Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

Review: Being Tim Burton

creative overload
Leaving the Being Tim Burton exhibition at Melbourne’s ACMI felt like you had visited a bunch of

Share

Reviewed by Sybille Schlumbom

If you want to be humbled in your attempts to lead a creative life, go and see the Tim Burton exhibition at Melbourne’s ACMI. You do have to hurry though as it only runs until October 10.

Reviewed by Sybille Schlumbom

If you want to be humbled in your attempts to lead a creative life, go and see the Tim Burton exhibition at Melbourne’s ACMI. You do have to hurry though as it only runs until October 10.

Entering over the Ziegfeld Follieske stairway down to the exhibition in the Australian Centre of Moving Images on Federation Square in Melbourne is like squeezing through the door behind the filing cabinet on the 7 ½ floor of the Mertin Flemmer Building in “Being John Malkovich”.

What did I expect? Well, props and costumes of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Batman”, eventually puppets of the stop-motion animations “Nightmare before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride”, a few story boards maybe.

What I did get was the massive, overwhelming presence of a creative mastermind beyond imagination of us mere mortals. The sheer amount of work that is covering walls, floors, screens, cabinets and caves (yes, a cave, or kind of tunnel, displaying maquettes behind peepholes)  is somewhere between magical and intimidating.

My first impression was that this madman’s brain would probably explode if the opportunity to express himself visually would be taken from him. (Or was this big bang my own head?)This image was probably forced onto me by the character of his work.

It is this style that is frequently referred to as being inspired by German Expressionism. The influence of German expressionist filmmakers the like of Fritz Lang and Friedrich Murnau can’t be denied and already shows strongly in one of his first animated shorts, “Vincent”. All through his career, not only the set design but more and more his characters bear symbols of their personal traits on the outside - Edwards scissor hands; the Mad hatter with his oversized, colour changing eyes; the Red Queen, heartless, instead wearing an enormous heart shaped head; the White Queen, silver tongued, with her just slightly oversized mouth.

Another big influence (and a surprise for me to learn) were the years he spent studying at the California Institute of Arts (funded by Walt Disney) and, following that, at Disney Studios as Trainee, In-between and Conceptional Artist. Looking at the work he produced during and after this time you can tell that he did build up a treasury of visuals he still refers to for inspiration.

For me this information was an eye-opener regarding the style and structure of his films. Disney uses a very distinctive approach for their character design. Basically their characteristic traits are translated into shapes that repeat in the whole body. Burton borrowed this principle and translates it into his own visual language.

When watching the finished production, this part of story development is not so obvious to the observer. But looking at all this sketches and scribbles gave an amazing insight in the procedure.

Leaving the Exhibition felt like you had visited a bunch of really weird, creepy but gifted relatives- you savour the memories, but there is no way you want to stay there for the night.

Written by

Sybille Schlumbom a.k.a. billadonna

1 Oct 2010

Interests I always wanted to be an alien life form designer.But that is another story and will be told in another time at another place.