Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tim Burton Art Exhibit

 A Sketch of Stain Boy, from Burton’s 1998 children’s poetry book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories.”

A retrospective of Tim Burton's work is currently on exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art. We went to have a look at the 700 pieces that were on display.
LACMA also has an installation of 202 street lamps out front
A topiary stag from "Edward Scissorhands" greeted us outside the venue, and even if everything about it was plastic- the mulch-mound it stood on, the hedges around it, and the brightly-colored flowers strewn about- it was still exciting as "Edward Scissorhands" is my personal favorite Tim Burton movie.

Yes, please, I'll take that for my private collection. It'd take up half my front yard, but that would be fine.
Honestly though, my bet is that came from Johnny Depp's private collection. He used to have this giant fiberglass rooster in his yard when he lived in L.A. (read it here) and he did loan some items for Burton's exhibit.
photo: Lance Staedler
Also lurking about on the museum grounds near the cafeteria and gift shop was this giant inflatable Balloon Boy, created by Burton just for this exhibit. The press release described it as "a 21-foot-tall, 8-foot-diameter many-eyed creature, an amalgamation of the tragic characters that Burton first introduced in his 1997 book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories."

Burton also designed the entrance to this special exhibit. Patrons enter through this giant mouth, which has a red carpet for a tongue and a red-and-black spiral wall inside, which I imagine to represent noise and a vibrating uvula.
My theory could be hooey.  I later discovered the entrance to the exhibit while it was in New York looked like this:

Because it was a "special exhibit", separate tickets were required. Even though we had timed-tickets, the line was quite long.
No photography is allowed inside the exhibit, but I didn't hear that until I had snapped a few photos. On the other side of the spiral wall were these dangerous-looking sculptures created for the show based on drawings from Tim's "Creature" series. 

The line was slowly shuffling through the first 2 rooms before it opened up into a broader space. Sometimes the line didn't even move, as this first room had a sculpture of Burton's 2009 drawing "Robot Boy" in the corner and many people were fascinated by it.

The next room seemed to take us to the beginning of Burton's tale. The room was called "Surviving Burbank", and there was a chronology on the wall, starting in 1971 at age 13 with an untitled stop-motion short involving cavemen and a live-action short called "Houdini".  Below that was a display case with so much paper ephemera from his junior high and high school days in Burbank, California, you had to wonder if someone in the family was a hoarder- who else saves a teenager's hand-written list of 20 or so horror movies on blue-line notebook paper?
Some early samples from that wall:

These pages from "The Giant Zlig", a proposed children's book written and illustrated in 1976 by a 17-year old Tim Burton, were on the walls in that room :
He sent the book to Disney and got a sweetly encouraging rejection letter. He also used some of his Giant Zlig art as an automobile mural for a van-painting contest.

Moving into the large third room called "Beautifying Burbank", we see several free-standing walls with many framed pieces of concept art for unrealized projects, and you can see a progression in technique and persistent themes. Subject matter includes animals and clowns. After graduating from high school, Burton attended the California Institute for the Arts. He continued to make short films and by 1979, Burton became a puppeteer for The Muppet Movie. In 1971 he became an apprentice animator for Walt Disney Pictures "The Fox and the Hound." In 1982, at age 23,  he wrote a manuscript for another children's book called "Numbers", and Walt Disney Pictures gave him the green light on his animated short "Vincent", about a boy who idolized Vincent Price. This image from the movie appears on the tickets to the exhibit:

Here's an image of a young Tim Burton with models for "Vincent":

Vincent Price even voiced his animated character. "Vincent" was being screened  on a monitor at the museum. It was quite enjoyable, and I'm not surprised to learn it earned several awards.

The large canvas in the center of this wall is an oil painting called "Blue Girl with Wine", from 1997:

A closer look:

Notice that Blue Girl has facial scars similar to Sally from "Nightmare Before Christmas".

I loved the layering in this drawing with an "Unknown" title that has a pet cemetery:


I can admire this artwork of a pet cemetery, but I won't be able to watch his Frankenweenie movie, a remake of his 1984 film about a dog brought back to life, Frankenstein-style, after it is hit by a car. That just hits too close to home for me. Frankenweenie is due out October 2012.

Besides paintings, there were also small sculptural models based on his artwork.

That sure looks like Tim Burton on the left in this small sculpture!

You could clearly see Tim Burton had several different styles of drawing, but the same types of characters and subject matter was recurrent.  This room also had two of Burton's very early films playing: the aforementioned "Vincent", and "Hansel and Gretel", a live-action short from 1983 that aired once on the Disney Channel. It is shown playing on the right in this photo:

Tim Trivia: Did you know Tim Burton had cameo acting roles? Here he is in 1992's  "Singles":

"Singles" starred Bridget Fonda, who grew up to marry Danny Elfman, Burton's favorite composer for his movies and it was Elfman who provided the music you hear while viewing this exhibit.
(By the way, I have a co-worker named Tim Burton, and he is the exact opposite of this Tim Burton.)

Moving on at the museum, we then passed through a small black-lit transition room that featured a rotating carousel based on one of his drawings:

 We enter the final room, called "Beyond Burbank". This covers approximately 1988 to the present, and includes several costume pieces from his films, such as masks and a Catwoman suit from "Batman" and a mannequin dressed in the Edward Scissorhands costume.

The scissor hands were housed in their own showcase:

Burton's hand-written concept for Edward Scissorhands:

Here is the scarecrow from "Sleepy Hollow":

When the exhibit was in Melbourne, they promoted it with a headless horseman in a carriage on the streets!
photo by Dhani

The next room held only these air-blown figures that whipped around:
And just like at Disneyland, the ride dumped you out in a store filled with Tim Burton merchandise, such as Alice in Wonderland items and various books.

The Tim Burton exhibit runs until Halloween 2011, and related events include a costume party, matinee showings of Burton's movies,  and a Price-a-thon film series. More pictures at the museum's website.


  1. I saw this exhibition when it was in Melbourne (Australia), last year! It was fabulous, but the carousel exhibit, from "Beetlejuice", broke down on the day, alas!

    We had to queue for 4 hours to get in - the lines went around the block - but it was definitely worth it!

  2. By the way, the Headless Horseman carriage was BRILLIANT!! The horses trotted past several times during the long wait. It was very cool!

  3. Fabulous exhibit! He's a creepy little bugger. Of course I mean that in the nicest way.

  4. @Little Gothic Horrors: a 4-hour queue?! Glad you deemed it worth the long wait. That's MUCH longer than our queue was. I guess there is real value to the tickets being timed.

  5. One of our little group kept going on coffee runs for us. Of course, that created another little problem... suffice to say, there was a race to the bathrooms when we were finally allowed in the door!

  6. Oh my! You were so lucky to get to see this! I love the scary mouth entrance. I think Tim Burton is such a creative genius!

  7. I'm obsessed with Tim Burton he's my favourite director/writer/creator/artist of all time. I was even a huge fan of his when I was about 5 without even knowing. My fave films were Pee Wee, Edward Scissorhands and Nightmare Before Christmas, when I was older and I understood about film making I was in such awe. I was a little upset the other day when I heard a little Emo kid describe NBC as a story about being dead...WTF??? Grrr, any way Tim Burton wooo. I'm jealous!


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