Friday, September 11, 2009

Burton on His Films and Art

The Wrap's Eric Kohn recently interviewed Tim Burton. The director discussed a myriad of topics, including his greatly anticipated Alice in Wonderland and feature-length Frankenweenie, the forthcoming exhibition of his artwork at the Museum of Modern Art, issues with the studio system, and his past classics:

The trailer for Alice in Wonderland leaked online a day early. How did you feel about that?

I didn't like that. Somebody f---ed that one up. It just shows you how easy … it's like, "Oh, sorry, I just pushed that nuke button." That's the problem. All this stuff is so available. I still come from the olden days where you like to see a movie and be surprised. Then you want to know something about it -- as opposed to getting everything front-loaded. A movie just loses its whole mystique.

The art of the trailer has become an entirely separate creative process.

Well, yeah. I've always had my theories, and my theories are always different from the marketing people.

At any rate, the trailer indicates an appropriately vibrant take on the story. Is this a palate-cleanser after the grimness of Sweeney Todd?
Yeah, it's a different palate. Also, the Alice imagery has been around. For me, it wasn't so much the books. I was aware of it from other aspects of popular culture, whether it was in music or other images. It was just about trying to tell it in a way so it's not a series of weird events, like in the book.

Are you staying away from the acid subtext?

No, no, not so much that. I'm just trying to keep away from the structure that the other [interpretations] suffer from, the episodic stuff. A passive little girl wandering around thinking everything is weird.

It's weird talking about Alice when I have so much left to do on it. It's a bit creepy.

Audiences tend to bring a certain baggage to the theater when the movie involves a familiar brand, which many of your movies do.

They're harder to do for that reason. Everybody looks at the white rabbit or the Cheshire Cat or the Mad Hatter and has an idea of what they should be. With known icons, you're always going to piss off somebody.

Like with Watchmen?
That's the thing: You never know what you're going to get. With something like Watchmen, it's known on one level. It's like a great novel. You have to leave something out, somebody's favorite part. Somebody will think the essence has been sucked out of it. That's just the nature of tackling something known.

Sweeney Todd was a quintessential example of your darker side. Why didn't it do better business?
I didn't know what kind of response it would get. It seemed to do OK. I don't really know. I never know. Every movie I've ever done, I never could predict a response.

But if anyone could turn such a morose story into a massive commercial property, you're the guy.

Yeah, but if you look at the “Harry Potter” movies, they've gotten darker. For 20 years, I’ve had to fight against the whole "dark" issue. Now it's the "norm." I've tried to keep my stuff in there.

Do you feel like studios try to dumb down your ideas?

That's always the case, especially when you're dealing with a bigger budget. That's fair enough from the studios’ point of view. It's a big investment. I don't try to pay too much attention to that. It's a bit abstract anyway.

You'll have a huge exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Does seeing your entire career surveyed make it seem as though you've achieved your creative potential?
I hope not. We'll see. Am I going to go back and remake Pee-Wee's Big Adventure? I don't think so. I feel like I've been pretty pure about that. There's been a lot of pressure to do, like, a sequel to Nightmare Before Christmas. I'm just not going to do it.

But you've talked about turning your early short film Frankenweenie into a feature.
I might do a low-budget, stop-motion movie. Something I couldn't do in the short. It would be nice to capture the spirit of my original drawings.

Like Corpse Bride?
No, less than that. I'd do it in black and white.

What about all those Broadway musical rumors?

Yeah, I got approached to do a Broadway version of Batman. I couldn't quite bring myself to do that, either.

So, how did you find the time to help out as a producer on 9?
This was a few years ago. I got involved after I saw the short film [which was nominated for an Oscar in 2005]. I felt close to his design sensibility. It's different from mine, but I related to the characters and the world. Since I've been through the experience of making animated films, I just felt like I could help him keep all the outside evils away.

Do you still watch a lot of animated shorts?

When I was first in animation, it was like a dying art form. But if you're an animator, there are more opportunities now than ever. Also, it’s using all the media.

A few years ago, they declared cel animation dead again, but now I'm hearing about some cel-animated films. I think that whole thing, "Oh, now we're only going to do computers, or we're only going to do this or that"... those barriers have been broken through.


Matt said...

Confirmed! Alice in Wonderland footage was shown at D23 at 11:00, apparantly!


Matt said...

Looky what I found!


Anonymous said...

I am being to think that Tim Burton is full of crap on how Alice is taking so much of his time. Then recently Tim tells the world in many interviews that Dark Shadows is his next project. Today he now states that Frankenweenie is his next project. It would be nice if Tim was to stop being full of himself and tell the complete truth.

Fuzzy Duck said...

^Are you being sarcastic? I honestly can't tell. You do realize that directors are usually attached to films in development long in advance before shooting, and that movies are usually being worked on until just a bit before their planned release date, right? It's no surprise that "Alice" would be taking this much time; it's an immensely ambitious project, and a major technological puzzle unlike anything Burton has worked on before.

Anonymous said...

I may or may not be being sarcastic. I don't really know. What I do know is that TB specifically mentioned in several interviews in the past several weeks that his next project was Dark Shadows. There was no hesitation. He was clear and concise and even discussed how he would have a problem finding the weird vibe that made DS successful in the first place. If TB was planning all along to be working on Frankenweenie as you alluded to , then TB should not have mentioned to MTV and to other media outlets that DS is his next project. The fact that Tim is taking a large amount of time to complete Alice has nothing to do with him informing the media that DS was in fact his next project and we now know today that is not true. You can't have it both ways.

Fuzzy Duck said...

Tim Burton and Richard D. Zanuck have both confirmed that Burton will be directing "Dark Shadows" with Johnny Depp. Unless something changes in the future (which is possible), that is a fact.

Anonymous said...

Well honestly this is where all the confusion rests. I understand that Tim Burton and Richard D. Zanuck have both stated/confirmed that Burton will be directing "Dark Shadows" with Johnny Depp. What you left out was that Mr. Zanuck also stated that DS was going to be TB's next shooting project after Alice. But Zanuck's statement was many months ago. The matter at hand is that TB just informed MTV and other outlets that DS was his next shooting project. Now today that has changed based on today's developments at the Disney Expo where Tim Burton clearly stated that Frankenweenie is his next shooting project. What also complicated things is that Depp also made a separate statement that DS was his next shooting movie. Now today Depp and the Disney studio stated that Pirates 4 will be Johnny's next movie starting in next April to be released in 2011. Also announced today from the studio that The Lone Ranger will also be released in 2011 meaning that Depp will also be shooting this movie in 2010probably right after Pirates 4. So the bottom line is have both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp not been truthful when they both individually claimed that DS was their next project or were they just being intentionally misleading. Again this has nothing to do with Alice shooting longer than expected.

Fuzzy Duck said...

Let's do the math: "Dark Shadows" is supposed to come out in 2011; "Frankenweenie" in 2012.

Now, which may begin shooting? Probably "Dark Shadows." However, animation will take a while for "Frankenweenie." So perhaps they may begin shooting nearly at the same time.

Also, the D23 Expo is an exclusively Disney event. So Burton was advertising his next film with Disney, which is "Frankenweenie."

Furthermore, what makes you think Johnny Depp can't play multiple roles in one year? A director is typically surveying the making of a film for two to three years, but an actor can do a film in half a year or so.

Anonymous said...

Did you get the year that DS is suppose to shoot from IMDb? Anybody can upload information there so you can't rely on its accuracy. In fact that same website initially listed the release date as 2010 for DS until Tim decided to go all "experimental" with Alice. This is the way I see it playing out. Dark Shadows will not start filming until 2011. I based that on the fact that Tim will be shooting Frankenweenie starting late March after his Alice promotional world tour. It may take a year to finish Frankenweenie. Depp will start filming Pirates 4 in April/May 2010and then The Lone Ranger is next for him. If this is the case then I still believe that TB and JD could have been more honest about when they both claimed individually that DS was going to be their next respective project. I could be wrong and you completely right. Time will tell. Good discussion though.

Anonymous said...

Fuzy Duck. Out of curiosity where did you get the information that Frankenweenie is going to be released in 2012? Every article that I read indicated a release date of 2011 as does IMDb the latter I take with a grain of salt as previously discussed. If it is going to be released in 2011 does that change your theory? Just curious. Thanks.

Fuzzy Duck said...

Anonymous: I read in a few articles that were based on notes from the D23 Expo event when Burton attended that "Frankenweenie" would be released in 2012. But it might have been a typo. I wouldn't be surprised if it was pushed back to 2012, what with Burton's busy schedule and "Dark Shadows" now becoming a reality, but I don't know for certain whether "Frankenweenie" will be released in 2011 or 2012. Thanks for catching that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Fuzzy Duck. It's amazing how much conflicting information is out there. If 2012 is correct for Frankenweenies' release date then I can see Dark Shadows being filmed in mid to late 2010 after Pirates 4 which begins shooting in April/May 2010. That is the window of opportunity that I see for the production of a Dark Shadows movie in 2010. If Tim starts production of Frankenweenie in 2010 then Depp will probably film The Lone Ranger after Pirates 4. I don't think Tim can direct Frankenweenie and Dark Shadows at the same time although the man is a genius. It's nuts to be speculating on this but it makes for good conversation, I think.

Anonymous said...

According to this article Tim and crew have started production on Frankenweenie. I guess he is directing 2 movies at the same time. Cool.