HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TIM BURTON, BORN AUGUST 25, 1958.
If it’s cliche to like Tim Burton, I don’t care. In honor of the big 6-1, here are 6-plus-1 reasons why Burton will always have a special place in my weirdly-proportioned, Suburban Gothic heart.
1. Sure, he’s won a ton of awards for being a crazy-talented filmmaker/animator/artist/writer, but I give him the biggest award for being involved in my first (conscious) act of rebellion: watching Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) over and over at my BFF Jessica’s house — even though my mom had explicitly told me I was not allowed to due to it being “dark.” Kudos, too, for creating a film that delights me as much at age 30 as it did at age 5.
2. Burton brought to the screen so many of my favorite books — from James and the Giant Peach (1996) to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2004) to Alice in Wonderland (2010) to name a few — not to mention his extensive work with comicbook characters and fairy tale adaptations. I like weird stories. Burton gives me the visual weirdness that these stories deserve. Also, I have never looked at shapes in clouds the same since 1996. It’s terrifying. And I love it.
3. I will watch Edward Scissorhands in spring, summer, fall, and winter (ditto for Nightmare, but this film deserves its own number). It fills me with Christmas spirit, and it fills me with summer dinner party dread. It makes me want to dance in the snow and prune the bushes. Basically, it’s one of the most inspiring films out there. Many of Burton’s films have inspired debates about season appropriateness, but there is never a consensus. His work transcends being pigeon-holed and encourages you to work on your yard, BRAVO DUDE.
4. Family-friendly goth king. Sure, not all of his stuff is suited for all audiences, but there is such variety that it makes it easy to love Burton at any stage of life. I saw Corpse Bride a number of times in theaters — one being with my entire family for my little brother’s 6th birthday. It’s got death, corpses, bugs, romance, catchy songs, and the whole family had a gosh-darn blast. From the most chain-wearing, platform velvet boots stomping, charcoal-lined eyes vampire I might bump into in a Spencer’s Gifts to my wide-eyed baby brother, Burton has an audience. The man brings us together.
5. “For some of us, Halloween is every day,” Burton said, and that is what he gives me. I am drawn to the weird, the sad, the eccentric, the unknown, the magical, dark-yet-hopeful spirit that is associated with Halloween. It is playful and fun and not confined to conventionality. His worlds are a home for those like me, and, while Halloween is only officially celebrated one day a year, with Burton’s extensive work, I can have Halloween ALL DAY, E’RY DAY. Hail to the pumpkin king and all that.
6. He takes his fears head on through his art. What scares Burton, you might ask yourself. A gruesome death? Bug-infested corpses? His dog dying and coming back to life? Frankenstein? Ghost schoolchildren? A headless horseman? Non-FDA approved candy? No. It’s … primates. Apes. Chimps. You know the ones. And you know what that man did with it? He filmed Planet of the Apes (2001), that’s what. He worked with their “very disturbing” behavior rather than try to hide from it. WHAT A BOSS. (Also side note: He met Helena Bonham Carter in 2001 while filming this, so if nothing else, that is a win for us all.)
+1. His mom ran a cat-themed gift shop. Which, in addition to giving us Burton, is a beautiful thing.