Monday, September 5, 2011

Tim Burton

I am not entirely sure who drew this caricature of Tim, but it most likely is a Glen Keane sketch.
After I passed the training program at Disney in 1980 I was asked to help out with character designs for the upcoming production of "The Black Cauldron."
"The Fox and the Hound" was still being finished by the animation crew, and there was a need to come up with visuals for the next feature.  Producer Joe Hale told me."There is this other young guy who draws in his own unique style, maybe the two of you can come up with a new look for Disney".
That other guy turned out to be Tim Burton, and I moved into a nice roomy office with him. 
Tim's stuff was amazing, and it seemed odd that I was asked to "disneyfy" it.
But I did try to go over his drawings, and each time I altered them to make them look closer to the Disney conventional style, I noticed that the essence of Tim's designs got lost. Tim went over some of my drawings as well, but the whole thing became somewhat frustrating.
Nevertheless the two of us got along well, we just found ourselves in this strange
I remember one time Tim told me he was going to take a class in children's book illustration. One of his assignments was "Fun with Numbers", and he showed me what he had come up with. I told him how funny they were, and he gave me some of the out takes. Over time I ended up with a few other gag drawings or illustrations, Tim didn't have use for.

In the end the studio decided not to use his ideas and concepts, and understandably Tim moved on. He started producing stop motion as well as live action films which all reflected his artistic vision, (as you all know.)

I had lost touch with him over the decades until last March, when I visited the set of his upcoming stop motion feature "Frankenweenie" in London. Tim happened to be around and he gave me a warm welcome. We reminisced briefly about our year together, and then he said the funniest thing: "You know, I just had a dream about you and me being back in that Disney office." I replied: "I hope it wasn't a nightmare."

And by the way..."Frankenweenie" is going to be fantastic!!


  1. Tim's work is wonderful - I've been a fan of his work for a while and wrote my dissertation on him for my University degree. I'm afraid my dissertation doesn't do his work justice, but I was young and deply in love with his style! Perhaps a more critical distance would have helped.

    I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but I have a friend of a friend who's working on Frankenweenie right now, and he's offered to take me round the studio. I nearly bit his hand off in eagerness!

    Tim's a charismatic and thoughtful artist who strikes a chord almost immediately with his audience on a profound, absurdist level. It's really interesting to know you were roomies!


  2. I agree! Glad he is finally getting to make the "Frankenweenie" he intended. He seems like a very nice down to earth guy, I had the privilege of being at the opening of his LACMA exhibit and it's just so much stuff! I remember the story you told of your time on "Black Cauldron" when you came to visit LCAD a few years ago and I was so happy to see the drawings you spoke of. I loved the whole exhibit and looking forward to seeing it again before it leaves. (there are some sculpts there from the upcoming film as well) ;)

  3. It's so exciting to hear that Tim Burton will be doing more stop motion! I really love his animation work.

    Thank you so much for posting these! It's really interesting to see his work - he has such a strong use of shapes and proportion (but especially shapes). For some reason I'm really drawn to the clown one, even though it seems unusually jolly and friendly for him. (The one of the teacher and the student reminds me a bit of Quentin Blake for some reason.)

    I think I'll have to try adding stronger shapes to my drawings.

  4. Really interesting and fun post. Thanks so much.

  5. Tim has a unique vision. That much is certain! Kind of a dark-side, circus clown thing going to it. Hard to describe, but you can't help but admire his artistic skill. :)

  6. Very cool story, His Lacma show in LA blew me away. 3 decades of work. The feeling I got from his Art is that all the technicality drawing/painting stuff is just gone, and pure IMAGINATION is what takes over from doodling so much. Cant wait for his new project.

  7. Oh my gosh, thank you so much for sharing these drawings. Most of all, thanks for the wonderful story! I'll bet Disney is sorry that they didn't let you guys have creative freedom. Hmmm...maybe the future holds something interesting for the two of you! (One can only hope!)

  8. That might be a Chris Buck drawing of Tim. It was done around the time we all went to Lake Tahoe.

    BTW, thanks for shaving off a decade, Andreas. But, it was 1980... (?)

  9. Sue,
    it was a late night post, I'll change it right now! :)

  10. Great post! Always love hearing about behind the scenes.

  11. His style is so different. A bit to strange sometimes, but brilliant still! Not Disney-style, but certainly Tim Burton-style.

  12. Great Post Andreas,
    I worked on the production of "Frankenweenie" last year as an "Illustrator". Its a great project to be a part of and was a real honour getting to work for my childhood inspiration and having him approve my designs. :)

    Love the blog you have put together Andreas! Its every animation fanatic's dream site!! Good job sir! thank you for posting :)