Tim Burton Interview
Tim Burton Interview
Tim Burton, director of the incredible Frankenweenie 3D, spoke to View about the importance of recognising beauty in films, how stop motion is the perfect medium for 3D, and how London is a far better place to live than Los Angeles, as well how he loves to work with people that embrace the imaginative and daring in his work, in filmmaking and the arts.
Tim, you did have a dog as a kid, so could you talk about that?

Tim Burton

Yes, well, I mean, that's what the whole thing is based on. You know, if you ever had a pet, with me it was a dog, with that sort of unconditional love that only dogs can give, people can't do that; but yes, that sort of thing where it's very powerful, it's kind of your first love and your first real relationship, and usually your first experience with death. Unless you have a tortoise that lives to be 125, you're going to experience that in some way so I think it was that feeling, plus loving monster movies, Frankenstein in particular, and that sort of fantasy wish-fulfilment of keeping something alive that was such a powerful thing for you, seemed like a natural fit to me.
How old were you when the dog thing happened?

Tim Burton

I had the dog when I was, I think, probably really young, like three-ish, and it wasn't supposed to live very long, because it had distemper, so there was always this spectre that, you know, your friend wasn't going to be around very long, and it ended up lasting quite a long time, but I think that's what got me thinking about it, way back when, in a way, because it was just something I didn't quite understand. At some point children do have to deal with it, it's just when and how, you know, it's different to each person or family.
What was the dog's name?

Tim Burton

Pepe.
Do you consider this to be your most personal film?

Tim Burton

Well, I'll tell you, it was interesting in some cases; it was part of the fun of it for me, especially expanding it, to sort of relate everything to a personal memory, whether it was the kids in school, like, 'I remember that kid', so everything, every person, is sort of based on either one or a couple of different people. I remember having scary teachers, and you couldn't understand what they were talking about, and also scary teachers that were quite inspirational, and weird kids, you know, like Weird Girl, I had a few of those in school, and then relationships, the way the kids had kind of rivalries, everything in the types of movies, even down to locations, like the look of the classroom, it was really fun to sort of filter all that through a personal memory. So in that respect, yes, there was a lot of elements and again, I'd never really had that on any other movie, where I sort of filtered it through that memory channel.
Can you talk about the Elsa character?

Tim Burton

Yes, I mean, there was always a character; there was a girl that you kind of had a crush on, but it felt like, you know, kid stuff. Where those are memories, it's not like you act on anything, it's just those feelings you have, so the feelings of feeling kind of internal or slightly a loner, but at the same time you're in school, and you deal with your other classmates, and so there was all of those kind of feelings and, like I said, everything.
Did you base New Holland on anywhere in particular?

Tim Burton

Well, it's mainly based on Burbank, and I don't know but also there was a community in the north of Los Angeles, called Solvang, which was a strange, like, Dutch [actually Danish] community with fake windmills, but it reminded me of the sister city of Burbank, in a way, and so it had a lot to do with that memory of that place as well.
You weren't afraid to mention Bambi, the opening of Bambi, the movie, which goes back to 1942 and wartime stuff?

Tim Burton

I think that was a slight reminder, because I've always got, like, the, 'Always dealing with death', and da da da da da da da da. Well, you guys remember Bambi? I mean, remember Bambi's mother? Remember the Lion King? People forget. The thing that fascinates me most about adults, I guess, is how they forget things. I mean, they forget, you know; the most memorable moments to me in Walt Disney movies are the moments that are strong, from Snow White on, and if you took out those moments that might make people uncomfortable, they wouldn't have been Walt Disney movies, and you know, Lion King, Bambi, many others, the topic of death is very present in those films, and I don't know why people forget that.
But in the film we don't see how Sparky died, you don't show his corpse?

Tim Burton

No.
What did you intend?

Tim Burton

Well, the intention was what is there. You know, I didn't want to dwell on seeing the corpse of a dead dog lying in the street. It was more about the emotion of things rather than, 'Oh, here's a lovely shot of a dead, bleeding dog lying on the road'. That was not the intention.
Having the film released through Disney, is it kind of sweet revenge for you, given their history with the short?

Tim Burton

No, I mean, it was a different company then, you know, it was a different place and a different time, and it's gone through lots of changes, even since then, over the years. So, no, I mean, I was just grateful that the black-and-white issue was not an issue for them; it might have been, but they were very supportive of it, so I was very grateful for that, and so for me it was a definite change, and I guess I know it's a difficult decision, I mean a difficult take, perhaps, but they were supportive of it.
It seemed to me the first version of Frankenweenie was a bit more cynical and ironic, and this one to me felt more poetic and, in a way, melancholic. Is it because it's 20 years, or 30 years, and so you've mellowed?

Tim Burton

I'm more melancholy? Yes, I don't know if I'm less cynical, but no, at the root of it, even though the things have expanded, the canvas expanded with more characters, different elements with the other kids, and things expanded, the basic theme of it was there for me. And the other side of it, I guess, you have to expand on it more in terms of the love story aspect of him, and also science, not as a specific thing, but slightly as a metaphor for just creating things and doing things passionately, and doing things for love, and thinking outside of the box, you know, whether it's art or science or any of those kinds of issues. Also, I think, going back more to the original drawings which were different, obviously, than doing a live action thing, and the stop motion element, it felt like a more pure version of the idea for me, so I guess in that respect it helped the emotional side of it a bit more, and it made it more what I think it was originally intended as, a slightly purer experience.
Many people use the word genius when they talk about you, how does that feel for you? Do you get those kinds of reactions from people? Is it intimidating for you?

Tim Burton

Well, I'm quite a shy person, you know, but there are times when you connect with somebody, and somebody, a kid or whatever, will come up to you and have a tattoo of a character, you know, and it's like, 'Wow!', it's quite amazing. And so I think for me it's a bit scary, but it's part of it, the best thing about it is when you connect with somebody, you know, if something you've done affects somebody in a positive way, and I think that, for me, is the most beautiful part of the whole thing, and sort of the scariest as well.

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Content updated: 22/02/2019 15:13

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