Tim Burton MasterClass: Breaking Down the Odd & Beautiful

tim burton

Tim Burton: The Master of Odd

Tim Burton is one of the most talented film directors, film producers, artists and writers who live on this planet. He can be considered as a perfect example for a combination of innovativeness and talent. Tim Burton has been blessed by the nature for his excellent imaginativeness. He also possesses excellent drawing skills. Painting was the hobby of Tim Burton during his childhood. When he grew old, he converted his hobby into his career.

As soon as Tim Burton completed his graduation, he started working in the Walt Disney Studios as an apprentice animator. The experience he got while working created a tremendous impact on his future as well. In fact, this experience helped him to make his mark as a poet, writer, producer, director and a stop motion artist. He has also contributed a lot towards the success of the American film industry.

Tim Burton has contributed towards the American film industry for four decades. He was the person to come up with fantasy, quirky horror, and macabre, gothic and dark movies. That’s why he is known as one of the most innovative film producers in the history of United States. His influences can even be seen in movies that are produced by other directors.

According to the statistics of Tim Burton, he has produced 12 films and directed 16 films. Few of these movies have achieved super success. Batman, Batman Returns, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are few examples to prove the above mentioned fact.

Take a listen to Tim Burton’s Masterclass of Filmmaking:

At the Beginning of the Rabbit Hole

Tim Burton was born in Burbank city to Bill Burton and Jean Burton. His father was working for the Recreation Department of the Burbank Park and was a former baseball player. The mother of Tim Burton was the owner of a cat themed gift shop in the area. Therefore, he did not get the opportunity to have the most luxurious childhood.

“I started to do stop-motion when I was a kid. You take a Super 8 and make some models, and move, click, move, click. All that. I love all forms of animation, but there is something unique and special to stop-motion: it’s more real and the set is lit like a set. But I think it’s also a kind of lonely and dark thing to want to do.”



Tim Burton attended Burbank High School for his primary education. He was just an average student at school. He paid more attention towards drawing and painting instead of focusing on his studies. He also enjoyed watching movies throughout his childhood.

When Tim Burton turned 12, he made his first step in filmmaking. In fact, he started shooting short movies with the help of crude stop motion techniques. He was able to make his first ever movie when he was 13. This movie was named as The Island of Doctor Agnor.

As mentioned earlier, Tim Burton enrolled to a course in character animation at the California Institute of Arts. He didn’t give up his passion of making movies even he was studying at the university. In fact, he made movies like “King and Octopus” and “Stalk of the celery Monster” while he was studying at the university. He obtained his graduation in 1979 and started working in the Walt Disney Studios.

Finding Love on Set

Tim Burton got married to a German born artist named Lena Gieseke. However, the marriage in between them ended after 4 years. After that, Tim Burton decided to live with an actress and model named Lisa Marie. Later he developed a relationship with an actress named Helena Carter. Tim met Helena when he was working on the movie Planet of the Apes. Tim Burton and Bonham Carter have 2 children, a daughter named Nell and a son named Billy.

“Things that I grew up with stay with me. You start a certain way, and then you spend your whole life trying to find a certain simplicity that you had. It’s less about staying in childhood than keeping a certain spirit of seeing things in a different way.”

How Tim Changed the Film Biz

Tim Burton has contributed a lot towards the American film industry. Even though he had a very short stay at the Walt Disney Studios, he was able to learn a lot, which created an impact on his entire career.

During this short stay, he created a short film named Vincent. It was even showcased at Chicago Film Festival. It became a successful one and he was able to win many awards for it. Before leaving Disney, Tim Burton created his first ever live action movie as well. It was titled as Hansel and Gretel.

The success that Tim Burton experienced from his first two short movies motivated him to give life to many other productions. This made him create the movie titled Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which became popular in every corner of the world.

The success of this movie opened many new doors for him. In fact, it created an ideal platform for him to make movies such as Batman and Beetlejuice. These two movies helped Tim Burton to establish his reputation as a successful director. The movie Batman even became a box office hit at that time. The success of Batman made him come up with Batman Returns after a couple of years. It also became a box office hit within a short period of time.

“I have a problem when people say something’s real or not real, or normal or abnormal. The meaning of those words for me is very personal and subjective. I’ve always been confused and never had a clearcut understanding of the meaning of those kinds of words.”

Year 1993 was a special one for Tim Burton. That’s because he produced the movie The Nightmare before Christmas, which was an animated musical. This was a new concept to the world at that time and it helped him to impress people in all parts of the world. As a result, he got the opportunity to gain a massive critical and commercial success.

In the following year, he produced two more movies named as Ed Wood and Cabin Boy. However, these two movies didn’t get popular as the previous ones. In the meantime, he was making plans to produce the next Batman movie, which was titled as Batman Forever.

Like the previous Batman movies, it became a box office hit and was able to earn more than $336 million. He came up with few more films such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Superman Lives and Mars Attacks during the 1990’s.

Tim Burton gave life to Planet of the Apes in the new millennium. Even though this movie received mixed responses from people, it was a huge commercial success. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was his next hit and it was released in 2005. This movie was also able to win many awards including the best costume design award.

In 2010, Tim Burton came up with another box office hit, which was titled as Alice in Wonderland. This movie was able to win 2 Academy Awards for the Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. This movie was followed by Dark Shadows, which received mixed comments from the audiences.



Burton was working as a co-producer in the movie Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter, which was released back in 2012. This movie also received mixed comments from the audiences because of the performance by actors and its plot. In this year, decided to remake the feature length stop motion film that he produced back in 1984 as well. It gave life to the movie Frankenweenie.

These are few of the most notable contributions of Tim Burton. He has made plans to come up with many other movies in the future. Deep, Monsterpocalypse and Big Eyes are to name a few. He is also working along with the world famous novelist Seth Graham Smith in order to come up with a new movie.

The Batman movie series created a tremendous impact on the entire career of Tim Burton. He had the unique ability of producing movies under a very tight budget. This ability of him impressed the studio executives. As a result, they motivated him to come up with the movie Batman.

It was a low budget movie, even though it doesn’t look like a one. Due to the tight budget, Tim Burton was clashing constantly with the other producers of the movie. However, he wanted to make this movie a box office hit and his commitment created a positive impact on the success of the movie.

This is the main reason why he took the initiative to create the other movies in Batman series. All the other movies were low budget ones as well. He had a clear understanding on how to manage the available resources and get the best out of them.

Awards for the Unique Artist

Tim Burton has received many awards and achievements in his life. In 2007, he was awarded with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice International Film Festival.

He also worked as the President of the Jury for the 63rd Cannes film festival, which was held back in 2010. Back in 2008, Tim Burton was awarded with the Scream Immortal Award for his innovative and unique interpretation of fantasy and horror.

In fact, he took the initiative to introduce a brand new sub-genre to the world with it. Tim Burton was able to receive insignia of Chevalier of Arts from the Cultural Minister of Mitterrand.

These are some of the most notable achievements that Tim Burton received during his four decades long career in the movie industry. Apart from these awards, he received many other awards including the National Board of Review Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards and the Emmy Award.

His latest film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children opens this Friday.

Based on the best-selling novel, comes this truly magical adventure. When Jake unravels a mystery that spans alternate realities, he uncovers a secret world for “peculiar children” with supernatural powers. But Jake soon realizes that danger is everywhere and he must determine who can be trusted and unmask his own true identity.


Tim Burton’s Filmography

2016 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
2014 Big Eyes
2012 Frankenweenie
2012 Dark Shadows
2010 Alice in Wonderland
2007 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2005 Corpse Bride
2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2003 Big Fish
2001 Planet of the Apes 
1999 Sleepy Hollow
1996 Mars Attacks!
1994 Ed Wood
1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas
1992 Batman Returns
1990 Edward Scissorhands
1989 Batman
1988 Beetlejuice
1985 Pee Wee’s Big Adventure


Tim Burton: Inside the Director’s Chair

Tim Burton: A Life in Pictures

Tim Burton on His Life and Movies Coming Full Circle with ‘Frankenweenie’

Tim Burton interview on Charlie Rose (1999)

The History of Tim Burton’s Animation


If you liked Tim Burton MasterClass: Breaking Down the Odd & Beautiful, then take a listen to:
David Fincher: His Secrets on Directing & Visual Storytelling

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