Tim Burton is a unique filmmaker known for his surreal gothic fantasy films. Burton was born on August 25, 1958, in Burbank, California. His mother, Jean, owned a cat-themed gift shop, while his father, William, was a former minor league baseball player who then worked for the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department. When Burton was a teenager, he would make short films in his backyard using crude stop-motion animation techniques or shooting on 8 mm film without sound. His oldest known film is a horror animation called The Island of Doctor Agor in 1971. He was heavily influenced by the works of Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl and continued his passion for artwork and watching movies while in high school. After graduating, Burton studied character animation at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Santa Clarita. While a student there, Burton made the shorts Stalk of the Celery Monster and King and Octopus in 1979.
Tim Burton’s Big Break
Stalk of the Celery Monster attracted the attention of Walt Disney Productions, which offered Burton an animator’s apprenticeship at its animation division. He worked as an animator, storyboard artist, graphic designer, art director, and concept artist on The Fox and the Hound (1981), Tron (1982), and The Black Cauldron (1985), but his concept art never made it into the finished films. He made his first short with Disney in 1982, titled Vincent. In 1988, Burton directed Beetlejuice, starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the titular character.
Impressed by achieving success with a low budget, he was offered a big-budget film with 1989’s Batman. In the ’90s, Burton came out with Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow. He has often worked with actors Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Johnny Depp, Lisa Marie, and Helena Bonham Carter. Burton has also worked with composer Danny Elfman, who scored all but three of Burton’s films.
Take a look at our picks of Burton’s best films below.