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jenna ortega as wednesday
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Culture > Entertainment

In Tim Burton’s birthday month, get to know what makes the director’s work so unique

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Born on August 25, 1968, Tim Burton is an American director, screenwriter, producer, writer, animator and designer – from Burbank, California. With a peculiar childhood and his strong imagination, the filmmaker reports that he sought to escape reality through macabre productions, such as Edgar Allan Poe‘s books and low-budget horror films.

Tim Burton studied animation for three years at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia and was hired by Walt Disney Studios to be an apprentice animator.

In 1982, he produced his first authorial work, “Vincent”, a stop-motion short film with narration by Vincent Price – Burton’s great idol filmmaker. Despite being just over five minutes long, the production already showed its cinematic identity in a very well-defined way, using dark, fantastic and eccentric aspects.

Two years later, Burton produced another short film, this time in live-action. “Frankenweenie” tells the story of Victor Frankenstein who, after losing his dog Sparky, decides to resurrect him in a similar way to the world-renowned monster. The problem is that, when he brings it back, the animal starts to terrorize the boy’s neighbors. The plot, however, was not well accepted by Disney being considered too dark for the company’s standards.

On the other hand, it’s funny to think that, almost thirty years later, in 2012, Burton resumed his partnership with Disney and produced “Frankenweenie” again. At the time, the story was told in a different movie format, being a stop motion animation filmed in black and white. A few years ago, the original short film was also included in the Disney Plus catalog.


Tim Burton’s attachment to horror began to strengthen even more in 1988, with the production of “Beetlejuice“. Despite the low budget, the feature also highlighted the impeccable work of the filmmaker, since, in the following year, it took the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyles, two BAFTA Film Awards and the Kids Choice Award for favorite film. It was also the first time that Winona Ryder worked on one of the artist’s works.

Burton then made two super-productions of Batman, with Michael Keaton as the superhero, Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. Upon consolidating his career, the director decided to invest in his personal project “Edward Scissorhands” and invited Johnny Depp to play the lead role. From that moment on, both created a strong relationship, on and off the sets – the actor participated in several other Burton creations such as “The Legend of the Headless Horseman”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

After his rise, the producer ventured into the world of fiction, going from drama to comedy, from science fiction to horror, always taking advantage of live-actions full of effects and stop-motion animations. From that moment on, even with successes and errors, Burton did not abandon his unique aesthetic, always bathing in gothic and dark aspects.


In addition to strong partnerships with actors such as Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder and Helena Bonham Carter, one that is for sure still generating great results is the one with Disney. After the success of his films, in the 90s, Burton and the production company began to develop the idea of the ​​stop-motion animation “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, which had its genesis ten years earlier, with a poem.

The making of the feature lasted about two years and, despite all the success of the producer and screenwriter, Walt Disney Pictures thought that the end result was “too dark and scary for children”, deciding to release it by Touchstone Pictures, a label of films for young-adult audiences – now extinct. But, as we said earlier, years after the success, Disney decided to publish the film in 3D format.

In the 2000s the collaboration between the two continued and brought many successes, such as the animations “Corpse Bride” and “Frankenweenie”, and the live-action “Alice in Wonderland”. However, in the next two productions, “Alice Through The Looking Glass” and “Dumbo”, Burton was able to divide many opinions.

Even though Disney was the place where the filmmaker was able to consolidate a good part of his creations, in 2022, during some interviews, he stated that he does not intend to return to work with the production company anytime soon.

“[…] that is why that I think my days with Disney are over, I realized that I was Dumbo, that I was working in this big horrible circus and I needed to get away […]”.


From Burton’s most recent works, it’s obvious that we cannot leave the series “Wednesday Addams”, with Jenna Ortega, made for Netflix, aside. With the production, the filmmaker and the actress were able to bring the eldest daughter of the Adams family closer to children and young people of current generations, showing that being different and “out of the ordinary” is indeed very interesting – even if it also remains scary.

Throughout his entire career, he has been able to bring horror and comedy to the screen in a very artistic way, showing that the unconventional can also be beautiful and, in a way, mesmerizing. With “Mars Attacks!”, the producer made a statement to science fiction B movies; in the biopic “Big Eyes” he was able to show a little of Margaret Keane‘s pain; while on “Big Fish” he managed to touch on real themes through the absurd.

During his decades of work, Burton was able to create and maintain a unique and enviable aesthetic, with characters that are identifiable from afar in any exhibition, costume party or excerpt in the media. Like few others the filmmaker managed to take advantage of socially sensitive points in order to create magnificent works.

Even with successes and errors – on and off screen – Tim Burton has a unique work and, in the cinematographic universe, he deserves all the “congratulations”.


The article above was edited by Mariana do Patrocínio. 

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Fernanda Alves

Casper Libero '25

Future journalist, writer in training and lover of culture.