Tim Burton

Tim Burton Biography

(1958–)
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Director, producer and screenwriter Tim Burton is known for such films as 'Beetlejuice' and 'Edward Scissorhands,' which blend themes of fantasy and horror.

Who Is Tim Burton?

Tim Burton is a director, producer and screenwriter. After majoring in animation at the California Institute of Arts, he got his start in the business by working as a Disney animator. He quickly struck out on his own and became known for creating visually striking films that blend themes of fantasy and horror, including Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Early Life and Career

Tim Burton was born Timothy Walter Burton on August 25, 1958, in Burbank, California. As a child, Burton was engrossed with the classic horror films of Roger Corman—many of which featured quintessential screen villain Vincent Price.

Burton also developed a penchant for drawing and enrolled at the California Institute of Arts, where he majored in animation. In 1980, upon his graduation, he began working as an apprentice animator for Walt Disney Studios. Within a year, Burton grew tired with his work at Disney and decided to strike out on his own. In 1982, he released the award-winning short Vincent, which paid homage to the enduring work of his childhood idol.

Movies: 'Frankenweenie,' 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure' and 'Beetlejuice'

In 1984, Burton created a unique version of the Frankenstein story with the live-action short Frankenweenie. Impressed with Frankenweenie, Paul Reubens commissioned Burton to direct the wildly inventive comedy Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985).

The success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure brought about other opportunities, including the 1988 ghost story Beetlejuice starring Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. Often considered the prototypical Burton film, Beetlejuice was recognized for its visual flair and interwoven themes of fantasy and horror.

'Batman' and 'Edward Scissorhands'

After forming his own production company, Burton directed the lavish production Batman (1989). With a cast that included Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger, the stylized feature became the first film to gross $100 million over its first 10 days of release. 

The following year, Burton helmed the bizarre but touching film Edward Scissorhands. Featuring notable performances by up-and-coming stars Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder (as well as Price's final feature role as the eccentric inventor), Edward Scissorhands was acclaimed for being both a social satire and a simple tale of love and intolerance.

Directing an ensemble that included Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken, Burton reteamed with Keaton for the 1992 Batman sequel, Batman Returns.

'The Nightmare Before Christmas' to 'Mars Attacks!'   

The following year, he produced the animated musical Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Created with the painstaking process of stop-motion animation, the film became a critical and commercial success, while Burton was credited for his technical prowess.

In 1994, Burton cast Depp as the title character in Ed Wood—a black-and-white portrait of a middling filmmaker and his all-consuming passion to succeed. Although critically praised (Martin Landau won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a drug-addicted Bela Lugosi), the film failed to appeal to mass audiences. 

After producing the third installment Batman Forever (1995) and the animated feature James and the Giant Peach (1996), Burton directed the sci-fi spoof Mars Attacks! The film flopped at the box office despite an all-star cast that included Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening and Pierce Brosnan.

'Sleepy Hollow,' 'Big Fish' and 'The Corpse Bride'

In 1999, Burton directed a freely adapted film version, Sleepy Hollow, of Washington Irving's haunting tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in which Depp offered a notable performance as the heroic Ichabod Crane. In 2001, he followed with an ambitious remake of the 1968 cult classic Planet of the Apes, starring Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter. 

The year 2003 brought the release of the fantasy drama Big Fish, which stars Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney. The film earned four Golden Globe nominations. In 2005, Burton released a remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, again starring Depp, and a stop-motion animated feature called The Corpse Bride, which received an Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature Film.

'Sweeney Todd' and 'Alice in Wonderland'

Continuing with his interest in ghoulish subjects, in 2007, Burton directed the film adaptation of the popular musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The film reunited Burton with longtime friend Depp and Bonham Carter. All three received critical praise for their work on the film, including several Golden Globe nominations. 

In 2010, they reunited again for an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland, wherein Depp played the role of the Mad Hatter and Carter, the Red Queen. Burton later directed the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, for a 2016 release.

'Dark Shadows,' 'Big Eyes,' 'Miss Peregrine' and 'Dumbo'

In 2012, Burton worked with Depp on a film adaptation of the cult television series Dark Shadows. Writer Seth Grahame-Smith penned the script for this humorous look at a vampire living among his descendants. 

Burton also revisited one of his earlier efforts, turning his 1984 short Frankenweenie into a full-length feature film. The title character—a dog brought back to life after death—was inspired by one of his own pets. Pepe "just had a good spirit, that dog," Burton told Entertainment Weekly. "The Frankenweenie character wasn’t meant to look like him. It was more just the memory and the spirit of him." 

In 2014, Burton directed the biopic Big Eyes, about the life of artist Margaret Keane, whose paintings of subjects with immense eyes have become iconic. Returning to the fantasy genre, he directed the eerie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, based on the popular YA novel by Ransom Riggs, in 2016.

Next up for the acclaimed director was a live-action adaptation of the Disney classic Dumbo (2019), starring DeVito, Keaton, Colin Farrell and Eva Green.

Personal Life

In addition to his filmwork, Burton exhibited over 700 drawings, paintings, and other artwork at New York City's Museum of Modern Art in 2009 and 2010. 

Burton became involved with Planet of the Apes star Bonham Carter in 2001. They had two children, a son, Billy, born in October 2003, and a daughter, Nell, born in December 2007. In 2014, it was reported that the couple had separated after 13 years together.

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