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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005

The man in black

For a man whose entire cinematic career has been devoted to portraying maladjusted types who don't fit in, Tim Burton is certainly comfortable holding a microphone in front of a crowd. Then again, that is the deal with artists: turn your oddities and idiosyncrasies into art and watch your childhood rejection alchemically transform into public admiration.

News photo
Tim Burton in Tokyo to promote his latest animation, "Corpse Bride"

"Corpse Bride," while certainly entertaining, may also be the 47-year-old director's most poetic artwork yet. At the movie's news conference at Roppongi Hills, the director, as always, wore black, and his hair was artfully uncombed.

On casting Johnny Depp:

With Johnny, it was convenient, because we were doing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the same time. So he'd be doing Willy Wonka during the day, then we'd walk over to the recording booth, and he'd do "Corpse Bride." It was a bit crazy for him, but it made it convenient. I had the same thing with Helena where she'd be Mrs. Bucket and then go do the Corpse Bride.

On why he sticks with stop-motion:

The amazing thing about this type of animation is that it's almost the same as it was at the beginning of cinema. There's something beautiful about the handmade quality of it. The idea that an animator moves this frame by frame, 24 times for one second. It's a really painstaking process, but there's something very emotional about it, and it just seemed to fit this story. Really, the only difference between this and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is that on "Nightmare" there were a lot of replacement heads, where you'd take a head off and put another one on to change expression. Here the mechanics are all built inside the heads of the puppets, so the animators could put a wrench through the ear to move the eyes, or the back of the head to move the mouth.

On the puppet design:

We designed these characters many years ago. People think we designed [Victor] to look like Johnny, but that was just a weird coincidence.

On why Henry Selick, the director of "Nightmare," didn't work on this one:

A large part of it was that he was working on other projects. Also, I'm living in London now. And for this kind of movie, it's difficult, because a lot of [animators] work on computers now. So, it really started with this group I worked with in Manchester that built the puppets.

On his ideas for the film:

Basically, we tried to make a weird Disney movie. Like in "Pinocchio," instead of the conscience being Jiminy Cricket, we decided to make it a maggot instead. And like in "Cinderella" where she gets dressed by all the cuddly animals and birds, we had [the bride] getting dressed by spiders.

On why his films seem more positive lately:

I don't know, perhaps it's the medication. (Laughs.) Uh, no. You go through different cycles in your life. The triangle in this movie, to me, represents what you experience in any relationship, which is passion, happiness, sadness, a certain bittersweet quality, confusion, all mixed together.

On why the land of the dead seems so happy:

Well, I grew up in a culture where death was always kind of a dark, forbidden subject to talk about. But living in Los Angeles, there was a very large Hispanic population that celebrated the Day of the Dead, which had dancing skeletons, music. It was just such a more positive approach to dealing with that subject. So I always related to that.

On what frightens him most in real life:

I think you just basically said it: Real life. (Laughs)

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