Tim Burton opens up about his ‘weird mental process’

Dec. 31, 2010 | 7:56 a.m.

David L. Ulin checks in with Hero Complex after his interview with Tim Burton

tim burton1 Tim Burton opens up about his weird mental process

Tim Burton (Museum of Metropolitan Art)

Tim Burton, with whom I talk in Friday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section about his book “The Art of Tim Burton,” has always been a visual artist first.

Trained in animation at California Institute of the Arts, he’s been drawing since childhood, and indeed much of the material in his book (and in the museum show of his artwork, which comes in May to LACMA) has little to do with his films. This, of course, is part of the fun of the book, and it was part of the fun of talking to Burton as well. I reached him in England, where he has lived for many years now, and after warning me that he might be interrupted by his children, he began to speak — slowly and, at times, fitfully — about why “The Art of Tim Burton” means so much to him.

“It’s not showing me as a great artist…. It’s just showing my weird mental process, the way things grow. Whether I’m working on a movie or doing a drawing, my favorite time is making it. When I finish, there’s a nice sense of accomplishment, but really, it’s about the process for me.”

art of tim burton Tim Burton opens up about his weird mental process

"The Art of Tim Burton" (Steele's Publishing)

Here’s an excerpt from the Calendar piece on Burton:

If, as William Carlos Williams wrote, “The pure products of America / go crazy,” where does that leave Tim Burton, a pure product not just of America but also of Southern California, land’s end of our national phantasmagoria?

Hollywood, maybe, where Burton — born in Burbank, raised on TV and the films of Ray Harryhausen, educated at the California Institute of the Arts  — landed in the late 1970s. Or London, where he now lives with the actress Helena Bonham Carter and their two kids. Really, though, the landscape Burton occupies is one of the imagination, a territory marked by whimsy and darkness, in which the visuals are the main event.

“My background is animation,” he says by phone from his home in England. “Early on, I was essentially a nonverbal person.” Even now, the director of “Beetle Juice,” “Batman,” “Corpse Bride” and “Edward Scissorhands” seems not completely comfortable in conversation; he pauses, backtracks, like someone speaking in a second language, as he discusses “The Art of Tim Burton,” a lavish art book featuring more than 1,000 images, some of which go back to childhood…


— David L. Ulin


tim burton joker Tim Burton opens up about his weird mental process

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2 Responses to Tim Burton opens up about his ‘weird mental process’

  1. Arye Michael Bender says:

    Long live Tim Burton's wonderfully loopy, idiosyncratic eye. Often his most delicious film ideas are in his unique images that tell stories rich without dialogue needed to explain.

    Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam create from a unique visual palette that add layers of meaning to their work.

  2. Lisa Maher says:

    Such a great inspiration to artists of the darker persuasion. Such unique imagery bringing death to beautiful life.

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