Timothy William Burton was born August 25, 1958 in Burbank, California. Burbank may not ring as many bells as Hollywood, but it is the home to many film and television studios -- NBC, Warner Brothers, Disney, and others. Burbank was quintessential 1950s American suburbia, a world in which the shy, artistic Tim was not quite in step with the shiny happy people surrounding him. He was not particularly good in school, and was not a bookworm. Instead, he found his pleasure in painting, drawing, and movies. He loved monster movies: Godzilla, the Hammer horror films from Great Britain, the work of Ray Harryhausen. One of his heroes was actor Vincent Price.
After high school in 1976, Burton attended the California Institute of the Arts. Cal Arts had been founded by Disney as a "breeding ground" for new animators, though they did offer other courses of study. Burton entered the Disney animation program in his second year, thinking it would be a good way to make a living. In 1979, he was drafted to join the Disney animation ranks.
Burton did not enjoy being an animator, not one little bit. Imagine, if you will, what it's like to be an animator. Films are projected at 24 frames per second. For a 90-minute film, that's over 129,000 individual frames. Characters are drawn separately and then put together, and placed over painted backgrounds. The work requires talented artists, but they cannot deviate from the structured manner of drawing the characters. Burton had been brought in to work on The Fox And The Hound. It bored him silly. For me I would love to be an animator or cartoonist for Disney, I think itll be a lot of fun.
The studio recognized that Burton's talent was not being utilized. They made him a conceptual artist, the people who design the characters that appear in the films. He did early work on The Black Cauldron, the adaptation of the second volume of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain (a seven-volume fantasy series). If you're familiar with Burton's artwork, you can imagine that his concept drawings were nothing like your standard Disney fare. It didn't go over too well, and it was not used. However, he was set loose on his own projects. These included a poem and artwork that years later would become The Nightmare Before Christmas, the animated short Vincent, and the live-action short Frankenweenie. ( Two of the Best Burton Films)
The latter two received little or no outside exposure, but Burton did get to work with his idol, Vincent Price, for the first time and they remained friends until Price's death in 1993. Frankenweenie was awarded a PG rating, which precluded its release with their G-rated animated features. It was only released theatrically overseas, and had limited availability on VHS. However, it would be the film that landed him his first feature directing job.
Horror writer Stephen King (you have heard of him, right?) had seen Frankenweenie, and strongly recommended it to Bonni Lee, an executive at Warner Brothers. Lee then showed the film to Paul Reubens. Reubens was the man behind Pee-wee Herman, and was in the process of bringing his alter ego to the big screen. He knew right away that Tim Burton was the perfect choice for the job, and indeed they were a perfect match. As they say, the rest is history.
Following the surprise success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Burton didn't make another film for almost three years. It wasn't until he was offered the anarchic screenplay for Beetlejuice that he finally found another project suited to his unique vision. The film was an even bigger…