Tim Burton

I just saw the Tim Burton exhibit at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and it was kind of amazing. I’ve loved his work since I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas at the tender age of three. I have many fond memories watching that movie throughout my life: before going trick-or-treating as a kid, singing the songs at recess with my friend Natasha in grade 7, watching it in French class in grade 9, and convincing the teacher that we had to watch Oogie Boogie’s song in English, because it just wasn’t the same in French… and many more. It’s always been one of my favourite movies, and I’ve always worn my Nightmare sweaters and accessories boldly in the face of emo/goth kids who tried to claim the movie for their own. It’s a damn musical – it’s not that dark, guys. Get over yourselves.
In short, it has always been a big part of my life, but I didn’t realize quite how important until I saw this image:

…and nearly burst into tears. They had a very thorough set of Nightmare related stuff, including these design sketches, some storyboards, the original poem, and some of the actual puppets used – including those heading this post. Seeing the puppets especially (and these really neat photos he’d taken with them) brought it to life in a whole new way for me. The detail was amazing to see up close, and it was very obvious how much TLC had gone into creating them. Seeing everything up close like that made it so much more real, maybe just because it was tangible, but it was a very nostalgic and weirdly emotional moment for me. So thanks, Timmy, for creating something that affected me deeply so subtly.

The rest of the exhibit was really neat too. It was awesome for me, since much more space was devoted to his earlier projects than his later – of which I’m much fonder. The Edward Scissorhands bit was especially detailed and interesting. It featured a ton of original sketches and a comment from Johnny Depp, who said that those images made him fall in love with the character – and I’m not surprised. In his character notes (also featured) Burton noted that Edward would be try to dress nicely and be very well mannered, but be cut up, due to harmless things like trying to scratch a fly from his nose. His hobbies (apparently) include playing steel drums, and he hopes to someday vacation in the Caribbean. There, an already adorable movie is about 80000 times cuter now. Also on display were a costume from the movie loaned by Depp, one of the Scissorhand gloves, and part of the cookie making machine – the thing with the cookie cutter feet.

The Beetlejuice section had a sandworm used in stop motion filming, and Beetlejuice’s long sleeves, I assume from when his arms turn into carnival hammers – remember that? There were also special pieces made only for the exhibit, which were interesting.

There were also a bunch of other neat things, such as the cape worn by Christopher Walken in Sleepy Hollow, some severed heads and a Martian anatomy chart from Mars Attacks!, the infamous angora sweater Depp wears in Ed Wood, and (playing on loop) Burton’s first short film, Vincent. The exhibit also featured some of his planned but never realized projects, as well as artwork from when he was a teenager/before he was famous.
In all, I had a really good, albeit unexpectedly emotional time. Some of his concept art, especially for towns and locations were so fabulously Expressionist – which, as those who know me are aware, is very exciting for me. I just wanted them on my wall at home. Oh well.
If you’re in/near Toronto and have any interest in Burton’s work at all, I highly recommend checking this out.
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