Tim Burton was a promising film school grad when Disney Studios signed him to a development contract. His first project for them was an animated short, "The Boy Who Liked Vincent Price," narrated by Price himself. Vincent Price and Tim Burton became instant friends; Price commenting in an interview later that Tim Burton was the first fan he'd met who truly "got" the Vincent Price persona. Price's final film appearance was in Burton's Edward Scissorhands as Edward's eccentric creator.
In 1984, Tim Burton directed two more shorts: "Frankenweenie" (a 30-minute short), and "Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp" (60 minutes, for cable's Faerie Tale Theatre series, starring Robert Carradine, Valerie Bertinelli, Leonard Nimoy and James Earl Jones. Guess which one plays the genii).
Tim Burton's next story idea was for The Nightmare Before Christmas, but Disney executives didn't know what to make of it, and it was years before Burton was able to get the idea on film (in which the characters of Halloween kidnap Santa Claus and try to take over Christmas). His first feature ended up being "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," starring and co-written by Paul Reubens, with Cassandra Peterson (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark herself), Phil Hartman and others Monstervision review & host segments. The movie was based on the popular children's TV-series, which came to an end when Paul Reubens was arrested for enjoying himself in a porno theater a little too much, but we won't dwell on that - though Reuben's new bad-boy image allowed him to play a creepy vampire in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie (she makes sure that he gets the point in it; one of Joe Bob's favorite campy dying scenes). Tim Burton did none of the writing for "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," had almost no creative input, and didn't make any more films until 3 years later. Danny Elfman did the music for "Pee-wee" and the two decided to do a creative new type of ghost story. The result was "Beetlejuice" (1988) Monstervision review & host segments.
"Beetlejuice" got Hollywood's attention and the following year he directed Batman (as well as sequel Batman Returns in 1992); next was "Edward Scissorhands" (1990, also produced & co-story); "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993, story & co-producer only, directed by Henry Selick - music by Danny Elfman, who also did Pumpkin King Jack Skellington's singing voice). He had first scripted "Nightmare Before Christmas" while at Disney but they thought it was so wierd, his contract wasn't renewed there. It's a demented little holiday tale about the leader of Halloweentown, who schemes to kidnap Santa Claus and take over Christmastown because it looks like more fun. Other voices include Chris Sarandon as Jack, Catherine O'Hara of "Home Alone" as Sally, and Glenn Shadix as the Mayor.
Disney eventually did make three tv-movies of their own called Halloweentown, "Halloweentown 2: Kalabar's Revenge," and Halloweentown High: Halloweentown 3, all starring Debbie Reynolds as a witch fighting an evil sorcerer for control of her hometown.
"Nightmare Before Christmas" is available on video and on DVD from Amazon.com
Next came Cabin Boy (1994, co-producer only, an under-rated fantasy/comedy drive-in movie); Ed Wood (1994, the hilarious story of Hollywood's strangest director, with Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi); "Mars Attacks!" (1996) Monstervision review & host segments; and Burton finished out the millennium with an R-rated cutting-edge version of Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow (1999). Some critics called it "gorgeous and grisly." The budget was a bit too big to call it a Drive-In Movie, though you do get to see heads roll...
Action figures: Nightmare Before Christmas at Entertainment Earth. Tons available, which will you pick? CLICK HERE!
When was the last time you had to jump-start YOUR dog? Meet the Frankensteins - they have the most unusual pet on the block
Disney didn't know what to do with Tim Burton's first two shorts, and never released them in theaters other than at film shows (where they won awards). They were eventually sold to HBO, which used them as unbilled fillers between movies. That didn't stop Disney from promoting its official video this way:
"Disney presents a comic twist on a classic tale from Tim Burton, the director of the comedy hits Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Edward Scissorhands!
Meet Sparky, an ordinary family dog, who, through an extraordinary set of circumstances [Sparky's hit by a car and zapped back to life by the kid, after getting some replacement parts from the local pet cemetery] becomes Frankenweenie! He and the Frankenstein family [an all-American family living in the suburbs] share an exciting yet bizarre adventure that makes this one of the most outrageously funny films you've ever seen! It stars young Barret Oliver from The Neverending Story, with Home Alone's Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall (Popeye's Olive Oil) as his parents. Let Frankenweenie give your funny bone a jolt -- it'll have your entire family it stiches!"
Story & directed by Tim Burton, script by Lenny Ripps. Filmed in glorious black & white, rated PG
Tim Burton films are available on video and on DVD
Click here to hear Edward Scissorhands again
Or here for Nightmare Before Christmas
Johnny Depp also stars in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Or check out MonsterVision review & host segments for Tim Burton's very first movie
Pee-wee's Big Adventure
© Bill Laidlaw