Pee-wee's Big AdventureNot long after, actor Paul Reubens saw Frankenweenie and chose Burton to direct the cinematic spin-off of his popular character Pee-wee Herman. Pee-wee Herman gained mainstream popularity with a successful stage show at The Groundlings and then the Roxy which was later turned into an HBO special. The film, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), was made on a budget of $8 million and grossed more than $40 million at the box office. Burton, a fan of the eccentric musical group Oingo Boingo, asked songwriter Danny Elfman to provide the music for the film. Since then, Elfman has scored every film that Tim Burton has directed except for Ed Wood (because of a falling out that they had) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street because the music was based on Stephen Sondheim's musical.
BeetlejuiceAfter directing episodes for the revitalized version of '50s/'60s anthology horror series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, Burton received his next big project: Beetlejuice (1988), a supernatural comedy horror about a young couple forced to cope with life after death, and the family of pretentious yuppies who invade their treasured New England home. Their teenage daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) has an obsession with death which allows her to see the deceased couple. Starring Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, and featuring Michael Keaton as the obnoxious bio-exorcist Beetlejuice, the film grossed $80 million on a relatively low budget and won an Academy Award for Best Makeup. It would be converted into a cartoon of the same name, with Burton playing a role as executive producer, that ran on ABC and later Fox.
BatmanBurton's ability to produce hits with low budgets impressed studio executives, and he received his first big budget film, Batman. The production was plagued with problems. Burton repeatedly clashed with the film's producers, Jon Peters and Peter Guber, but the most notable debacle involved casting. For the title role, Burton chose to cast Michael Keaton as Batman following their previous collaboration in Beetlejuice, despite Keaton's average physique, inexperience with action films, and reputation as a comic actor. Although Burton won in the end, the furor over the casting provoked enormous fan animosity, to the extent that Warner Brothers' share price slumped. Burton had considered it ridiculous to cast a "bulked-up" ultra-masculine man as Batman, insisting that the Caped Crusader should be an ordinary (albeit fabulously wealthy) man who dressed up in an elaborate bat costume to frighten criminals. Burton cast Jack Nicholson as The Joker (Tim Curry being his second choice) in a move that helped assuage fans' fears, as well as attracting older audiences not as interested in a superhero film.
When the film opened in June 1989, it was backed by the biggest marketing and merchandising campaign in film history at the time, and became one of the biggest box office hits of all time, grossing well over US$250 million in the US alone and $400 million worldwide (numbers not adjusted for inflation) and earning critical acclaim for the performances of both Keaton and Nicholson, as well as the film's production aspects, which won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. The success of the film helped establish Burton as a profitable director, and it also proved to be a huge influence on future superhero films, which eschewed the bright, all-American heroism of Richard Donner's Superman for a grimmer, more realistic look and characters with more psychological depth. It also became a major inspiration for the successful 1990s cartoon Batman: The Animated Series, in as much as the darkness of the picture and its sequel allowed for a darker Batman on television.
Burton claimed that The Killing Joke was a major influence on his film adaptation of Batman:
"I was never a giant comic book fan, but I've always loved the image of Batman and the Joker. The reason I've never been a comic book fan — and I think it started when I was a child — is because I could never tell which box I was supposed to read. I don't know if it was dyslexia or whatever, but that's why I loved The Killing Joke, because for the first time I could tell which one to read. It's my favorite. It's the first comic I've ever loved. And the success of those graphic novels made our ideas more acceptable."
Edward ScissorhandsIn 1990, Burton co-wrote (with Caroline Thompson) and directed Edward Scissorhands, re-uniting with Winona Ryder from Beetlejuice. His friend Johnny Depp, a teen idol at the end of the 1980s due primarily to his work on the hit TV series 21 Jump Street, was cast in the title role of Edward, who was the creation of an eccentric and old-fashioned inventor (played by Vincent Price in one of his last screen appearances). Edward looked human, but was left with scissors in the place of hands due to the untimely death of his creator. Set in suburbia (and shot in Lutz, Florida), the film is largely seen as Burton's autobiography of his childhood in Burbank. Depp wrote a similar comment in the foreword to Mark Salisbury's book, Burton on Burton, regarding his first meeting with Burton over the casting of the film. Edward is considered one of Burton's best movies by some critics. Following this collaboration with Burton, Depp starred in Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows.
In 2004, Matthew Bourne came to Burton with the idea to turn the story of Edward into a ballet. In 2005, the ballet first aired. It has now toured the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and parts of Europe.
Batman ReturnsThe day Warner Brothers had declined to make the more personal Scissorhands even after the success of Batman, Burton finally agreed to direct the sequel for Warner Brothers on the condition that he would be granted total control. The result was Batman Returns which featured Michael Keaton returning as the Dark Knight, and a new triad of villains: Danny DeVito (as the Penguin), Michelle Pfeiffer (as Catwoman) and Christopher Walken as Max Shreck, an evil corporate tycoon and original character created for the film (similar to Superman III's Ross Webster). Darker and considerably more personal than its predecessor, concerns were raised that the film was too scary for children. Audiences were even more uncomfortable at the film's overt sexuality, personified by the sleek, fetish-inspired styling of Catwoman's costume. One critic remarked, "too many villains spoiled the Batman", highlighting Burton's decision to focus the storyline more on the villains instead of Batman. The film also polarized the fanbase, with some loving the darkness and quirkiness, while others felt it was not true to the core aspects of the source material. Burton made many changes to the Penguin which would subsequently be applied to the character in both comics and television. While in the comics, he was an ordinary man, Burton created a freak of nature resembling a penguin with webbed, flipper-like fingers, a hooked, beak-like nose, and a penguin-like body (resulting in a rotund, obese man). Released in 1992, Batman Returns grossed $282.8 million worldwide, making it another financial success, though not to the extent of its predecessor.
The Nightmare Before ChristmasNext, Burton wrote and produced (but did not direct, due to schedule constraints on Batman Returns) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) for Disney, originally meant to be a children's book in rhyme. The film was directed by Henry Selick and written by Caroline Thompson, based on Burton's original story, world and characters. The film received positive reviews for the film's stop motion animation, musical score and original storyline and was a box office success, grossing $50 million. Burton collaborated with Selick again for James and the Giant Peach (1996), which Burton co-produced. The film helped to generate a renewed interest in stop motion animation.
Cabin BoyIn 1994, Burton and frequent co-producer Denise Di Novi produced the 1994 fantasy-comedy Cabin Boy, starring comedian Chris Elliott and directed/written by Adam Resnick. Burton was originally supposed to direct the film after seeing Elliott perform on Get a Life, but handed the directing responsibility to Resnick once he was offered Ed Wood. The film was almost entirely panned by critics, even earning Chris Elliott a 1995 Razzie Award for "Worst New Star". The film also has a 45% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating more mixed contemporary reviews.
Ed WoodHis next film, Ed Wood (1994), was of a much smaller scale, depicting the life of Ed Wood, a filmmaker sometimes called "the worst director of all time". Starring Johnny Depp in the title role, the film is an homage to the low-budget science fiction and horror films of Burton's childhood, and handles its comical protagonist and his motley band of collaborators with surprising fondness and sensitivity. Owing to creative squabbles during the making of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman declined to score Ed Wood, and the assignment went to Howard Shore. While a commercial failure at the time of its release, Ed Wood was well received by critics. Martin Landau received an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi and the film received the award for Best Makeup.
Batman ForeverDespite his intention to still lead the Batman franchise, Warner Bros. considered Batman Returns too dark and unsafe for children. To attract the young audience, it was decided that Joel Schumacher, who had directed films like The Client, lead the third film, while Burton would only produce it in conjunction with Peter MacGregor-Scott. Following this change and the changes made by the new director, Michael Keaton resigned from the lead role and was replaced by Val Kilmer. Filming began in late 1994 with new actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Chris O'Donnell and Jim Carrey; the only two actors who returned were Pat Hingle and Michael Gough. The film, a combination of the darkness that characterized the saga and colors and neon signs proposed by Schumacher, was a huge box office success, earning $336 million, in spite of the controversy over the characters and plot. Warner Bros. demanded that Schumacher delete some scenes so the film did not have the same tone as its predecessor, Batman Returns (later was added as deleted scenes on the 2005 DVD release). Schumacher was rehired to lead another sequel, the infamous Batman & Robin, in which Burton, for unknown reasons, did not participate.
James and the Giant Peach
In 1996, Burton and Selick reunited for the musical fantasy James and the Giant Peach, based on the book by Roald Dahl. The film, a combination of live action and stop motion footage, starred Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, David Thewlis, Simon Callow and Jane Leeves among others, with Burton producing and Selick directing. The film was mostly praised by critics, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score (by Randy Newman).
Mars Attacks!Elfman and Burton reunited for Mars Attacks! (1996). Based on a popular science fiction trading card series, the film was a hybrid of 1950s science fiction and 1970s all-star disaster films. Coincidence made it an inadvertent spoof of the blockbuster Independence Day, which had been released five months earlier. The film boasted an all-star cast, including Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Sarah Jessica Parker, Natalie Portman, Lukas Haas, Martin Short, Rod Steiger, Christina Applegate and Jack Black.
Sleepy HollowSleepy Hollow, released in late 1999, had a supernatural setting and contained another offbeat performance by Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, now a detective with an interest in forensic science rather than the schoolteacher of Washington Irving's original tale. With Hollow, Burton paid homage to the horror films of the English company Hammer Films. Christopher Lee, one of Hammer's stars, was given a cameo role. A host of Burton regulars appeared in supporting roles (Michael Gough, Jeffrey Jones and Christopher Walken, among others) and Christina Ricci was cast as Katrina van Tassel. A well-regarded supporting cast was headed by Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Richard Griffiths and Ian McDiarmid. Mostly well received by critics, and with a special mention to Elfman's Gothic score, the film won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, as well as two BAFTAs for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. A box office success, Sleepy Hollow was also a turning point for Burton. Along with change in his personal life (separation from actress Lisa Marie), Burton changed radically in style for his next project, leaving the haunted forests and colorful outcasts behind to go on to directing Planet of the Apes which, as Burton had repeatedly noted, was "not a remake" of the earlier film.
Planet of the ApesPlanet of the Apes was a commercial success, grossing $68 million in its opening weekend. The film has received mixed reviews and is widely considered inferior to the first adaptation of the novel.
Big FishIn 2003, Burton directed Big Fish, based on the novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace. The film is about a father telling the story of his life to his son using exaggeration and color. Starring Ewan McGregor as young Edward Bloom and Albert Finney as an older Edward Bloom, the film also stars Jessica Lange, Billy Crudup, Danny DeVito, Alison Lohman and Marion Cotillard. Big Fish is also notable as Miley Cyrus' first film—she plays "Young Ruthie" credited under her birth name, Destiny Hope Cyrus. Big Fish received four Golden Globe nominations as well as an Academy Award nomination for Elfman's score. Big Fish was also the second collaboration between Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, who played the characters of Jenny and the Witch.
Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Roald Dahl. Starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Bucket, the film generally took a more faithful approach to the source material than the 1971 adaptation, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, although some liberties were taken, such as adding Wonka's issue with his father (played by Christopher Lee). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was later nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The film made over $207 million domestically. Filming proved difficult as Burton and Danny Elfman had to work on this and Burton's Corpse Bride at the same time.
Corpse BrideCorpse Bride (2005) was Burton's first full-length stop motion film as a director, featuring the voices of Johnny Depp as Victor and Helena Bonham Carter (for whom the project was specifically created) as Emily in the lead roles. In this film, Burton was able again to use his familiar styles and trademarks, such as the complex interaction between light and darkness, and of being caught between two irreconcilable worlds.
"Bones""Bones" (2006) was the first music video Burton directed. The song "Bones" is the sixth overall single by American indie rock band The Killers, the second released from their second studio album, Sam's Town. Starring in this video were actors Michael Steger and Devon Aoki. Also featured in the video are scenes from films like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jason and the Argonauts and Lolita.
The band, as well as Steger and Aoki, change temporarily into partial CG skeletal versions of themselves, before becoming complete skeletons by the end of the video. At the 2007 Shockwaves NME Awards, it won the award for Best Video.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetThe DreamWorks/Warner Bros. production was released on December 21, 2007. Burton's work on Sweeney Todd won the National Board of Review Award for Best Director, received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director and won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction. Helena Bonham Carter won an Evening Standard British Film Award for her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, as well as a Golden Globe nomination. The film blends explicit gore and Broadway tunes, and was well received by critics. Johnny Depp was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for the role of Sweeney Todd. Depp also won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy, as well as the award for Best Villain as Todd in the 2008 MTV Awards.
9In 2005, filmmaker Shane Acker released his short film 9, a story about a sentient rag doll living in a post-apocalyptic world who tries to stop machines from destroying the rest of his eight fellow rag dolls. The film won numerous awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. After seeing the short film, Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, director of Wanted, showed interest in producing a feature-length adaptation of the film. Directed by Acker, the full-length film was produced by Burton, written by Acker (story) and Pamela Pettler (screenplay, co-writer of Corpse Bride) and featured the voice work of Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Crispin Glover and Fred Tatasciore, among others. This was Burton's first animated movie aside from his stop motion films.
Alice in WonderlandIn Burton's version, the story is set 13 years after the original Lewis Carroll tales. Mia Wasikowska, who featured in the HBO series In Treatment and Defiance, was cast as Alice. The original start date was May 2008. Torpoint and Plymouth were the locations used for filming from September 1 – October 14, and the film remains set in the Victorian era. During this time, filming took place in Antony House in Torpoint. 250 local extras were chosen in early August. Other production work took place in London. The film was originally to be released in 2009, but was pushed to March 5, 2010. Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter, while Matt Lucas, star of Little Britain, is both Tweedledee and Tweedledum; Helena Bonham Carter portrays the Red Queen; Stephen Fry is the Cheshire Cat; Anne Hathaway stars as the The White Queen; Alan Rickman voices Absolem the Caterpillar, Michael Sheen voices McTwisp the White Rabbit and Crispin Glover's head and voice were added onto a CGI body to play the Knave of Hearts.
Tim Burton appeared at the 2009 Comic-Con in San Diego, California, to promote both 9 and Alice in Wonderland. When asked about the filmmaking process by an attendee, he mentioned his "imaginary friend" who helps him out, prompting Johnny Depp to walk on stage to the applause of the audience. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.
Dark ShadowsBurton's film Dark Shadows once again starred Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in leading roles. The film was based on the original Dark Shadows gothic soap opera, which aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971. Other members of the cast included Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote, Gulliver McGrath and Chloë Grace Moretz. Filming began in April 2011, with the film released on May 11, 2012. Danny Elfman once again composed and conducted the score and soundtrack for the film, and Colleen Atwood was the costume designer. It has received mixed reviews from critics, some of whom think it is a tongue-in-cheek gothic comedy, visually appealing and fitting as an adaptation of the melodramatic soap opera, whereas others think the film has a very loose plot, is not particularly humorous, and that Burton and Depp's collaborative efforts have worn thin. Depp's performance has also had a mixed reception, with some claiming that his performance is the best thing about the film, while others have accused him of overacting.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterBurton co-produced Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, with Timur Bekmambetov, who also served as director (they previously worked together in 9). The film, released on June 22, 2012, was based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the film's screenplay and also authored Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The film starred Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln, Anthony Mackie as William H. Johnson, Joseph Mawle as Lincoln's father Thomas, Robin McLeavy as Lincoln's mother Nancy and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lincoln's love interest (and later wife) Mary Ann Todd. It has received mixed reviews.
FrankenweenieBurton remade his 1984 short film Frankenweenie as a feature-length stop motion film, distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. He has said, "The film is based on a memory that I had when I was growing up and with my relationship with a dog that I had." The film was released on October 5, 2012 and met with positive reviews. He continues to work on new movies.