Tim Burton is having another double feature year in 2012, like he did in 2005 when he released Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride in the same year. This year we will again see him release two new films with Dark Shadows opening this weekend and another animated Halloween themed film, Frankenweenie, being released in October.
Tim Burton’s body of work consists almost exclusively of darkly comic but sensitive children’s tales of eccentric awkward characters who discover an alternate world where everyone is weird; The Nightmare before Christmas (1993), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Mars Attacks! (1996), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Beetlejuice (1988). These whimsical tales explore and exploit our fears and prejudices with humor and playfulness but never lose their poignant significance. Even his more adult films cannot escape Burton’s sense of dark comedy and youthful exuberance; Ed Wood (1994), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007).
As fantastical and quirky as these visually striking films are, they also contain a melancholy that’s grounded in relevant human emotions. What makes a Tim Burton film so special is the familiar themes of a sensitive, withdrawn, misunderstood and teased loner, (usually played by Johnny Depp, Tim Burton’s alter ego), whose unusual appearance or ideas doesn’t quite fit in with those of mainstream society and must overcome his or her fears, doubts and bullies. The well-meaning, good-hearted outsider, through determination, conviction and a lot of humor, eventually gains self-confidence and the admiration of his or her peers while finding love.
The surreal visual style and set design of his films are so outrageous and eye-popping that the audience feels completely immersed in a dream like world of childlike wonder. What’s so funny about all of Burton’s characters is how they all start out as being strangely out of place, completely at odds with their environment, and by winning the hearts of the locals with charm and vulnerability, they slowly manage to inspire acceptance and transform that environment into something new and wonderful.
The squeamish detective who must solve a murder mystery using unorthodox new techniques in the spooky town of Sleepy Hollow, a shy melancholic groom forced into an arranged marriage, finds himself trapped in the lively underworld of the dead and revives the lifeless world of the living by inviting ghostly guests to his wedding in Corpse Bride, and the Pumpkin King Jack Skellington accidentally finds himself in the snowy world of Christmas town and decides to bring a little of his Halloween town into the world of Santa Clause in The Nightmare before Christmas. These are just a few examples of the strange alternate worlds and displaced characters that transform their environments in Tim Burton’s films.
Dark Shadows is no exception, based on the 1960s TV soap opera of the same name, a wealthy 18th century English immigrant in New England, America is cursed and buried alive only to be unearthed and woken 200 years later as a Vampire in the disco era of 1972.
You can currently see a Tim Burton art exhibition showcasing artwork, props, costumes and sculptures from many of his films in Paris, France from March 7th, 2012 until August 5th, 2012.