Inspiration: Tim Burton

Red alert! Red alert! It's October inspiration time. It just so happens that my Halloween inspo is my all-year inspo, but I feel that now is an appropriate time to share. Of course I'm talking about Tim Burton today. When people ask me what I want to do when I grow up, I generally respond "I want to be the female Tim Burton." Well, Tim Burton pre-2010's. (A lot of Burton fans will tell you he went bad after 1999 but I disagree, if only for the sake of Corpse Bride...okay Sweeney Todd too.) Since I'm an art history lady, I want to talk mainly about the visual aspects of Tim Burton's films and how they have inspired me.
BEETLEJUICE. BEETLEJUICE. BEETLEJUICE. Every time I watch this film is it so entertaining and hilarious. I'm not super attached to it, but this is really where we first see Burton's visual style and a theme that will continue through his films: Suburban Goth. Lydia, played by Winona Ryder, is the ultimate muse here, having famously claimed "My life is one big dark room." Seriously, goaaaals. Her bangs and costumes are flawless. Her wedding dress at the end was actually made in DTLA by a designer who makes dresses for Latin American parties like Quinceaneras. Next time I am rollin around the Fasion District I am going to be wondering jealously who got to dress Winona Ryder. Lydia's mother, a wine mom with a taste for *modern art* is dressed all in Japanese designers. Most iconic, though, is Beetlejuice's striped suit. This aesthetic carries through the rest of Burton's films and I feel like the black and white stripe pattern that I so lovingly wore in my emo days is of direct Tim Burton influence. Also check out this cool article: (x).

Omg Edward Scissorhands. Why did I feel that Edward was the perfect man for me when I was 13? I liked leather and misunderstood boys, I guess. This is where we see the true Suburban Goth, with those fucking amazing rainbow houses in contrast with the dark castle on the hill. The juxtaposition between boring people and weirdos was too real. As Tim Burton's first project with Johnny Depp, and really the film that put Johnny Depp on the map, this film holds a special place in my heart. Edward is just a kind boy lost in a world that doesn't understand him. Pair that with the fact that I had reason to believe that I too would find a tortured soul that looked like Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands made me feel "not so alone" as an equally tortured teenager.

Aw okay how could I not mention Nightmare Before Christmas? My boyfriend and I just watched this and admittedly we agreed the best part is definitely the opening in Halloweentown, but this film is fantastic nonetheless. We saw Danny Elfman perform the score at the Hollywood Bowl last year and it was honestly one of the best concerts I've ever been to. In thinking about the visual language of this film, I think it is so much more about movement than any of Burton's other films. The spindly legs of Jack Skellington are so spideresque while Sally is the perfect stiff ragdoll. I am still shocked by how striking the eerie light in this film is--I have no idea how one achieves this in stop-motion filmmaking. More than anything, I think I love this one because it is kind of an exercise in monster-making. The artists really got to dream up all of the Halloween monsters and come up with their personalities in a very funny and charming way.

This is probably my favorite Tim Burton film: Sleepy Hollow!!!! More outcast Johnny Depp goodness. I don't know how I am supposed to believe that no one likes Ichabod because damn, those cheekbones. And then there is my favorite lady, Katrina Van Tassel. More on her coming soon... Because it is set in New England farming village in the fall, the colors in Sleepy Hollow are pretty stark, mostly blacks, greys, and browns. But that, my friends, is what allows for the blood to look so deliciously striking on camera. Burton does an almost orange-red blood which makes it all the more Halloween-y. I also especially love the little nods to steampunk with Ichabods "instruments of his own design." Sleepy Hollow is so Victorian and lovely, even though the time period might not exactly match up with the Victorian era.

And last but not least, Corpse Bride! Again, this one was of emo importance to me. "Can a heart still break once it's stopped beating?" All that unrequited love stuff had me feeling all the feels. This one is actually set in the Victorian era, with main characters named Victoria and Victor. Obviously owing to advances in stop-motion filmmaking, this film appears to be so much sleeker than Nightmare Before Christmas. This allows for more close-ups on the beautiful props used and generally a more ethereal look. The juxtaposition between the living and dead worlds are very fun, but ultimately I just love the character of Emily and her ability to move between the two realms. She is so fun but also a classic Victorian beauty and I mean she turns into butterflies so that's pretty cool.

Tim Burton has always represented escapism for me. So many of his stories are set in suburbia or some Victorian version of " strict normality", but so much magic and weirdness happens there. His films always made me believe that the world might be a little stranger than it appears, which is very important to me I think. He provides Halloween as well as year-round inspiration for me.


  1. I love all of these movies and i love how you describe them especially the line "The juxtaposition between boring people and weirdos was too real." Also thank you for the Beetlejuice article link! He really is so great and I can't help but agree that his newest films have been a bit of a let down. I recently saw his take on Miss Peregrine's Home and even though the aesthetics are spot on I felt the direction itself was a bit lost. x

    1. Yeah I am very nervous to watch that. It looks like it would be very fun visually, but I don't know about Tim's directing style these days.