After a struggling early career, Tim Burton finally found his niche in the industry, and soon, he began positioning himself on the top ranks of Hollywood filmmaking fame. Although there were a few missteps in some of his works, almost all of his films became critically acclaimed and/or blockbuster hits.
Tim Burton Biography: From His Early Years to His Early Career as a Filmmaker
Tim Burton Biography: From His Early Career to His Rise to Hollywood Fame as an A-list Director
Tim Burton Filmography: His Early Works as a Filmmaker (1971 to 1990)
Batman Returns (1992)
The success of Edward Scissorhands led to another Warner Bros. project, the sequel to Batman entitled Batman Returns. Burton agreed to direct the film as long as he has total control over the project. Michael Keaton returned as the Dark Knight. A new triad of villains was presented in the story: Danny DeVito as the Penguin, Michelle Preiffer as Catwoman, and Christopher Walken as Max Shreck. Darker and considerably more personal than its predecessor, the general audience became more uncomfortable with the film’s treatment.
Focusing the story more on the villains than with Batman, many conservative viewers felt it was too scary for children. Moreover, many didn’t expect the overt sexuality personified by the sleek, fetish-inspired styling of the costume of Catwoman. Some loved the darkness and quirkiness of the film, but others were disappointed with the fact that the core aspects of the source material were lost.
Batman Returns grossed $282.8 million worldwide. While also a financially successful movie, it did not perform as good as its predecessor. It was the last Batman film featuring Burton as the director and Keaton as the Dark Knight.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Although directed by friend and colleague Henry Sselick, The Nightmare Before Christmas was a brainchild of Tim Burton. Due to conflicts of schedule with filming Batman Returns, he produced the film while Selick took the directing job. Based on Burton’s original story, world, and characters, it was a box office success and it renewed the people’s interest for stop-motion animation. This fruitful partnership led to another film Burton produced and Selick directed: the 1996 film James and the Giant Peach, another stop-motion animation project.
Ed Wood (1994)
Ed Wood was considerably of much smaller scale than Burton’s Batman movies. Paying homage to the childhood memories of his preferred low-budget sci-fi and horror films, this film depicted the life of Ed Wood, the filmmaker often referred to as “The Worst Director of All Time.” Johnny Depp starred in the title role. Martin Landau received the Best Supporting Actor Award at the Oscars for his portrayal of Béla Lugosi. Burton’s x-fiancée Lisa Marie also starred in the film as Vampira. Although it was a commercial failure during its theatrical release, critics loved the film and it soon became another Burton classic.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
A hybrid of 1950s science fiction movies and 1970s all-star disaster flicks, Mars Attacks! was based on a popular science fiction trading card series. It delves on the story of a spacecraft reportedly launched from Mars and was heading to the Earth. It had an all-star cast including Jack Nicholson, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman, Lisa Marie, Annette Benning, Pierce Brosnan, Lukas Haas, Martin Short, Glenn Close, Jack Black, and Rod Steiger. Although it had its own fan base, many critics and the general audience found the film a much less feat for Burton. Coincidentally, it also had a clash on another alien invasion movie entitled Independence Day which was released about five months earlier.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Sleepy Hollow featured another offbeat performance from Johnny Depp. Another box office success with Burton at helm, the film paid homage to the horror movies Burton watched during his younger years: mainly the movies of the English company Hammer Films. Christopher Lee, one of Hammer’s stars, made a cameo role in Sleepy Hollow. There were a number of frequent Burton collaborators also appearing in supporting roles for the film including Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, and Jeffrey Jones. The film also featured Christina Ricci who played the role of Katrina van Tassel.
Sleepy Hollow had good reviews from the critics. Danny Elfman’s gothic score was well-received as well. The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and two BAFTAs for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design.
The World of Stainboy (2000)
Using his own film company, Burton returned back to his roots by making animated short film in the realm of his darkly mischievous and funny creations. The story came from his book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. A story about a character visiting his troubled past, this film project was composed of six episodes including The Girl Who Stares, The Toxic Boy, The Bowling Ball, The Robot Boy, The Match Girl, and Stainboy’s Day Off. The series exuded a sense of parody about superheroes. Its setting considerably mirrored Burbank, Burton’s hometown in California.
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