Tim Burton

Tim Burton Photo


Date of Birth: August 25, 1958

While his parents wanted him to go play outside and be "normal," Tim Burton preferred to soak up a 1950s horror movie, or withdraw into his own mind. Aside from watching horror movies, the Burbank-born Burton also spent much of his adolescence drawing, and after graduating from high school, he took a job as an animator at Walt Disney Studios.

Although he found that the mainstream Disney films he worked on (such as The Fox and the Hound) were far removed from his own sensibility, Disney let him have the freedom to work on his own personal projects. His first film was the six-minute animated black-and-white Vincent (1982). The stop-motion animation illustrated a poem about a boy who dreams he is horror movie veteran Vincent Price, living within a horror movie. It even featured the voice of Price himself, Burton's mentor.

His second film, the 27-minute live action Frankenweenie, was judged unsuitable for children and not released until 1992 when it finally became available on video and on the Disney Channel. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman), however, did get to see it and decided that Burton, still only in his mid-twenties, would be the ideal person to direct his feature debut, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985). It was an enormous (and surprise) box-office hit.

Then came the supernatural comedy Beetlejuice (1988), starring Michael Keaton. The success of both projects and their unique art direction led him to Batman (1989), a big and expensive production that Warner Bros. had been sitting on for ten years. It was one of the most successful films of all time, setting the opening weekend box office record of $50 million and going on to make $400 million world wide. It gave Burton unprecedented power in Hollywood considering the originality and adventurousness of his work thus far.

Burton consolidated his position as the Hollywood wonderkid of the early '90s with Edward Scissorhands (1990), a very personal suburban fable of a youth (Johnny Depp) with scissor shears instead of hands who is befriended by a local woman who decides to bring him home. It was also the beginning of a continuous working relationship with Depp, who would go on to appear in several of his future films.

Batman Returns (1992) was a far darker and quirkier film than the original, a reflection of how much creative freedom Burton had won (though Warner Bros were reputedly unhappy with the final result). Burton cites it as the film he feels the most detached from of all his projects.

Burton returned to animation with his next feature as the producer, creator, and guiding sensibility behind Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), a wildly imaginative excursion into the macabre that initially began as a poem. While not directed by Burton, the film boasted his trademark visual and thematic concerns, including expressionist lighting, stylized and detailed production design, unrequited love, a misunderstood protagonist on the outside of society, and a lively score by Danny Elfman. Besides having the distinction of being the first full length stop-motion animated film produced by Disney, it is the film that is deeper in Burton's heart than any other, as he had been wanting to make it for over a decade.

Burton remained at Disney for his return to the director's chair with his first period piece, the biopic Ed Wood (1994). Shot in black and white, the film starred Johnny Depp as "the world's worst director" and featured Martin Landau as a debilitated Bela Lugosi. While the film was smaller in scope than his last three outings, Ed Wood was also the first Burton movie to be grounded in a truthful, if bizarre, historical reality. Despite being a box office disaster, it garnered some of the best reviews of Burton's career and won two Oscars.

Inspired by the alien invasion movies of the '50s and '60s that Burton loved as a child, his next move was Mars Attacks! (1996). Although starring A-List actors like Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan and Glenn Close, it was another flop. He returned with Sleepy Hollow (1999) starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci. Adapted from the Washington Irving story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow about a headless horseman, the film earned three Oscar nominations for Costume Design, Art Direction and Cinematography. The remake Planet of the Apes (2001) was a box office hit, earning over US$180 million at the domestic box office. In 2012, Burton reunited once again with Johnny Depp for the big-screen adaptation of the popular television show Dark Shadows, about a vampire that's woken up after being trapped in slumber for over 200 years. The year 2012 was also memorable for Burton because he finally had the opportunity to turn his short Frankenweenie into a full-length feature film, with voice work by Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau. He has since directed the biopic Big Eyes starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and the children's novel adaptation Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016) starring Eva Green.

Burton was married Lena Gieseke from 1981 to 1991. He was then engaged to actress Lisa Marie, whom he dated from 1992 to 2001. In 2001, he began a relationship with actress Helena Bonham Carter, with whom he shares a son, Billy Ray, and a daughter, Nell. The two separated in 2014.


Beetlejuice 2 (2018)
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Big Eyes (2014)
Frankenweenie (2012)
Dark Shadows (2012)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Corpse Bride (2005)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Big Fish (2003)
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Ed Wood (1994)
Batman Returns (1992)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Batman (1989)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Frankenweenie (1984)
Vincent (1982)