We all know Tim Burton as an animator and director; but behind the great film-maker, lies a great illustrator.
Drawing has always been part of Tim Burton’s life; it was his first means of expression. As a child he tended to be quiet and get lost in his world, often feeling out of place in the environment he grew up in; he felt constricted by the monotonous American suburbs lifestyle and wasn’t really able to connect with other children. Drawing was a way of conveying and expressing his thoughts, feelings and ideas, experimenting with all kind of techniques and materials. This passion for getting his hands “dirty” will later led him to his biggest love: stop-motion.
“I started to do stop-motion when I was a kid. You take a Super 8 and make some models, and move, click, move, click. All that. I love all forms of animation, but there is something unique and special to stop-motion: it’s more real and the set is lit like a set. But I think it’s also a kind of lonely and dark thing to want to do.”
Burton started working in animation for Disney; but his style was considered too bizarre and not adapted for children. Independent film-making will then allow him to get all the freedom he wanted to develop his projects; he will continue to draw and direct through all his life. As Helen Bonham Carter said: ‘with him, everything starts with a drawing’.
Here we have a drawing for Edward Scissorhands, 1990; a character born long before the making of the movie. Edward comes from a drawing from Burton’s teenage years, and reflects his feelings of isolation and being unable to communicate to people around him.
Johnny Depp says that it wasn’t until he saw Burton’s sketches that he understood who he was to play. “I instantly fell for the character — he made his way into my body.”
“All I had the first time I went to work with Tim on Edward Scissorhands aside from the images arriving in my mind, was a tiny drawing that Tim had made. One look at that drawing was all I needed to understand what Edward was about. It has been exactly the same ever since.”
– Johnny Depp, recalling his first collaboration with Burton.
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Bibliography and further readings:
The Art of Tim Burton: The Artist Before The Filmmaker, The Artifice
Burton on Burton, Salisbury, 1995