Tim Burton: “I’m not necessarily a great filmmaker or a great artist, but I like the process that I went through”

Filmmaker Tim Burton’s visit earlier this week to Genk, Belgium, the latest city so far to host his exhibition “The World of Tim Burton,” didn’t go unnoticed. After all, for several decades now, he’s been one of the most creative, innovative, imaginative, visual, and successful filmmakers of his generation.

Previously New York, Paris, Tokyo, São Paolo and Prague had welcomed his exhibition, featuring hundreds of his drawings and paintings, and now the former coal mine (from 1917-1988, with over 6,000 coal miners working there in the early 1950s) and since then entirely renovated C-Mine location which includes ten theaters, exhibition halls, a school, etc., is hosting ‘The World of Tim Burton’ until November 28, 2018. The show was launched by mid-August, and up until now, over 35,000 visitors, including many of them from abroad, have found their way to check out how Tim Burton’s creative brain really functions.

Tim Burton at Genk’s C-Mine in Belgium, during his press conference to promote his exhibition ‘The World of Tim Burton’ | Leo/Film Talk

Mr. Burton, a native Californian born in Burbank in 1958, studied character animation at CalArts before joining nearby’s Disney animation department. Meanwhile, he had already made several shorts as a teenager in his backyard, but he didn’t get noticed until he did the stop-motion animated short “Vincent” (1982, narrated by Vincent Price) for Disney. And the rest, as they say, is history.

As a film director, producer, screenwriter/author, and animator, he made several blockbusters throughout the years, including “Batman” (1989), the sequel “Batman Returns” (1992) and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010, his biggest box office hit with a cumulative worldwide gross of over one billion dollars). But he found his niche in dark, gothic, often eccentric horror and fantasy films such as “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) and “Frankenweenie” (2012). Over the years, he has frequently collaborated with Johnny Depp and composer Danny Elfman, and he often cast his then partners and actresses Lisa Marie (1990s) and Helena Bonham Carter (2000s).

During his stay in Genk, Mr. Burton was available for a short press conference, as you can find out right here.

Mr. Burton, what do you think about the various locations where ‘The World of Tim Burton’ has been exhibited?

Every place where I’ve been to has been an amazing experience for me. They’re all different. Here in this amazing building, with all these machines, it’s just incredible. It’s a beautiful building, and it’s great that something like a mine becomes something so artistic, you just feel it. It’s exciting for anyone who has artistic ambitions to express those feelings.

Tim Burton in Genk, Belgium | Leo/Film Talk

Does this building give you any inspiration?

Well, this is amazing! Obviously, in the old days when they went to work in the mine, it must have been a totally different feeling to enter this building. I think it’s just great that it hasn’t been torn down and has been turned into something very beautiful.

Could you tell something about the development of your visual style in your work and in your films?

What I like about this exhibition is that it shows the process of what it’s like to work. I’m not necessarily a great filmmaker or a great artist, but I like the process that I went through, how something goes from your mind and mutates into something else — sometimes it’s a film, sometimes not, sometimes it’s a drawing, a book, whatever. It’s about all this together, and that’s what kept me going to make things and be creative.

What did it feel like when you looked at your exhibition for the very first time, to look at your past, and at your career?

Before the show first came at MoMA in 2009, Jenny [curator Jenny He] came to me and said, ‘We’d like to go through your stuff.’ So they started looking, found stuff in drawers, in boxes, in closets, all kinds of stuff that I couldn’t even remember that I had, so to me, it was like the most surreal experience ever. I always did those drawings for myself or for projects I wanted to do, and like archeologists they went through everything, and they basically created this sort of scenario in the way that it’s presented. For me, it was like an out-of-body experience like you’re hanging your dirty laundry up the wall. I didn’t expect to see anything like this, so it turned out to be very exciting and surreal. It was a big surprise to me, but I certainly wouldn’t have done it myself.

C-Mine, Genk (Belgium)
September 28, 2018

The poster of “The World of Tim Burton”


THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) DIR James Frawley PROD Jim Henson SCR Jack Burns, Jerry Juhl CAM Isidore Mankofsky ED Christopher Greenbury MUS Paul Williams, Kenny Ascher CAST Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, David Goelz (voice only); Charles Durning, Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom DeLuise, Elliott Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, Orson Welles, Tim Burton (Muppet Performer [uncredited])

PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985) DIR Tim Burton PROD Robert Shapiro SCR Paul Reubens, Phil Hartman, Michael Varhol CAM Victor J. Kemper ED Billy Weber MUS Danny Elfman CAST Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, Judd Omen, Monte Landis, Phil Hartman, Tim Burton (Thug in Alley [uncredited])

BEETLEJUICE (1988) DIR Tim Burton PROD Larry Wilson, Michael Bender, Richard Hashimoto SCR Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren (story by Michael McDowell, Larry Wilson) CAM Thomas E. Ackerman ED Jane Kurson MUS Danny Elfman CAST Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Annie McEnroe, Catherine O’Hara, Sylvia Sidney

BATMAN (1989) DIR Tim Burton PROD Peter Guber, Jon Peters SCR Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren (story by Sam Hamm; characters created by Bob Kane) CAM Roger Pratt ED Ray Lovejoy MUS Danny Elfman CAST Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990) DIR Tim Burton PROD Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi SCR Caroline Thompson (story by Tim Burton, Caroline Thompson) CAM Stefan Czapsky ED Richard Halsey, Colleen Halsey MUS Danny Elfman CAST Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Anthony Olivieri, Conchata Ferrell, Alan Arkin, Vincent Price

BATMAN RETURNS (1992) DIR Tim Burton PROD Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi SCR Daniel Waters (story by Daniel Waters, Sam Hamm; characters created by Bob Kane) CAM Stefan Czapsky ED Chris Lebenzon, Bob Badami MUS Danny Elfman CAST Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Pat Hingle, Paul Reubens, Diane Salinger

SINGLES (1992) DIR – SCR Cameron Crowe PROD Cameron Crowe, Richard Hashimoto CAM Tak Fujimoto, Ueli Steiger ED Richard Chew MUS Paul Westerberg CAST Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Sheila Kelley, Jim True-Frost, Matt Dillon, Bull Pullman, James Le Gros, Eric Stoltz, Tom Skerritt, Cameron Crowe, Tim Burton (Brian)

HOFFA (1992) DIR Danny DeVito PROD Danny DeVito, Caldecot Chubb, Edward R. Pressman SCR David Marnet CAM Stephen H. Burum ED Ronald Roose, Lynzee Klingman MUS David Newman CAST Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Armand Assante, J. T. Walsh, John C. Reilly, Frank Whaley, Kevin Anderson, Jon Favreau, Tim Burton (Corpse [uncredited])

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993, animated) DIR Henry Selick PROD Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi SCR Caroline Thompson (adaptation by Michael McDowell; story and characters by Tim Burton) CAM Pete Kozachik ED Stan Webb MUS Danny Elfman CAST (voice only) Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, Edward Ivory

CABIN BOY (1994) DIR Adam Resnick PROD Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi SCR Adam Resnick (story by Adam Resnick, Chris Elliott) CAM Steve Yaconelli ED Jon Poll MUS Steve Bartek CAST Chris Elliott, Ritch Brinkley, James Gammon, Brian Doyle-Murray, Brion James, Melora Walters, David Letterman, Russ Tamblyn, Ricki Lake, Alfred Molina

ED WOOD (1994) DIR Tim Burton PROD Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi SCR Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski (book by Rudolph Grey) CAM Stefan Czapsky ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Howard Shore CAST Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones, G. D. Spradlin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Bill Murray, Lisa Marie, Juliet Landau

BATMAN FOREVER (1995) DIR Joel Schumacher PROD Tim Burton, Peter Macgregor-Scott SCR Akiva Goldsman, Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler (story by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler; characters created by Bob Kane) CAM Stephen Goldblatt ED Mark Stevens, Dennis Virkler MUS Elliott Goldenthal CAST Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr.

MARS ATTACKS! (1996) DIR Tim Burton PROD Tim Burton, Larry Franco SCR Jonathan Gems (also story; trading card series by Norman Saunders, Len Brown, Bob Powell, Woody Gelman, Wally Wood) CAM Peter Suschitzky ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Paul Winfield, Pam Grier, Jack Black, Christina Applegate, Jerzy Skolimowski, Barbet Schroeder

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996, animated) DIR Henry Selick PROD Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi SCR Steve Bloom, Jonathan Roberts, Karey Kirkpatrick (book by Roald Dahl) CAM Pete Kozachik (animation), Hiro Narita (live action) ED Stan Webb MUS Randy Newman CAST (voice only) Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves, Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes, Pete Postlethwaite, Susan Sarandon, Paul Terry

SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) DIR Tim Burton PROD Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder SCR Andrew Kevin Walker (screen story by Andrew Kevin Walker, Kevin Yagher; story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving) CAM Emmanuel Lubezki ED Chris Lebenzon, Joel Negron MUS Danny Elfman CAST Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Walken, Lisa Marie, Christopher Lee, Martin Landau

PLANET OF THE APES (2001) DIR Tim Burton PROD Richard D. Zanuck SCR Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner, William Broyles, Jr. CAM Philippe Rousselot ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, David Warner, Lisa Marie, Rick Baker, Charlton Heston

BIG FISH (2003) DIR Tim Burton PROD Richard D. Zanuck, Bruce Cohen SCR John August (novel by Daniel Wallace) CAM Philippe Rousselot ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman, Robert Guillaume, Marion Cotillard, Miley Cyrus

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) DIR Tim Burton PROD Richard D. Zanuck, Brad Grey SCR John August (book by Roald Dahl) CAM Philippe Rousselot ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter, David Kelly, Noah Taylor, Missi Pyle, James Fox, Christopher Lee

CORPSE BRIDE (2005, animated) DIR Tim Burton, Mike Johnson PROD Tim Burton, Allison Abbate SCR John August, Caroline Thompson, Pamela Pettler (characters created by Tim Burton, Carlos Grangel) CAM Pete Kozachik ED Chris Lebenzon, Jonathan Lucas MUS Danny Elfman CAST (voice only) Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Tracy Ullman, Paul Whitehouse, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant, Christopher Lee, Danny Elfman

SWEENET TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2007) DIR Tim Burton PROD Richard D. Zanuck, John Logan, Laurie MacDonald SCR John Logan (musical by Hugh Wheeler; musical adaptation by Christopher Bond) CAM Darius Wolski ED Chris Lebenzon CAST Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly

9 (2009, animated) DIR Shane Acker PROD Tim Burton, Jim Lemley, Dana Ginsburg, Timur Bekmambetov SCR Pamela Pettler (story by Shane Acker) CAM Kevin R. Adams ED Nick Kenway MUS Deborah Lurie CAST (voice only) Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Fred Tatasciore, Alan Oppenheimer

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) DIR Tim Burton PROD Richard D. Zanuck, Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd SCR  CAM Darius Wolski ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Clover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Imelda Staunton (voice only), Christopher Lee (voice only)

DARK SHADOWS (2012) DIR Tim Burton PROD Richard D. Zanuck, Johnny Depp, Christl Dembrowski, David Kennedy, Graham King SCR Seth Grahame-Smith (story by Seth Grahame-Smith, John August; television series by Dan Curtis) CAM Bruno Delbonnel ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Alice Cooper

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) DIR Timur Bekmambetov PROD Tim Burton, Timur Bekmambetov, Jim Lemley SCR Seth Grahame-Smith (also novel) CAM Caleb Deschanel ED William Hoy MUS Henry Jackman CAST Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson

MEN IN BLACK 3 (2012) DIR Barry Sonnenfeld PROD Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes SCR Etan Cohen (Malibu comic by Lowell Cunningham) CAM Bill Pope ED Don Zimmerman MUS Danny Elfman CAST Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Alice Eve, Rick Baker, Barry Sonnenfeld, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Rip Torn, Tim Burton (Alien on TV Monitors [uncredited])

FRANKENWEENIE (2012, animated) DIR Tim Burton PROD Tim Burton, Allison Abbate SCR John August (original idea by Tim Burton; screenplay of short FRANKENWEENIE [1984] by Leonard Ripps) CAM Peter Sorg ED Chris Lebenzon, Mark Solomon MUS Danny Elfman CAST (voice only) Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Winona Ryder, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell, Christopher Lee

BIG EYES (2014) DIR Tim Burton PROD Tim Burton, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski SCR Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Lynette Howell Taylor CAM Bruno Delbonnel ED JC Bond MUS Danny Elfman CAST Amy Adams, Christopher Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwatrzman, Terence Stamp, Jon Polito

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016) DIR Tim Burton PROD Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping SCR Jane Goldman (novel by Ransom Riggs) CAM Bruno Delbonnel ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Michael Higham, Matthew Margeson CAST Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Terence Stamp, Tim Burton (Passenger on an Attraction [uncredited])

DUMBO (2018) DIR Tim Burton PROD Katterli Frauenfelder, Justin Springer, Ehren Kruger, Derek Frey EXEC PROD Tim Burton SCR Ehren Kruger (novel by Helen Aberson, Harold Pearl) CAM Ben Davis ED Chris Lebenzon MUS Danny Elfman CAST Eva Green, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Alan Arkin, Lucy DeVito, Sandy Martin