English 430: Literature & the Visual Arts

October 30, 2009

Tim Burton

Filed under: Online Reports — ehavey821 @ 12:05 pm

“I remember, I was at Cal Arts and I wasn’t a good life-drawer; I struggled with that realistic style of drawing. And one day I was sitting in Farmer’s Market sketching, and it was this weird, mind-blowing experience. I said, ‘Goddamit, I don’t care if I can’t draw, I’m just gonna draw how I feel about it.’ All of a sudden I had my own personal breakthrough, and then I could draw, and satisfied myself.” – Tim Burton

Sleepy Hollow Photo

Tim Burton was born August 25th 1958, in Burbank California.  While he is very well known as a creative and ingenious film maker, it should also be told that Tim Burton has written and illustrated children’s books and an autobiography.  He started out drawing and painting at a young age and continued on to go to California Institute of the Arts where he studied animation.  Many of his films are adaptations of well known and loved stories.  His first project was a stop motion animated short in tribute to Vincent Price:

The short entitled Vincent possesses the same feel as Edgar Alan Poe’s The Raven.  In both cases the reader is shown a narrator who is falling deeper and deeper into insanity.


Vincent 1982


The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993

It is apparent that Tim Burton is a master at using different forms of art to portray his dark adaptations.  Stop motion, or claymation has been one technique that he has used many times including Vincent, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride.


Corpse Bride 2005

All of Burton’s films can be described as visual masterpieces and many of his adaptations from book to screen are breathtakingly beautiful.


Sleepy Hollow 1999


Alice In Wonderland 2010


Along with his many films Tim Burton has also written a book of short stories and poetry entitled The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. It was published in 1997 and consists of dark stories, poetry, and images.

Mr. an Mrs. Smith had a wonderful life.
They were a normal, happy husband and wife.
One day they got news that made Mr. Smith glad.
Mrs. Smith would would be a mom
which would make him the dad!
But something was wrong with their bundle of joy.
It wasn’t human at all,
it was a robot boy!
He wasn’t warm and cuddly
and he didn’t have skin.
Instead there was a cold, thin layer of tin.
There were wires and tubes sticking out of his head.
He just lay there and stared,
not living or dead.

The only time he seemed alive at all
was with a long extension cord
plugged into the wall.

Mr. Smith yelled at the doctor,
“What have you done to my boy?
He’s not flesh and blood,
he’s aluminum alloy!”

The doctor said gently,
“What I’m going to say
will sound pretty wild.
But you’re not the father
of this strange looking child.
You see, there still is some question
about the child’s gender,
but we think that its father
is a microwave blender.”

The Smith’s lives were now filled
with misery and strife.
Mrs. Smith hated her husband,
and he hated his wife.
He never forgave her unholy alliance:
a sexual encounter
with a kitchen appliance.

And Robot Boy
grew to be a young man.

Though he was often mistaken
for a garbage can.

I once knew a girl
who would just stand there and stare.
At anyone or anything,
she seemed not to care

She’d stare at the ground,

She’d stare at the sky.

She’d stare at you for hours,
and you’d never know why.

But after winning the local staring contest,

she finally gave her eyes
a well-deserved rest.

The Boy with Nails in his Eyes
put up his aluminium tree.
It looked pretty strange
because he couldn’t really see.

Of all the super heroes,
the strangest one by far,
doesn’t have a special power,
or drive a fancy car.

next to Superman and batman, I guess he must seem tame.
But to me he is quite special,
and Stain Boy is his name.

He can’t fly around tall buildings,
or outrun a speeding train,
the only talent he seems to have
is to leave a nasty stain.

Sometimes I know it bothers him,
that he can’t run or swim or fly,
and because of this one ability,
his dry cleaning bill is sky-high.


Unwisely, Santa offered a teddy bear to James, unaware that
he had been mauled by a grizzly earlier that year


There once was a morose melonhead,
who sat there all day
and wished he were dead.

But you should be careful
about the things that you wish.
Because the last thing he heard
was a deafening squish.

The entire book can be found here: http://homepage.eircom.net/~sebulbac/burton/home.html

It is apparent that Tim Burton has transferred his dark and sadly humorous artistic ability into writing and illustrating this one hundred and thirteen page book.

His Character Stain Boy has become the main character in many animated short films by Tim Burton, and has been accompanied by many of the other characters from his book of short stories and poetry.

On June 10th 2009 Los Angeles Times had this to say about Tim Burton: “When not making movies, the corkscrew-haired auteur has carved out a side career as a graphic illustrator and artist for nonfilm (and highly personal) projects, giving his brush and pencil free license to translate his creepy imagination to paper. Many of these works have never been seen by the public, but starting in November, a career retrospective dedicated to Burton at New York’s Museum of Modern Art will give his legion of fans a chance to observe these creations in person.”

Some of his art work that will be featured for a limited time include:


Untitled (Romeo and Juliet). 1981–84


Untitled (Frankenweenie). 1982

Another very interesting place to see Tim Burton’s art work is: http://www.timburton.com/ there you get to control Stain Boy and walk through some of Tim Burton’s art galleries.

While Tim Burton is more well known for his films, it can be seen that he has been and continues to be greatly inspired by books.  He is without a doubt one the most artistic and visual directors of our time.  You can tell that he really thinks about every shot and many of the images that we see in his movies look as if they are works of art.








  1. great job!

    I love, love, love Tim Burton! 😀

    Comment by Fabiola Franco — November 2, 2009 @ 9:25 am | Reply

  2. Wow I didnt know Tim Burton had other characters and poetry…Great job

    Comment by cja4 — November 2, 2009 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

  3. wow Frankendisney.

    Comment by Jeremiah — November 3, 2009 @ 2:59 am | Reply

  4. Thanks for this – I’ve only know Burton, and loved him, as a film maker. I’m definitely going to check out his books. And, I will keep my fingers crossed that the museum retrospective will come to LA!

    Comment by elizjurgen — November 4, 2009 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  5. I love seeing the progression of his arts, it’s so rare that a film maker is able to change evolve as he has been able to. It’s good to see a retrospective coming up at MoMA

    Comment by ahime — November 12, 2009 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

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