originally intended 1996 film Mars Attacks to be created in stop motion, but the cost was too great. Burton's humble admiration of the skills of those around him exposed his awe for the industry and craft.

Talking of stop motion animation he explained, "Stop motion is a beautiful medium. It takes both sides of the brain working at full capacity & requires meticulous patience". In this vein he spent a large proportion of the interview discussing the work of one of his greatest heroes, Ray Harryhausen, who he described as a "true artist" who had an enormous impact on him growing up.

"I've been lucky enough to meet the people I grew up most admiring"

Tim Burton's Career in Film

Born and raised in Burbank, California, the young Tim Burton spent a reclusive childhood drawing cartoons, reading books and watching old horror movies – particularly drawn to the work of Ray Harryhausen and Edgar Allan Poe. Upon graduating high school he attended the California Institute of Arts, and the success of his animated short Stalk Of The Celery Monster (1979) led to an apprenticeship at Disney.

Whilst at the studio, Burton worked as an animator, storyboard artist and concept artist on films including The Fox And The Hound (1981), but he felt out of place creatively: “I could just not draw cute foxes for the life of me!” The studio chiefs were not oblivious to Burton’s talent though and in 1982 commissioned the animated short Vincent (a tribute to his idol Vincent Price) followed by live-action short Frankenweenie (1984).

Frankenweenie caught the attention of actor/comedian Paul Reubens, who hand-picked Burton to direct Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). The film exceeded its modest expectations to become a surprise success for Warner Bros, and when Burton’s follow-up, the unconventionally dark and quirky comedy Beetlejuice (1988) did the same he was handed the reins of a huge studio feature. His lavish, gothic approach to Batman (1989) starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson was a huge success, earning six BAFTA nominations and securing Burton’s place on Hollywood’s A-List.

His follow up saw the first of eight collaborations with actor Johnny Depp, modern fairytale Edward Scissorhands (1990), which remains one of the most acclaimed films of Burton’s career. Alongside Batman Returns (1992), Burton was also busy writing and producing the instant cult favourite animation The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), whilst his next feature, a deeply affectionate biopic of the oft-dubbed ‘worst director of all time’ Ed Wood (1994) was critically adored.

Burton’s spoof/homage to ‘50s sci-fi horror, Mars Attacks! (1996) saw the director having fun with a much brighter, almost psychedelic, colour palette before returning to his famed gothic style with macabre fantasy Sleepy Hollow (1999), which won BAFTAs for Costume Design and Production Design. It was on his next film, the big-budget remake of Planet Of The Apes (2001) that Burton met his partner and frequent collaborator Helena Bonham Carter.

After adapting the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street in his trademark style, Burton scored the biggest financial success of his career with a new take on Alice In Wonderland (2010). This year, audiences have enjoyed two features from the director in the form of a comedic take on the ‘60s soap opera Dark Shadows (2012), and most recently a stop-motion animated remake of his Disney short Frankenweenie (2012), perfectly capturing the themes and distinct aesthetic that have guided his work to date.

Tim Burton and BAFTA

Burton received his first BAFTA nomination in 2003 for his direction on fantasy adventure Big Fish, and his second followed soon after when Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2005) was nominated for a Children’s Award.

Tim Burton & Tom Hooper at the Film Awards in 2011

2011 Film Awards - Tim Burton and Tom HooperBAFTA/ Charlie Gray

Tim Burton, George Clooney & Helena Bonham Carter in 2012

2012 Film Awards - Tim Burton, George Clooney and Helena Bonham CarterBAFTA\Charlie Gray

Tim Burton presenting the Academy Fellowship in 2011

Citation Reader: Academy FellowshipBAFTA/Stephen Butler

Tim Burton with 2011 Academy Fellow Christopher Lee

Academy Fellowship: Sir Christopher LeeBAFTA/Richard Kendal


This BAFTA: A Life In Pictures Interview was generously sponsored by...

Deutsche Bank logo [Thin Crop]