The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is celebrating the end of its five-month exhibit on the work of Tim Burton. Visitors can see art from Burton's movies like "Batman," "Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissorhands," as well as his original paintings and drawings.
Tim Burton gets pegged as a dark dude. Which is fair – even his favorite joke is pretty morbid: "A baby seal walks into a club." So what gave the director his twisted take on reality?
Burton said he never suffered a horrible tragedy. He didn’t grow up in a house terrorized by a pin-striped poltergeist. And he wasn't born with any traits that stood out, like say, scissors for hands. He was just different. Burton said that he saw those perceived as normal as unusual, maybe because they thought the same of him.
"I think it’s because people perceived me as weird," he said, though "I didn't feel weird. So then it started to make me look at everything in a different way. I thought, 'Well, I don’t feel weird, but that person seems strange.'"
Burton's films are full of outsiders like him, from the lone crime fighter, Batman, to the ridiculed schlock movie director Ed Wood, to man-child Pee Wee Herman. His work is right at home with the strange and unusual.
"I find things that most people consider normal kind of scary. I grew up watching monster movies – you watch monster movies people think you are weird, which I don’t understand why. I was much more terrified by my neighbors or my parents' friends or certain aunts or uncles. I find real life much more terrifying than [a] monster movie," Burton said.
Burton grew up in sunny Burbank, California. He said the suburbs, with their tightly packed houses and neat little yards, still give him the creeps. Halloween was one time of year everything fell in synchronization with his worldview. He especially loved the costumes.
"People put make-up on; they become different characters. They unleash something from the subconscious – something opens up in them, which I think is amazing. That's why I think it's such an important festival," he said.
Burton said that growing up in Burbank left him deprived of seasonal change, and the spooky holiday was a time he could experience that without actually having it.
"My sense of getting the seasons was, you know, walking down the aisles at Thrifty's during seasonal times of years. It’s like 'Oh, here’s the Halloween aisle now. It's the Christmas aisle and Easter.' That was your only real sense of seasonal change," Burton said.
Halloween had a big impact on him, and he's thrilled his work left a mark on the holiday as well. He loves seeing fans dress up as his characters.
"You know that's the most special thing to me – everybody puts their own spin on it, which is great. That's the beauty of it. You never see the same Beetlejuice or Scissorhands or anybody. You never see the same thing twice. It's like some kind of alternative universe," he said.
An alternative universe – where an outsider like Tim Burton would feel right at home.
On Sunday, Oct. 30, the exhibition will remain open all night, and on Monday, Oct. 31, it will be open until midnight. Tickets will be half-price from 12 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Monday morning.
KPCC's Sanden Totten reported this story for the Madeleine Brand Show.