He started his career as a Disney animator, and his films often portray a highly stylized world visually reminiscent of cartoons.
He was born Timothy William Burton, the first of two sons to Bill and Jean Burton. Burton described his childhood self as quirky, self-absorbed and highly imaginative. He found home life and school difficult and he escaped the reality of everyday life by watching horror films. He was obsessed with the films of Vincent Price, especially the films based on Edgar Allan Poe tales. The most recurrent figure in Burton's film work would be the misfit child-man suspended between the adult world and one of childish fantasy, and he would cast Price in his last screen role in Edward Scissorhands (1990).
Following high school, he won a Disney scholarship to attend the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. He studied animation for three years and was then hired by the Walt Disney Studios as an animator apprentice. In 1982, Burton made his first short film, Vincent, a six-minute film about a young boy who wants to be Vincent Price (although the first film he worked on was Ralph Bakshi's adaption of The Lord of the Rings, though he was uncredited for unknown reasons). This was followed by the live-action short Frankenweenie, which was deemed unsuitable for children for some reason and attracted the attention of actor Paul Reubens (better known as Pee-Wee Herman) who was looking for a director for his project Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985). The film was made on a budget of $7 million but made much more than $40 million at the box office.
Burton's second major film was Beetlejuice (1988) which made $80 million and won an Academy Award for makeup. Burton's ability to produce hits with low budgets impressed studio executives and he received his first big budget film Batman (1989). He has gone on to direct such imaginative films as Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Corpse Bride (2005) He also co-wrote and produced, but did not actually direct, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which was directed by Henry Selick. He collaborated with Selick again for James and the Giant Peach (1996), which he co-produced. He was attached as producer for Batman Forever (1995), despite having nothing to do with the production. He created the story along with Caroline Thompson for Edward Scissorhands.
He has worked with composer Danny Elfman on every one of his films since Pee-wee's Big Adventure, except Ed Wood, which featured the noted composer Howard Shore.In addition to his film work, he has also written a book titled The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy: and Other Stories.He is currently engaged to Helena Bonham-Carter and lives in London. They have a son, Billy-Ray Burton, born in 2003.
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