transforming beastly blockbusters into creepy artbusters
in the film art of Tim Burton
by Gary W. Wright
As with most film artists of the Eighties, the helicopter crash that killed child extras Renee Chen and Myca Le and actor/writer/director Vic Morrow around 2:20 am in the morning of July 23, 1982 on the John Landis set of the Landis, Joe Dante, George Miller and Steven Spielberg directed, and Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall produced, allegorical film, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983), was a major theme in the films of Timothy Walter ‘Tim’ Burton. Thus, it was fitting that the twilit and disastrous year of 1982 was also the same year that Burton, a frustrated artist, designer and animator for Walt Disney pictures, emerged on the film art scene with his first film, the animated, black and white, exuberantly angst ridden, gloomy, gothic and Vincent Price narrated allegorical short film, VINCENT (1982). However, unlike most directors, who were either bitterly opposed to the increasing commercialization of film before and after the TZ disaster like David Cronenberg, or enthusiastic supporters of that commercialization like Spielberg, Burton initially supported that commercialization in such allegorical films as PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985), opposed it in allegorical films like BEETLEJUICE (1988), before reconciling these two opposing and contradictory philosophies of film art. Burton did this by creating his own unique and twilit take on the artbuster, a style of film that fused the crass, generic and beastly blockbuster commercialism of Old Hollywood with the quirky, idiosyncratic, imaginative, independent, innovative and artistic idealism of New Hollywood that had been initially proposed and presented to the world by Stanley Kubrick in his allegorical artbuster, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968).
However, while Kubrick for the most part preferred serious films that addressed his life and times, Burton preferred lighthearted films that took audiences away from the world and its troubles. Add an animaction approach to film art that resulted from fusing his Disney animation background with live action, like his fellow animator turned film artist, Terrence ‘Terry’ Gilliam, and a love of the creepy, gothic and macabre leavened with a gleefully warped sense of humour, and you had the quirky artbuster style of film art that Burton contributed to the dread allegorical Zone Wars. A quirky and distinct Burton style of film art that was perhaps best referred to as Hallowe’en Town, the centre of events of the Burton and Henry Selick allegorical animaction artbuster, TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993), given that Burton’s oeuvre was, for the most part, as light and enjoyably creepy as Hallowe’en itself. However, before he got to his first feature film, Burton had to develop and perfect his unique Hallowe’en Town style with short films like VINCENT, written, designed and directed by Burton, with stop motion animation by Stephen Chiodo.
‘For a boy his age, he’s considerate and nice,
but he wants to be just like Vincent Price.’
Significantly, this black and white, creative, gothic, spooky and stop motion animated tale related the dolorous story of the disaffected young Vincent Malloy and his longing to escape from altogether too dull suburban reality-his suburban angst affirmed by the mall evoking ‘Mall’ in Malloy-by transforming his suburban house with his mischievously fiendish imagination and living in its macabre and monster filled world-if not becoming Price, who narrated the piece in ghoulishly rhyming couplets, or Edgar Allan Poe, his two heroes. VINCENT also easily won over audiences to its cause and showcased everything, from quirky and original characters, creatures and sets to cheeky black humour, gothic angst, spooky shadows and love for Poe and Price that would soon by synonymous with a Burton artbuster. Just as important, Burton also implied that the bored, disaffected, lonely, imaginative and horror fiction and film loving Vincent pining away in stultifying suburbia not just resembled, but symbolized him. Not surprisingly, the gloomy angst of VINCENT and Malloy’s concluding fear that he had lost a love that would never return also suited the despondent and righteously furious mood of young audiences after the TZ disaster that year, who were also left wondering if they had lost the magic of film art forever after the shocking and sobering deaths of Chen, Le and Morrow. The sight of Vincent dreaming of experimenting on his long suffering dog, Abercrombie, and turning him into a zombie was also a perfect prelude for Burton’s return to Hallowe’en Town with the twilit and black and white allegorical animaction short film, FRANKENWEENIE (1984), which evoked the equally allegorical and implicitly Third Reich roasting James Whale film, FRANKENSTEIN (1931).
‘The kid did it before, and we can do it again!’
Significantly, FRANKENWEENIE started off with a short allegorical film called MONSTERS FROM LONG AGO by Barret Oliver’s young Vincent Malloy evoking young Victor Frankenstein in the Frankenstein family living room, linking young Frankenstein to film artists. As Sparky, the family dog-played, in an unusual bit of casting, by Sparky-had the starring role in this film, Sparky literally symbolized allegorical film art. Thus, when Sparky was hit by a car and killed while racing across the street outside the suburban Frankenstein house-the stultifying suburbs again!-to fetch a ball, film art was symbolically killed as well as Sparky. The link of Sparky and Victor to film art was increased by Mr. Walsh, the elementary school teacher whose electrical experiments on a dead frog that caused the frog to twitch gave the despondent young Frankenstein the idea to bring Sparky back to life by zapping his dug up corpse with electricity. For Mr. Walsh was played by film artist Paul Bartel-perhaps best known for his allegorical and New Hollywood film artist roasting film, DEATH RACE 2000 (1975), but also linked to the year of the TZ disaster forever via his role as Paul Bland in the allegorical Bartel film, EATING RAOUL (1982). Given that this classroom science experiment scene also recalled another elementary school science class scene involving frogs in the allegorical Spielberg film, E. T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982), Burton implied that Victor Frankenstein was linked to Steven Spielberg. Indeed, Victor’s close relationship with Sparky evoked the close relationship of Elliot Thomas-played by Henry Thomas-to E. T. throughout E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL.
Thus, young Frankenstein’s link to Spielberg implied that Burton sympathized with Spielberg in the post-TZ disaster era, and hoped that Spielberg would revive his film art career and re-establish good relations with audiences like young Frankenstein revived Sparky and re-established good relations with his parents, Ben and Susan Frankenstein, their Walt Disney evoking neighbour, Mr. Chambers, and his daughter, Ann-played by Daniel Stern, Shelley Duval, Joseph Maher and Sofia ‘Domino’ Coppola, respectively. A dangerous sympathy for Spielberg, given how angry audiences were with him at the time, as he was the man who came up with the idea to make TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and hired Dante, Kennedy, Landis, Marshall and Miller to help him do it. And an allegorical sympathy that was implicitly extended to Lucas when Burton teamed up with Warner Brothers-the studio that released TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE-on his first surprisingly sunny and upbeat and still least Hallowe’en Town linked allegorical animaction feature film, PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE.
‘I’m a loner, and a Rebel.’
For the film was perhaps best called G. W.’S BIG ADVENTURE, as the frantic and film long quest of the unusually carefree, optimistic and sexually ambiguous child-man bachelor P. W. ‘Pee-Wee’ Herman-played by Paul Reubens, perhaps best known at that point in a bit part as a waiter in the allegorical Landis film, THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980)-to find his beloved orange and white bicycle evoked not just the equally frantic quest of young Frankenstein to revive Sparky in FRANKENWEENIE-a link to same provoked by the sight of Herman’s dog, Speck, played, curiously enough, by Speck. In fact, Herman’s quest mirrored the equally frantic attempt of bachelor George Walton ‘G. W.’ Lucas to reconnect with audiences after alienating them by acting as executive producer on the allegorical Richard Marquand film, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), and by his support for Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg after the TZ disaster and working with them as executive producer on the equally disastrous allegorical Spielberg film, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984). The sight of Herman almost being crowned Tour de France champion in the dream that began the film before being woken up by his alarm clock affirmed that implication, reminding us that the critical failures of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI had caused Lucas to lose his status as box office king. The similarity of Herman’s house to the Main House of Skywalker Ranch reaffirmed the implication that Herman symbolized Lucas.
Along the madcap way, Herman also battled his arch nemesis, Mark Holton’s chubby, vaguely homosexual and implicitly David Lynch linked Francis Buxton, a roast of Lynch no doubt brought on by the failure of his Lucas and Spielberg thrashing blockbuster space epic, DUNE (1984), to ignite the box office the year before. And in the end, Herman did recover his beloved bicycle on the Warner Brothers lot and reunite with his life’s love, Elizabeth Daily’s Dottie, inspiring the studio to make a film within the film about his big adventure, starring the Lucas resembling James Brolin as secret agent P. W. Herman and Morgan Fairchild as Dottie. A madcap ending to an irrepressibly and unabashedly childish, silly and homoerotic film that was so far removed from FRANKENWEENIE and VINCENT-with the exception of some creepy dream sequences and Herman’s run-in with the ghost of Alice Nunn‘s trucker, Large Marge, that brought glimpses of Hallowe’en Town to the film-and the angry despair that prevailed in the post-TZ disaster years that it was no surprise that Burton and PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE were furiously blasted the following year in two more serious and sombre works of film art, the allegorical and twilit Tim Hunter film, RIVER’S EDGE (1986)-where Burton was implicitly linked to Josh Richman’s clueless Tony-and the equally allegorical and twilit Lynch film, BLUE VELVET (1986)-where Burton was implicitly linked to Kyle MacLachlan’s Jeffrey Beaumont, underlined by the fact that the surname ‘Burton’ could be created from the letters composing the name of Jeffrey Beaumont.
Dante also implicitly roasted Burton and the sexually ambiguous PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE in the implicit form of the exuberant and manipulative pornographer, Tony Sepulvula-a ‘Paul’ hidden in his surname linking him to Paul Reubens and, hence, Burton, and played by Dante regular Robert Picardo-and his ‘porn star’ wife, Sheena-implicitly linked to the film art of Burton, and played by Wendy Schaal. For these two artless and irritating interlopers were chased out of their new home by Nelson and Evelyn Chumpsky, a more artistic, discerning and truly loving vaudeville ghost couple-played by Eddie Bracken and Evelyn Keyes, respectively-who lived in the attic in the allegorical Dante telefilm, ‘Boo!’, an episode of the mid-Eighties series STEVEN SPIELBERG PRESENTS AMAZING STORIES (1985-87). Steve De Jarnatt also implicitly roasted Burton in the form of the shy, geeky, socially awkward and stuttering Skeet-played by Howard Swain-in his twilit and allegorical film, CHERRY 2000 (1987)-a film that was actually more interested in roasting Luc Besson in the implicit form of Tim Thomerson’s post-TZ apocalypse gang leader, Lester, an implicit intent affirmed by the film’s allusions to such twilit and allegorical Besson films as LE DERNIER COMBAT (1983) and SUBWAY (1985).
Burton implicitly got the messages, as he veered away from the light if sexually ambiguous, hopefully commercial and carefree style of PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE-and an equally light and upbeat retelling of ‘Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp’ (1986), that saw the implicitly Spielberg linked Aladdin-played by Robert Carradine-triumph over Leonard Nimoy’s evil and implicitly Landis linked Magician to capture the heart of Valerie Bertinelli’s pretty and implicitly film art linked Princess Sabrina with the help of James E. Jones’ gleefully macabre and implicitly magic of film art linked Genie in more implied support for Spielberg in episode 22 of the mid-Eighties series, SHELLEY DUVAL’S FAERIE TALE THEATRE-and brought Hallowe’en Town for the first time to a feature film to perform a ghostly and ‘Boo!’ evoking exorcism of his own and also teamed up again with PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE composer, Danny Elfman, with a little help from Harry Belafonte, for his next allegorical animaction film, BEETLEJUICE.
‘It says: ‘Live people ignore the strange and unusual.’ I, myself, am strange and unusual.’
Indeed, BEETLEJUICE saw Adam and Barbara Maitland-implicitly linked to Dante and his film art with a ‘Danti’ hidden within Maitland to affirm that link, and played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, respectively-returned to their attic as ghosts like the Chumpskys in ‘Boo!’ to haunt their lone house on the hill after drowning in a river when their Volvo station wagon ironically swerved off a covered bridge to avoid another dog-a sight that would have pleased Abercrombie, Sparky and Speck, particularly Sparky, as he haunted the attic of the Frankenstein home after his reanimation in FRANKENWEENIE!-while driving home through their small town at the beginning of the film. And like the Chumpskys, the Maitlands were soon doing all that they could to scare new owners Charles and Delia Deetz-implicitly linked to Lynch and his film art, underlined by the film’s allusions to DUNE, and played by Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara, respectively-away from their home. With the help of the anonymously written The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, the Maitlands also fought a desperate battle to defeat the implicitly Landis or David Cronenberg linked Betelguese-played by Michael Keaton-the deliriously demented Bio-Exorcist they mistakenly called upon to help them scare off the Deetzes.
Intriguingly, the Maitlands succeeded in defeating Betelgeuse with the help of a reimagined sandworm straight out of Arrakis in DUNE, and also implicitly defeating the TZ disaster-the latter fittingly reaffirmed by the fact that Keaton was linked to the fateful year forever by way of his role as Billy ‘Blaze’ Blazejowski in the allegorical Ron Howard film, NIGHT SHIFT (1982). However, they did not succeed in scaring away the Deetzes like the Chumpskys succeeding in scaring away Tony and Sheena in ‘Boo!’. Instead, the Maitlands achieved a sympathetic symbiotic rapport with the Deetzes with the help of their goth and glooming loving, and Wicked Witch of the West evoking, daughter, Lydia-implicitly linked to the film art of Burton, and played by Winona Ryder-allowing the film to end with them all together living happily forever after in the Maitland/Deetz house. This ending implied the hope of Burton that BEETLEJUICE would defeat Cronenberg or Landis, and lead to a détente between Dante, Lynch-a fellow artist and painter like Burton-and himself. A détente that would see the three film artists release the TZ disaster and work together to bring peace and harmony back to the Temple Theatre with their film art, given that Landis and his four co-defendants were found not guilty of manslaughter at the end of the TZ trial the year before. As BEETLEJUICE was another Warner Brothers film like PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, the implication was that Warners also used another Burton film to soothe and reconnect with audiences turned off by the TZ disaster. If so, Warners got their wish, for BEETLEJUICE was a big hit, implying that audiences and reviewers were just as eager to embrace Hallowe’en Town as they were to leave behind the TZ disaster. Thus, it was no surprise that Warners returned to Hallowe’en Town again with Burton, Elfman and Keaton to shamelessly celebrate and inaugurate the beginning of a new era of crassly commercial, movie tie-in merchandising and product placement filled blockbuster film art with the allegorical animaction film, BATMAN (1989), based on the character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger for DC Comics, who was perhaps an allegorical tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, given that the fictional town of Arkham that he created returned as Arkham Asylum in the Batman comics.
‘You know, this house and all this stuff really doesn’t seem like you at all.’
A crassly commercial era, indeed, for the triumph of Keaton’s lonesome bachelor Bruce ‘Batman’ Wayne-implicitly linked to Lucas again like bachelor Herman in PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE-over Jack Nicholson’s implicitly Landis linked, product tampering and shopping preventing baddie, John ‘the Joker’ Napier, did not just symbolically defeat Landis or save Hollywood film art, implicitly symbolized by Kim Basinger’s beautiful blonde photojournalist, Vicky Vale. In fact, Batman’s triumph also ridiculously saved shopping in Gotham City, a tentatively metropolitan Hallowe’en Town. For random products tampered by the Joker caused people to laugh to death, discouraging Gothamites from shopping as they did not know which products would kill them. Thus, the implication was that with Batman ending the ‘shopping nightmare’ of Gothamites by defeating the Joker and his fiendish gang of human gremlins, audiences were now free to stop fretting over the TZ disaster and to go out and buy lots of the film’s openly placed products and movie tie-in merchandise. Both of which were easy to find at the local malls and stores, as BATMAN was accompanied by the largest movie tie-in merchandise campaign in film history, with the Batman logo stamped on anything it could be stamped on. Given that eager audiences packed theatres and bought much of the Bat gear, the public implicitly agreed that it was back to the profits for Hollywood.
However, despite this crass commercialism, BATMAN gave Burton his first big chance to merge his quirky and gothic Hallowe’en Town style with the blockbuster to create a spooky artbuster-and one that was surprisingly free of enhancement with computer generated imagery (CGI). Not surprisingly, as Wayne, the haunted and brooding Gothamite, his frightening alter ego and the gloomy and gothic Gotham City he protected were all in tune with Burton’s equally haunted, brooding, gloomy and gothic sensibilities. How also fitting that the original Batman tales by Kane were clearly as much inspired by gothic tales like the allegorical and Irish potatoe famine exorcising Bram Stoker novel, Dracula (1897), and the Poe influenced and often Nazi bashing allegorical weird tales of Lovecraft as they were inspired by the pulp adventures of Doc Savage and the Shadow.
The tension between the determined and altruistic Batman and the indolent and wealthy Wayne also evoked the tension inside Burton between the film artist for film art’s sake he preferred to be and the blockbuster profit minded director that he was being molded into by Warner Brothers. A molding into a crassly commercial director that implicitly bothered Burton, for he appeared to show up in a cameo amongst the foolish crowd of people dying as they reached for the money given away by the Joker at the deadly parade at the end of the film. Thus, it was not surprising that, emboldened by the success of BATMAN, Burton teamed up again with Elfman-whose haunting and wistful soundtrack was the first for a Burton film that did not sound like it was composed for a manic and/or gothic circus-Price and Ryder and turned confidently away from commercial film as he had after the success of PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and finally fully arrived in Hallowe’en Town with his first personal, original, quirky, idiosyncratic, gothic, creepy and macabre allegorical animaction artbuster, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990).
‘You can’t touch anything without destroying it!’
Indeed, the white and snowswept Warners logo that preceded the film immediately made it clear that Burton had taken over and was putting his creepy and idiosyncratic Hallowe’en Town imprint on the film. A charming and gothic fairy tale set in a ridiculously idyllic and pastel coloured faux Seventies suburb in Florida, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS revolved not surprisingly around Johnny Depp’s incomplete Edward Scissorhands. Created by Price’s mysterious Inventor-their flashback scenes together recalling those between Wayne and Michael Gough’s loyal and unflappable butler, Alfred, in BATMAN-Scissorhands was another young Frankenstein and lonely bachelor in a vast mansion lair like Wayne. And one worried that he would cut everyone around him with his Scissorhands, a fear that implicitly symbolized the fear of many post-TZ disaster directors that any film they directed and touched would lead to cast and crew members being scissored and rotored apart in another horrific and deadly accident as in the TZ disaster. This despite the fact that when he relaxed, Edward was able to use his scissorhands to succeed as an accomplished and creative hair stylist, topiary crafter and dog groomer, in another ode to the dog in a Burton film that implied that he was a dog person.
As Landis was the most likely to suffer from this fear as the TZ disaster happened on his set, the implication was that Scissorhands symbolized Landis. Indeed, the many instances in which cast members broke the fourth wall by staring into the camera and out at the audience was a famous characteristic of the film art of Landis, underlining the implication that Scissorhands symbolized Landis. The fact that Scissorhands also tried, but failed, to win the heart of suburban teen sweetie, Kim Boggs-played by Ryder-over the course of the film reminded us that apeman Schlockthropus-played by Landis-also tried, but failed, to win the hear of suburban teen sweetie, Mindy Binnerman-played by Eliza Garrett-in the first allegorical Landis film, SCHLOCK (1973), reaffirming the implication that Scissorhands symbolized Landis. The link of Scissorhands to Landis was also reaffirmed by the sight of the sensitive and anxiety wracked artist killing Kim’s loutish and implicitly Morrow linked high school jock boyfriend, Jim-played by Anthony M. Hall-in the end. Leaving him as alone and forgotten sculpting sadly away in his lonely mansion on the hill as Landis after the death of Morrow in the TZ disaster. An apt and imaginative way of implicitly saying that Landis had also died with the death of Morrow that audiences and reviewers clearly agreed with, given the enormous popularity of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.
A reassuring support of an arbuster about more than saving shopping that gave Burton the confidence to persuade Warner Brothers to allow him to truly merge the Dark Knight with Hallowe’en Town when he collaborated again with DiNovi, Elfman, Gough, Keaton, costume designer Coleen Atwood, executive producers Peter Guber, Benjamin Melniker, Jon Peters and Michael Uslan and story idea man Sam Hamm on the allegorical animaction artbuster, BATMAN RETURNS (1992).
‘Well, was Vicky right about your difficulty with duality?’
Indeed, the image of snow falling on a dark and creepy Warners logo that began the film evoked the snow created by Scissorhands as he worked on his sculptures that fell on sad suburbia at the end of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, implicitly affirming from the outset that the success of that film had given Burton the confidence to turn Gotham City into a massive, creepy and quirky Hallowe’en Town in BATMAN RETURNS. This macabre implication continued when the Warners logo disappeared to reveal the same snow falling on the Cobblepot mansion in Gotham City. Inside the mansion, the despondent Mr. and Mrs. Tucker and Esther Cobblepot-played by Reubens and Diane Salinger, respectively-struggled to deal with their unusual newborn son. A son that was first locked away from the world in a caged wooden box that looked like one of the original televisions and that evoked the sight of Gizmo the Mogwai locked in a cage at the beginning of the Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg executive produced and allegorical Dante film, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990). Thus, the implication was that Mr. and Mrs. Cobblepot symbolized Marshall and Kennedy, and that their son, Oswald ‘the Penguin’ Cobblepot-played by Danny De Vito-soon abandoned to the sewers of Gotham by his repulsed parents, symbolized Dante.
Indeed, there were all sorts of allusions to GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH in BATMAN RETURNS to support that implication. Particularly a scene that saw the Penguin bite the nose of Steve Witting’s Josh, which evoked a similar scene that saw a gremlin bite the nose of a security guard-played by Rick DuCommun-in GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. Christoper Walken’s evil and greedy Maximilian ‘Max’ Schreck, the successful Gotham City businessman and developer with his own towering skyscraper who was blackmailed into a twisted alliance with the Penguin in BATMAN RETURNS-his stuffed Chihuahua, Geraldo, another loving ode to a dog in a Burton film-also evoked John Glover’s Daniel Clamp, an equally successful New York businessman, developer and gremlin battler with his own towering skyscraper who evoked Donald Trump but looked and acted like Ivan Reitman in GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH. Thus, the triumph of Keaton’s again implicitly Lucas linked Bruce ‘Batman’ Wayne and Hough’s ever loyal Alfred over the pernicious Dante/Penguin, his loyal gremlins/penguins and the gremlin mayhem loving and inhumanly human Red Triangle Gang implied a triumph over Dante, his crew and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH, in the end.
But not before Michelle Pfeiffer’s implicitly Kathryn ‘Kat?’ Bigelow linked Selena ‘Catwoman’ Kyle triumphed over the evil and murderous capitalist Maximilian Schreck, who had pushed her out of a board room window of the Schreck tower to her doom at the beginning of the film. A triumph over Schreck that implied a triumph over Burton’s first studio, Disney, as the name of Maximilian Schreck evoked Maximilian Schell’s implicitly Lucas linked Doctor Hans Reinhardt in the allegorical and implicitly Lucas and STAR WARS roasting Disney and Gary Nelson film, THE BLACK HOLE (1979). Indeed, the fact that the round faced and grinning cat that was the Schreck company logo evoked Mickey Mouse throughout the film reaffirmed the implication that Schreck symbolized Disney. Making the twin triumph over Cobblepot and Schreck not only the opposite of the silly triumph over the Joker that saved shopping in BATMAN, but a way for Burton to implicitly reaffirm to Dante, Dis and everyone else that he wanted his quirky artbusters like BATMAN RETURNS to be about more than box office profits, promoting products and selling movie tie-in merchandise. Indeed, Burton’s insistence that there was still artistic life in the art of film was reaffirmed by the Catwoman, who always returned to feisty and independent life no matter how often she was killed by Schreck over the course of BATMAN RETURNS. Thus, Burton made it implicitly clear in BATMAN RETURNS that he was now using his directorial success and clout to leave behind the crass commercialism of BATMAN and to create his own unique and quirky allegorical animaction artbusters. Indeed, Hallowe’en Town had arrived, a triumph of his own creepy and unique style of artbusters that he openly celebrated when he ironically teamed up again as designer and producer with DiNovi, Disney, Elfman-who provided both music and lyrics-Jones and O’Hara to literally visit Hallowe’en Town on the set of Selick’s macabre and musical allegorical stop-motion animaction artbuster, TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
‘What is this?’
Curiously, this film, which came across as an extended and full colour remake of VINCENT-complete with the return of production supervisor Rick Heinrichs from that first short film-saw the cutesy creatures of Hallowe’en Town-led by the Elfman sung and Chris Sarandon voiced Jack Skellington and his faithful, jack-o’-lantern ghost dog, Zero-fail in their creepy quest to take over Christmas Town-led by the Ed Ivory voiced Santa Claus. This amusing assault on Christmas Town recalled the similar assault of the Penguin and his Red Triangle Gang on Christmas celebrations in Gotham City in BATMAN RETURNS, a link affirmed by the fact that both assaults ended in failure. However, while failing to force dark, decaying and nightmarish Hallowe’en on light, sweet and virtuous Christmas, Skellington and the rest of Hallowe’en town did defeat the buggy, blockbuster and gambling loot mad ghost, Oogie Boogie-voiced by Ken Page. This implied that on one level, Burton and Selick were telling the world that in spite of their commitment to returning harmony to the Temple Theatre with healing film art, they would not shy away from macabre and non-commercial film art that would remind audiences of the TZ disaster. On another level, given that the stiff and awkward Mayor of Hallowe’en Town, with his two expressions-voiced by Glenn Shadix-evoked the equally stiff and awkward newly elected Democratic Vice President Al Gore, there was another possible explanation for TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. And that was that it was an allegorical message to newly elected Democratic President Bill Clinton-symbolized by Skellington-not to go so crazy with his left leaning inclinations that he would turn the sometimes dark and nasty United States-symbolized by Hallowe’en Town-into a clean, polite and safe, but dull, stodgy and torpid place like left leaning Canada-symbolized by Christmas Town-with the triumph over evil ghost Oogie Boogie a symbolic celebration of Clinton’s victory over the colourless and uninspiring ex-CIA spook Bush sr. in a rare double political allegory for Burton. But not Disney, for using animated film art for politically satirical purposes went back at least to the allegorical Burt Gillett silly symphony, ‘Three Little Pigs’ (1933), which implicitly roasted Nazi Germany in the form of the duplicitous and voracious wolf-who’s afraid of the big bad Reich, indeed.
Of course, TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS evoked not just VINCENT, but the stop-motion tyrannosaurus rex in PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and the stop-motion sandworms of BEETLEJUICE. Stop-motion blockbuster beasts that had clearly not been forgotten by Spielberg and Michael Crichton, as that same year they fittingly menaced the implicitly Burton linked Tim-played by Joseph Mazzello-with animatronic and CGI dinosaurs in their allegorical film, JURASSIC PARK (1993), which cautioned film artists and audiences to be careful with CGI enhanced film art. Ironically, however, after joining Selick in re-commiting himself to idiosyncratic and macabrely humourous but shallow and goth-lite artbusters like TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, Burton than surprised everyone by collaborating again with Atwood, Depp, DiNovi, Dis-via Touchstone Pictures-Jones, editor Chris Lebenzon-and this time with composer Howard Shore-to finally put some rotting meat on those cutsey bones when he transformed Los Angeles into Hallowe’en Town in the more serious, thoughtful and animated allegorical artbuster, ED WOOD (1994).
‘You’re wasting your life making shit! Nobody cares-these movies are terrible!’
Curiously, ED WOOD opened with an introduction from a coffin by the ‘psychic’ Criswell, played by Jones, evoking his performance as the implicitly Lynch linked Charles Deetz in BEETLEJUICE. An intriguing reminder of Lynch, as shortly thereafter Sarah J. Parker’s beautiful blonde Dolores Fuller descended on wires from a theatre ceiling as an angel bringing peace to embittered American G.I.s on a Pacific Island battlefield in World War II with a hilariously heartfelt cry of ‘…I offer you mortals the bird of peace, so that you may change your ways and end this destruction’ in a ‘play’ by her enthusiastic but untalented boyfriend, Edward D. Wood jr.-memorably played by Depp. The sight of Fuller hanging on wires bringing peace to the world reminded us that such allegorical Lynch films as WILD AT HEART (1990) and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992) ended with beautiful angels descending on wires to bring peace to the main characters of those films. Thus, Burton implied in the opening moments of ED WOOD that he was blasting Lynch again as in BEETLEJUICE, no doubt for the critical and popular thrashing he had received for TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME two years before the release of ED WOOD. Indeed, the black and white film’s many allusions to the equally black and white and allegorical Lynch films, ERASERHEAD (1977) and THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), reaffirmed the implicit intent of ED WOOD. The fact that the title of ED WOOD also evoked the mighty WOOD, the radio station in Tim Burton linked Lumberton in BLUE VELVET, also reaffirmed the implicit Lynch roasting intent of ED WOOD.
In addition, Burton implied that he was roasting Bigelow again in the symbolic form of Wood’s film wrecking associate, Maila ‘Vampira’ Nurmi-a good symbolic link, given that Bigelow had directed the twilit, cautionary and allegorical vampire film, NEAR DARK (1987), and played by Lisa Marie. Burton also implied that he was roasting Dante again in the symbolic form of another Wood associate, Paul Marco, played by Max Casella. In addition, Burton implied that he was also roasting Bartel and himself in the form of Wood’s other film wrecking associates, Bunny Breckinridge and Conrad Brooks, played by Bill Murray and Brent Hinkley, respectively. However, while ED WOOD was an excellent and hilarious roast of some real life film art characters on both the literal and symbolic levels-with a moving and memorable Academy Award winning performance by Martin Landau as despondent and drug addicted Bela Lugosi, another dog lover, which he called his ‘children of the night’, who lived in a L. A. suburb similar to the ones seen in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, FRANKENWEENIE and VINCENT, a performance helped along by an Academy Award winning hair and makeup transformation by Rick Baker-likening Lynch to Wood was not credible. Lynch was a far better film artist than Wood, and also showed no interest in wearing women’s clothing. In fact, despite the implication that Brooks symbolized Burton, Wood evoked Burton more than he did Lynch.
Indeed, the giddy, irrepressible, eternally optimistic and transvestite child-man Wood always recalled Herman in PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, who also dressed up as a woman to evade the law early into his big adventure. Wood’s love of horror films and novels was shared by Burton, and his harebrained and shoestring approach to film art also evoked young Frankenstein’s freshman effort MONSTERS OF LONG AGO in FRANKENWEENIE. Wood’s irrepressibly upbeat and sunny outlook on life also no doubt summed up Burton’s giddy and irrepressible artbusting mood with the success of BATMAN RETURNS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and TIM BURTON’S NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Wood also loved Hallowe’en Town as much as Burton, hanging out with Lugosi one Hallowe’en night watching Vampira and the allegorical Victor Halperin film, WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)-fittingly starring Lugosi as Haitian voodoo zombie master, ‘Murder’ Legendre, perhaps linked to even creepier real life German zombie master, Adolf Hitler-on television and scaring trick or treaters with the Count. Indeed, there were so many similarities between Burton and Wood, one wondered if Burton was admitting to a penchant for wearing women’s clothing that he was too shy and coy to openly acknowledge in public. This coyness was not shared by fearless Eddie, who not only openly wore women’s clothing in public and on film in his allegorical classic, GLEN OR GLENDA (1953)-the title evoking the sight of Sheryl Lee’s Glinda the Good falling gently from the sky on wires at the end of WILD AT HEART in another nod to Lynch-but also boasted that he had fought his way through the bloody beaches and steamy jungles of the Pacific War wearing women’s undergarments. Way to go, Eddie!
And way to go, Timmy! For the real world depth that was missing in Burton’s film art prior to ED WOOD had finally arrived, implying bigger and fuller Hallowe’en Towns to come for Burton. Alex Proyas implicitly disagreed, having Brandon Lee’s haunted and implicitly Bigelow linked undead avenger, Eric ‘the Crow’ Draven, hunt down and kill Michael Wincott’s implicitly Burton linked Top Dollar-and David P. Kelly’s implicitly Cameron linked T-Bird and Angel David’s implicitly Spielberg linked Skank-for murdering pure film art for film art’s sake-symbolized by Sofia Sania’s Sofia Coppola resembling Shelly Webster-with blockbuster beasts like BATMAN in the dark, violent and BATMAN evoking allegorical film, THE CROW (1994). As for Disney, the Mouse House repaid Burton for helping their cause with ED WOOD and TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS by implicitly roasting him in the form of the blockbuster gold lusting Governor Ratcliffe-voiced by David O. Stiers-the scourge of the brave New World of CGI enhanced film art in the allegorical and CGI enhanced Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg hand-animated film, POCAHONTAS (1995). Curiously, Burton ignored Dis and the support of Proyas and looked to Wood to take a step backwards to the gleefully manic and goth-lite films that had preceded ED WOOD when he rejoined Atwood, Elfman, Lebenzon, Marie and Parker to literally merge live action with CGI animation on his Wood-like allegorical animaction artbuster, MARS ATTACKS! (1996).
‘Don’t run. We are your friends.’
Significantly, Burton spent his first CGI enhanced artbuster learning how to master ‘prestidigitalation’ and fighting a desperate battle against CGI enhanced film art in the symbolic form of humanity’s equally desperate battle against an invasion of gleefully destructive and remorseless CGI enhanced Martians who evoked the Joker and his equally irrepressible and rampaging gang in BATMAN and the Penguin and the Red Triangle Gang in BATMAN RETURNS. The desperate battle reminded us that CGI had been implicitly championed after 1982 by Lucas and Spielberg as a way to pull off dangerous and explosive on set effects without causing any more fatal TZ disasters. Initially no one had worried about its development, but that had all changed the year before the release of MARS ATTACKS! when Pixar, the upstart new CGI film company, released an all CGI allegorical film directed by John Lasseter called TOY STORY (1995). With the dire prospect of films with human actors being phased out and replaced with films with all CGI characters like TOY STORY, clearly there was cause to worry about CGI. Thus, with humans fighting, and eventually winning, the desperate battle against the CGI Martians, a victory that literally led to the triumph of the natural world, in the end, Burton implied that he was warning film artists not to destroy the vital humanity of film art with an obsession with CGI. Indeed, in their spacesuits the gremlin Martians resembled the Dark Side of the Tim Allen voiced Buzz Lightyear of TOY STORY throughout MARS ATTACKS!, implicitly affirming the cautionary and TOY STORY battling allegorical intent of MARS ATTACKS! The fact that TOY STORY was also an exuberantly shameless filmmercial for all of the toys featured in the film no doubt also offended the artbusting Burton.
Humorously, on top of the Elfman soundtrack that evoked Louis Barron’s soundtrack for the allegorical and implicitly television roasting Fred M. Wilcox film, FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), MARS ATTACKS! also featured an eerie yodelling song called ‘Indian Love Call’ (1952) sung by Slim Whitman and broadcast over radio stations ended up killing all of the Martians in the end, reiterating Burton’s hope that quirky film art like his own oeuvre would kill off soulless CGI enhanced blockbuster films and replace them with more artistic, creative, and original CGI enhanced artbusters like EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and ED WOOD. That implication was reaffirmed by the appearance of the equally idiosyncratic Tom Jones as himself, battling the madcap Martians in between gigs in Las Vegas. A fitting appearance, given the importance of his songs in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. Burton also implied his hope that Lucas would emerge from retirement and lead the way in this regard, given all of the nods to Lucas and the STAR WARS Classic Trilogy in the film. Indeed, the film appeared to have ended on May 14th-the birthday of Lucas-with Natalie Portman’s Taffy Dale draping a medal over the head of Lukas Haas’ Lucas resembling Richard ‘Richie’ Norris as a reward for discovering that ‘Indian Love Call’ killed the Martians, evoking the medal ceremony at the end of the allegorical and implicitly Spielberg roasting Lucas film, STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977), to implicitly affirm Burton’s hope in Lucas.
Unfortunately, while a wry artbuster roast of blockbuster film, MARS ATTACKS! was also disappointingly light weight and a significant step down from ED WOOD. MARS ATTACKS! was also such a big film with a large and talented cast and several different shooting locations that it inadvertently approached blockbuster status. Worrisome proximity to the blockbuster beast that disappeared when Dis persuaded Burton and DiNovi to work together with them-and with Randy Newman, who provided notes and words-on Selick’s allegorical animaction artbuster, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (1996)-based on the allegorical 1961 Dahl novel of the same name-a curious film which was another implicit and rare political allegory from Burton and Selick that recalled their collaboration on TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. For, despite its Cameron evoking title, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH was more likely a surprisingly gentle and sympathetic nod of support to George W. Bush jr. and some contemporary international leaders, given the resemblance of Paul Terry’s James H. Trotter to Dubya, of the scrappy and Richard Dreyfuss voiced Centipede to Prime Minister Jean ‘the Scrapper’ Chretien of Canada, of the Jane Leeves voiced Ladybug to Queen Elizabeth II, and of the Simon Callow voiced Grasshopper to presumably Prime Minister John Major of the United Kingdom. These links also implied that the voyage across the Atlantic from England to New York in the giant pumpkin evoking giant peach-with a victory over a Skellington evoking and, hence, implicitly Clinton linked pirate along the way-and the final triumph of James and his insect friends over the Wicked Aunts Spiker and Sponge-played by Joanna Lumley and Miriam Margolyes, respectively-that allowed them all to go on to happier lives, symbolized Dubya triumphing over the two administrations of President Clinton in an upcoming election.
Curiously, that same year Disney also implicitly linked Burton to the Paul Kundel voiced gypsy narrator/magician/puppeteer Clopin and had Clopin help the implicitly Landis linked and Tom Hulce voiced hunchback, Quasimodo, triumph over the implicitly Lynch linked and Tony Jay voiced evildoer Justice Frollo in the allegorical Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise film, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1996), inspired by the allegorical Victor Hugo novel, Notre-Dame De Paris, which was perhaps a satirical mediation on Edgar A. Poe. Indeed, Disney underlined their implicit interest in Burton and Lynch by all of the film’s allusions to BATMAN RETURNS, BEETLEJUICE, FRANKENWEENIE, THE ELEPHANT MAN and TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The presence of the implicitly Bigelow linked, Demi Moore voiced and Heidi Mollenhauer sung Esmeralda reaffirmed Disney’s implicit intent, for the character evoked the appearance of O-Lan Jones as Esmeralda in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. As for Burton, he fled the blockbuster and turned to a smaller film again when he teamed up with Atwood, Depp, Elfman, Gough, Heinrichs, Jones, Lebenzon, Marie and executive producer Francis Coppola to reassure his fans-the children of the twilight-and himself that he had not sold out, and also returned to Hallowe’en Town-albeit a far more dark and violent town than that seen in TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS-to exorcise the TZ disaster from Temple Theatres and audiences for good just in time for the new millennium in his next allegorical animaction artbuster, SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999), inspired by the allegorical Washington Irving story, ‘The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow’ (1820).
‘The assassin is a man of flesh and blood,
and I will discover him.’
Significantly, in a reversal of ED WOOD, Burton implicitly reached out a sympathetic and gently satirical hand to Lynch by way of Depp’s cowardly and scientific detection method obsessed Constable Ichabod Crane. Indeed, Depp’s resemblance to Kyle MacLachlan’s Paul ‘Maud’dib’ Atreides in the twilit and allegorical Lynch film, DUNE (1984), and the film’s allusions to BLUE VELVET, DUNE, THE ELEPHANT MAN, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and WILD AT HEART affirmed Crane’s implicit link to Lynch and the implicit Lynch supporting intent of SLEEPY HOLLOW. The sight of Corporal Crane being sent from New York to the small, sleepy and upstate town of Sleepy Hollow-a literal Hallowe’en town, as the film began in the jack o’lantern filled Hallowe’en of 1799-along the Canadian border to investigate the decapitations of a twilit trio of victims reaffirmed the implicit Lynch addressing intent of the film, reminding us that MacLachlan’s FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper was sent to the small Washington state town of Twin Peaks along the Canadian border to solve the murder of Lee’s Laura Palmer in TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and the equally twilit and allegorical telefilm series, TWIN PEAKS (1990-1). This implicit sympathy for Lynch was quite a change from the dismissive roast Burton implicitly gave Lynch in ED WOOD, and was perhaps due to the presence of Coppola as executive producer, who knew as well as Lynch what it was like to be built up and then torn down by audiences.
This twilit investigation led to Crane freeing Sleepy Hollow from the rotoring blade of the headless Hessian Horseman-played by Walken, who fittingly and ironically linked the film to the year of the release of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE by way of his lead role as the tormented and implicitly Lynch linked psychic John Smith in the allegorical David Cronenberg film, THE DEAD ZONE (1983)-thus freeing the nightmare haunted town of Hollowood from Morrow and the rotoring TZ disaster in time for the new millennia, as well. Indeed, exorcising the relentlessly decapitating Horseman also saved the pretty, blonde and implicitly film art linked Katrina Van Tassell-who evoked Palmer in TWIN PEAKS, Virginia Madsen’s Princess Irulan in DUNE and Laura Dern’s Sandy Williams in BLUE VELVET, and was played by Christina Ricci-implicitly affirming that Burton was also attempting to free the sleepy town of Hollowood from the grip of the decapitating TZ disaster in time for the new millennia in SLEEPY HOLLOW. The callous and greedy Dark Side that lead to the TZ disaster was also implicitly vanquished in the film, for the Evil, Hollywood blonde, money mad and murderous step-mother witch, Lady Van Tassel-played by Miranda Richardson-who controlled the Horseman with her black magic was taken by the whole and harmonious Horseman when he was given back his head and disappeared forever into the Tree of Death at the end of the film.
Curiously, given his lack of a head and his furious and violent determination to get it back, one would think that the Headless Horseman was linked to Morrow. However, the Horseman and his human controller, Lady Van Tassel, were linked to such twilit, violent and allegorical Paul Verhoeven films such as FLESH + BLOOD (1985), ROBOCOP (1987), BASIC INSTINCT (1992) and STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) throughout the film. The appearance of Casper Van Dien as Brom reaffirmed the implicit link of Lady Van Tassel and the Headless Horseman to Verhoeven, as Van Dien had played super trooper Johnny Rico in the ultraviolent, CCI enhanced and implicitly Lynch and DUNE roasting STARSHIP TROOPERS. The appearance of Katrina Van Tassel had also been anticipated by a supporting character named Katrina-played by Blake Lindsley-in STARSHIP TROOPERS, reaffirming the implicit allegorical intent of SLEEPY HOLLOW. The predominance of citizens of Dutch descent in Sleepy Hollow reaffirmed the implicit interest in the Dutch film artist in the film. Thus, the disappearance of Lady Van Tassel and the Headless Horseman, in the end, also implied that Burton and Coppola were trying to exorcise Verhoeven and his violent film art in SLEEPY HOLLOW.
Intriguingly, as three of the Horseman’s victims after the arrival of Crane in Sleepy Hollow were implicitly linked to Lucas, Morrow and Spielberg-Magistrate Samuel Philipse, Lord Baltus Van Tassel and Doctor Thomas Lancaster, played by Richard Griffiths, Michael Gambol and Ian McDiarmid, respectively-as well as the Beast Rabban, Baron Harkonnen and Pieter De Vries-played by Paul Smith, Kenneth McMillian and Brad Dourif, respectively-in DUNE, Burton also implied his hope that he and Lynch would triumph over the three film artists and leave them behind in the new millennium with SLEEPY HOLLOW. However, despite being beautifully and memorably realized, the triumphant ending and gory violence, SLEEPY HOLLOW was another lighter and disappointing film from Burton and a step down from ED WOOD. It was also not likely that the Horseman’s gruesome decapitations exorcised the equally decapitating TZ disaster in time for the new millennium. Making it a shame that Burton did not follow up with a more idiosyncratic and thoughtful artbuster like ED WOOD or EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and instead collaborated with Atwood, Baker, Elfman, Heinrichs, Lebenzon, Marie and executive producer Derek Frey again on another CGI enhanced sly fi allegorical animaction artbuster, PLANET OF THE APES (2001), based on the allegorical 1963 Pierre Boule novel.
‘Here they come!’
Curiously, the film began in orbit around Saturn at the USAF Space Research allegorical and Cameron and Spielberg addressing Lucas film, STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999), linking the film to Lucas. Soon Mark Wahlberg’s Captain Leo Davidson found himself being pulled through a worm hole after some electromagnetic storm (EMS) while outside the station involved in precarious jackanapes in his Delta pod. Surviving the trip through the worm hole, Davidson crash landed on a strange and fecund planet like Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker crash landed on the equally fecund Dagobah in the Spielberg roasting, Lucas executive produced and Irv Kershner directed allegorical film, STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), implicitly linking Davidson to Lucas. Here on the forbidding planet, Davidson was soon captured by the planet’s intelligent simians and enslaved with other renegade humans like Estella Warren’s Daena. Breaking free from captivity, Davidson led a human revolt against the simians and their implicitly Stanley Kubrick linked leader, General Thade-his name fittingly an anagram of death, given that Kubrick died in 1999 around the time of the release of his last and implicitly Lynch addressing allegorical film, EYES WIDE SHUT (1999), and played by Tim Roth-his link to Kubrick reaffirmed by the film’s allusions to such allegorical Kubrick films as SPARTACUS (1960), and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), particularly the latter’s opening ‘The Dawn of Man’ sequence. Curiously, the revolt led by Davidus was successful, and led not only to the defeat of Thade, but a commitment to peaceful relations between human and simian that implicitly symbolized peaceful relations between audiences and film artists.
However, it was noticeable that when Davidson left the forbidding planet and returned via EMS worm hole to Earth, anti-human simians who looked up to the dead Thade as a hero and who had taken over Earth promptly arrested Davidson. Thus, Burton implied that despite the epic scale of the new CGI enhanced STAR WARS Tragic Trilogy, the film legacy and legend of the recently deceased Kubrick would still overshadow and defeat Lucas, in the end, like EYES WIDE SHUT had defeated STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE in 1999-an implication that most observers would agree with.
While a fine film and one that Burton successfully put his quirky and idiosyncratic artbuster stamp on, PLANET OF THE APES veered as dangerously close to blockbuster status as MARS ATTACKS! A close proximity that Guillermo Del Toro implied his concern about, for he implicitly linked Burton to the Evil, murderous and gold lusting Jacinto, the ex-Disney Prince without a Magic Kingdom-played by Eduardo Noriega-in this allegorical film, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001). As for Burton, he soon rejoined Atwood, De Vito, Elfman, Frey, Lebenzon, Roy, Helena B. Carter and directorial/production assistant Katterli Frauenfelder brought the Edward Trilogy to a sweet trimax with the smaller and more intimate allegorical animaction artbuster, BIG FISH (2003).
‘Sandra Templeton, I love you and I will marry you!’
Curiously, the indomitable, creative, tale telling, idiosyncratic and ultimately successful quest of the implicitly Lynch linked Edward Bloom-played by Ewan MacGregor as a youth, and Albert Finney as an old man, respectively-to impress, woo and finally marry Sandra Templeton-played as a youth by Alison Lohman, and as an adult by Jessica Lange, respectively-by wrestling her away from David Denham’s Don Price implicitly symbolized the quest of Lynch to defeat crass commercial film with highly personal, quirky, imaginative and idiosyncratic moving painting film art. Indeed, the film’s allusions to BLUE VELVET, ED WOOD, PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, THE ELEPHANT MAN, WILD AT HEART and such other allegorical Lynch films as THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999), and MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001), reaffirmed the wry and gently satirical but implicitly Lynch supporting intent of the film, as in SLEEPY HOLLOW. Indeed, the sight of Bloom and his tall tales achieving immortality in death, in the end, implied that Burton now believed that Lynch had also achieved an immortality of sorts with his quirky and dreamy moving paintings.
And how fitting that Bloom’s quest also summed up Burton’s own indomitable, creative, tale telling, idiosyncratic, romantic, creepy, horror loving and ultimately successful quest to woo Hollywood and its Temple Theatres away from obsessions with ‘Price’ and, hence, money, with his own unique allegorical animaction artbuster style. A commitment to Hallowe’en Town that was reaffirmed by Spectre, a literal ghost town that Bloom saved in ED WOOD. A commitment that did not impress John Fawcett, for he implicitly roasted BIG FISH in his allegorical film, THE DARK (2004).
‘The dead don’t get second chances.’
In fact, Fawcett implied in THE DARK that Burton’s implicit attempt to win over audiences to the film art of Lynch with BIG FISH would be as unsuccessful as the ill fated attempt of the implicitly Burton linked and sinister Welsh Shepherd of souls-played by the fittingly surnamed Richard Elfyn-to save his dead daughter, Ebrill-implicitly linked to the film art of Lynch, and played by Abigail Stone. A dead daughter saved by persuading his small and devout Welsh flock to trade their lives for Ebrill by leaping off a cliff on the rugged coast of Wales-actually, the Isle of Man-to their doom in the rocky surf below. For the return of Ebrill from Annwyn, the land of the dead, caused all of the Shepherd’s real sheep to die as if to balance out the deaths of all of his human flock, leading the Shepherd to try to drain the Dark power from Ebrill by drilling holes in her head. As the Lynch linked Ebrill also ended up killing her father by pushing the Shepherd off the same cliff that his followers had leapt off, Fawcett also implicitly warned Burton that his implicit sympathy for Lynch in BIG FISH would be the death of him and his film art. Indeed, Fawcett affirmed his implicit Burton and Lynch addressing intent by alluding to DUNE, FRANKENWEENIE, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE ELEPHANT MAN and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME-that is, when THE DARK was not alluding to the allegorical Paul Stewart telefilm, ‘Little Girl Lost’ (1962), from the third season of the Twilight Zone television series, and the ‘Little Girl Lost’ inspired, Spielberg co-written and co-produced, and allegorical Tobe Hooper film, POLTERGEIST (1982).
Fawcett also implicitly warned Cameron not to imitate Burton and sympathize with Lynch lest he and his film art also die, a warning implied when Sean Bean’s Cameron evoking James and his ex-wife and daughter, Adele and Sarah-played by Maria Bello and Sophie Stuckey, respectively-were caught up in the haunting tale of Ebrill and the Shepherd decades later when the unknowing trio moved into their abandoned house in Wales. For THE DARK not only ended with the hot tempered and physically aggressive Adele, implicitly linked to the film art of Cameron, trapped in the land of the dead forever with the Shepherd after freeing the Burton resembling Sarah from Annwyn. The film also ended with Sarah trapped in the undead grip of Lynch, for her body was actually occupied by the soul of Ebrill, in the end. A dark and haunting tale that Burton ignored for the moment, as he reaffirmed his commitment to his own idiosyncratic film art when he returned with Carter, Depp, Elfman-who provided music, with lyrics mostly by Roald Dahl-Frauenfelder, Frey, Lebenzon, Christopher Lee, Missi Pyle, Deep Roy-as every mischievous and singing and dancing Oompa Loompa!-and co-executive producer Felicity Dahl in Burton’s next allegorical animaction artbuster, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005), an updated and CGI enhanced riff on Dahl’s perennially popular children of all age’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).
‘Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money.’
Indeed, the sight of another snowswept Warner Brothers logo-as gleaming gold as a Wonka Golden Ticket-immediately reassured fans that Burton was yet again taking over and putting his creepy and idiosyncratic Hallowe’en Town stamp on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The imaginative and CGI enhanced automated Wonka Chocolate Factory chocolate bar making sequence that followed the snowswept Golden Warners logo reaffirmed that point, recalling a similar and entirely live action automated cookie making sequence in a flashback in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. This implication that Burton used CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY to reaffirm the triumph of his own idiosyncratic animaction artbusters was reiterated by the film. For the story of a poor English lad named Charlie Bucket-played by Freddie Highmore-who grew up down the street from the legendary chocolate factory of the mysterious chocolatier, Willy Wonka-played by Depp-found the Golden Ticket needed to get inside for a tour of the factory, emerged in the end as the one truly Good and sweet kid amongst his fellow child Golden Ticket winners during the factory tour and was presented with the chocolate factory by the retiring Wonka so as to succeed as his own chocolatier evoked Burton’s own life growing up in Burbank, CA not far from the Disney Studios, getting inside the studio for a while as an animator, mastering the Disney secrets, and then going on to succeed as his own animated film artist. A film artist who defeated Lucas and his film art in the Temple Theatre, like Bucket defeated Veruca Salt and Mr. Salt-played by Julia Winter and James Fox, respectively-who evoked a spoiled Princess Leia and her long suffering father, Lucas. In addition, Mike Teavee and Mr. Teavee-played by Jordan Fry and Adam Godley, respectively-evoked Cronenberg and Ron Howard. Arrogant and martial arts loving blonde bimbo, Violet Beauregard and the equally blonde bimbo, Mrs. Beauregard-played by Annasophia Ross and Pyle, respectively-evoked the new kick ass Hollywood heroines. For their part, Augustus Gloop and Mrs. Gloop-played by Philip Wiegratz and Franziska Troegner, respectively-evoked Terry Gilliam and his film art.
Curiously, however, and unlike the Dahl novel, the film ended not only with Charlie and Grandpa Joe beating the other children and their parents and being bequeathed the Wonka Chocolate Factory by a retiring and grateful Wonka, but with Wonka and his estranged father, Dr. Wilbur Wonka, DDS-played by Lee-embracing each other again. As Dr. Wonka was implicitly linked to Landis, Burton implied his hope that Disney would forgive and embrace Landis, in the end. An implicit interest in Landis that returned when Burton returned to another colourful and musical stop-motion Hallowe’en Town-complete with another undead dog named Scraps-along with Carter, Depp, Elfman-who created both music and songs, as in TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS-Finney, Frey, Gough, Lebenzon, Lee, Roy, Joanna Lumley, music advisor Mike Higham, production designer Alex McDowell and an English setting in the allegorical and CGI enhanced animaction artbuster, TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE (2005), a film co-directed by Michael ‘Mike’ Johnson.
‘This is wrong. I was a bride. My dreams were taken from me. Now-now I’ve stolen them from someone else.’
Curiously, the film saw and heard the Depp voiced and implicitly Landis linked Victor Van Dort, the son of the ‘nouveau riche’ and implicitly New Hollywood linked Mr. and Mrs. Van Dort, voiced by Paul Whitehouse and Tracey Ullman, respectively, about to be wedded to the ironically Emily Watson voiced Victoria Everglot-implicitly linked to the film art of Landis-the daughter of the implicitly Old Hollywood linked Mr. and Mrs. Everglot, voiced by Finney and Joanna Lumley, respectively. Unexpectedly, however, they were prevented from doing so by the shock arrival of the ironically Carter voiced Emily, the Corpse Bride, implicitly linked to the TZ disaster. Indeed, Emily’s link to the TZ disaster was affirmed by the fact that she had become a corpse bride after being spurned by the implicitly Morrow linked and dastardly Barkis Bittern, voiced by Richard E. Grant. However, Emily later had a change of heart and mind, released her undead grip on Van Dort, and allowed him to marry Everglot, in the end. Thus, Burton and Johnson implied their hope that the TZ disaster would no longer overshadow Landis, and he would be released by audiences to succeed with film art again. Indeed, the fact that the characters of Victor and Victoria also evoked the two characters Victor and Victoria played by Julie Andrews in the allegorical Blake Edwards film, VICTOR/VICTORIA (1982), affirmed the film’s implicit interest in the year of the TZ disaster. However, and despite the efforts of Burton and Johnson, the career of Landis was long over. Despite this, an embrace of England and twilit and macabre musicals returned with an unusually dark and violent Hallowe’en Town when Burton rejoined Atwood, Carter, Depp, Frauenfelder, Frey and Lebenzon-with music and lyrics this time by Stephen Sondheim and additional music and arrangements by Higham-and put the ‘gory’ in allegory with THE CROW and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME evoking animated allegorical artbuster, SWEENEY TODD (2007).
‘I feel shattered…cursed.’
Significantly, the creepy CGI animated Dreamworks SKG logo that preceded SWEENEY TODD immediately linked the film to the TZ disaster. For the sight of a boy fishing on a waxing crescent sliver of moon in a dark and cloudy sky reminded us that a waxing crescent sliver of moon hung in a dark and cloudy early morning sky when the TZ disaster occurred at 2:20 am on July 23, 1982. Thus, this eerie prelude immediately implied that the latest Burton offering was again part of the dread allegorical Zone Wars that had been raging on film and in fiction since 1982, an implication affirmed when the Warner Brothers logo followed the Dreamworks SKG prelude. SWEENEY TODD then revolved around a disaffected barber-Depp’s Sweeney Todd-returning to London from imprisoned banishment and then destroying himself as he exacted revenge on his banisher, Allan Rickman’s Judge Turpin. As only two years before, Lucas had finished destroying his reputation trying to wreak revenge on the implicitly Cameron linked Anakin Skywalker-played by Hayden Christensen-with the allegorical film, STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005), the trimax of his despairing Tragic Trilogy, the implication was that Todd symbolized Lucas and Turpin symbolized Cameron-a perfect year to address the later, given that SWEENEY TODD was released in the tenth anniversary year of the allegorical Cameron film, TITANIC (1997). And that Burton felt that the new Tragic Trilogy revealed that Lucas had killed his film art with his obsession with revenge, just as Todd inadvertently killed his life’s love and wife, Lucy-played by Laura M. Kelly. Leaving him sadly weeping blood over her body from a slit throat after being cut down by the street urchin, Tobias Ragg-played by Edward Sanders, in the end. How fitting that Ragg was a boy, given how disappointed young fans were with the Tragic Trilogy and how disappointed young fans of an earlier age had also been with STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI, the trimax of the Classic Trilogy. The resemblance of Todd’s accomplice, Mrs. lovett-played by Carter-to Aurra Sing, a female bounty hunter played by Michonne Bourriague in the allegorical Lucas film, STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999), reaffirmed the implicit intent of SWEENEY TODD. How fitting that the surname of Mrs. Lovett also evoked that of Paxton’s Brock Lovett in TITANIC.
Curiously, after symbolically hacking Cameron-and Sacha B. Cohen’s implicitly Disney linked Pirelli-down in SWEENEY TODD, Burton addressed Cameron again and again flirted dangerously with beastly blockbuster film by collaborating with Atwood, Carter, Depp, Dis, Elfman, Frauenfelder, Frey, Higham, Lebenzon-now co-executive producer as well as editor-Lee and Rickman by implicitly addressing the emerging threat posed to the status of Disney as the top animated film studio in the world-now that they had purchased arch rival, Pixar, and Marvel Comics-by the CGI animated films being released by rival Dreamworks SKG in the mostly CGI enhanced allegorical animaction artbuster, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010).
‘The nightmare again.’
Significantly, the sight of Mia Wasikowska’s Alice Kingsleigh interacting with CGI creatures and environments in Under-Wonderland throughout most of the film reminded us that Disney had begun its film art journey with another real life Alice interacting with hand-animated creatures and environments in THE ALICE COMEDIES, implicitly linking Kingsleigh to Disney film art. As Carter’s rude and imperious Red Queen evoked the equally rude and imperious Jeffrey Katzenberg, the ‘K’ in Dreamworks SKG and once the head of feature film of Disney, and her right hand man, Crispin Glover’s Red Knight, evoked Spielberg, the implication was that the triumph of Kingsleigh and the forces of Anne Hathaway’s White Queen over the Red Knight and Red Queen equated with a triumph of Disney CGI film art over Dreamworks SKG film art. Unfortunately, the film was more Disney blockbuster than Burton artbuster. It also ridiculously ended back in England with Alice and Tim Piggot-Smith’s implicitly Cameron linked Lord Ascot deciding to join forces to expand their company into China, a country that the Mouse House was eager to expand into in real life. This improbable and implicit union with Cameron and brash expansion into China underlined that ALICE IN WONDERLAND was more of a blockbuster filmmercial for Disney than it was a Burton film. Thus, it was no surprise that Burton returned to Hallowe’en Town again with Atwood, Carter, Depp, Elfman, Frauenfelder, Frey, Higham, Lebenzon, Heinrichs, Pfeiffer and Warner Brothers to reassure his fans-those children of the twilight!-yet again that he had not sold out and abandoned the quirky and creepy artbuster path and also implicitly replied to THE DARK in his fittingly entitled and CGI enhanced allegorical animaction artbuster, DARK SHADOWS (2012), a film that evoked the allegorical Lewis Allen film, THE UNINVITED (1944).
‘You cannot love, Angelique. That is your curse.’
Curiously, the film began with the Collins family moving from England in 1760 and first establishing the thriving cannery of Collinsport on the coast of Maine-evoking the rugged coast of the Isle of Man which stood in for Wales in THE DARK and the Van Dort fish cannery in TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE-which led to a town of the same name growing around the cannery. The Collins family then spent fifteen years building Collinwood, their palatial mansion, a lonely mansion on a hill that evoked the Scissorhands mansion in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. As both Collinsport and Collinwood evoked Hollywood, albeit in a northern location, the implication was that the town symbolized Hollywood North, otherwise known as Canada. Indeed, Burton soon introduced a wicked Angel into the mix that linked Collinsport to Los Angeles, and evoked the rivalry that Hollywood South had with Hollywood North. For jealous of the success and wealth of Mr. and Mrs. Joshua and Naomi Collins-played by Ivan Kaye and Susanna Capellaro, respectively-Eva Green’s jealous and Ebrill resembling French maid, Angelique, used her Wicked Witch spells to kill the founders of both Collinsport and Collinwood one unexpected night. Later, outraged that Depp’s Barnabas Collins, the grown son and heir of the Collins fortune, fell in love with Bella Heathcote’s Josette, Evil Angelique put a spell on Josette that caused her to leap off Widow’s Hill behind Collinwood to her doom on the wave wracked rocks below, evoking the devout parishioners of the Shepherd who leaped off a cliff to their doom to return Ebrill to life in THE DARK. Evil Angelique also put a curse on Collins that turned him into a vampire, before burying him in a coffin undead in the dark…forevermore-good thing Depp got all those free vampire lessons from Landau’s Lugosi in ED WOOD! As the twilit trio of deaths of Joshua, Josette and Naomi evoked the deaths of Myca, Renee and Vic in the TZ disaster, and the undead banishment of Barnabas evoked the banishment of Landis by society after the TZ disaster, the implication was that Burton was symbolically meditating on Evil Los Angeles, Landis and his miserable plight and the impact of both on Hollywood North in DARK SHADOWS in the thirtieth anniversary year of the TZ disaster. Indeed, the many instances of characters breaking the fourth wall as in the film art of Landis suggested as much in DARK SHADOWS.
However, no sooner did the tumultuous and gothic prologue end than the reincarnation of Josette in the form of Maggie Evans-played again by Heathcote-arrived on the scene two centuries later fittingly in October of 1972 to apply for a position as a governess at Collinwood. Curiously, on the train to Collinsport, Evans spied an odd and incongruous poster on the wall promoting skiing-?-a continent away in Victoria, B.C., not far from where I grew up as a youth in Delta, B. C. Inspired by this strange poster for skiing in a city that receives more rain than snow each year, Evans decided on the spur of the moment to use the name Victoria ‘Vicky’ Winters when she applied at Collinwood for the governess position. Intriguingly, this pseudonym linked Evans to British Columbia and to Canada, evoking the implicit link of Collinsport to Hollywood North and Canada. Just as intriguingly, the pseudonym chosen by Evans also linked her to Barnabas Collins via his B. C. initials. Significantly, Collins was a cursed character who was also linked to Canada via the Red Ensign flag that flew from the British ship that brought the Collins family to Maine in the Eighteenth Century, as the Red Ensign was the flag of Canada until it was finally replaced by the red and white Maple Leaf flag in 1965. This link to Canada and the Maple Leaf flag was soon implicitly reaffirmed when hippies in a doubly fitting red and white VW van-license P1 467, evoking my birthday on July 4th, 1967, a fateful year reaffirmed by the sound of ‘Nights in White Satin’ (1967) by the Moody Blues accompanying the travels of Evans-picked up Evans outside the train station and drove her into Collinsport and then up to Collinwood.
Of course, the Victoria Winters pseudonym also linked Evans to the film art of Landis via Victoria in TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE, and to the twilit and disastrous year of 1982 via VICTOR/VICTORIA. Thus, Collins and Evans were already linked to each other and to B.C., Canada, Josette, Landis, the film art of Landis and perhaps even to my Zonebuster website and myself before they met, making it no surprise that they fell in love with each other when they met at Collinwood. Collins and Evans were also linked to the film art of Burton, for after walking up a winding driveway, Evans was soon walking past the Collins family pumpkin patch in the front yard of Collinwood, officially linking the mansion and fishing port to Hallowe’en Town. The knock of Evans led to the door being opened by a lost and confused family servant, Willy-evoking my middle name, William, and played by Jackie E. Haley. Evans was then welcomed to Collinwood by Pfeiffer’s family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, her first name evoking Queen Elizabeth II in another implicit nod to Canada that reaffirmed that Collinsport symbolized Hollywood North. Pfeiffer was an inspired choice, as she linked the film to 1992 via BATMAN RETURNS, the year of the release of the allegorical Landis vampire film, INNOCENT BLOOD (1992), implicitly reaffirming the film’s interest in Landis.
Significantly, no sooner did ‘Winters’ arrive at Collinwood, then Collins returned from the undead. For he was liberated from his coffin prison by a group of construction workers digging up the ground for a foundation for a McDonald’s restaurant, popping up out of nowhere like my Zone War website and myself the year or so before on the winternet. After slaking his vampiric thirst on the workers-one of whom resembled James Cameron in another link of Collins and the film to Canada-Collins returned to Collinwood and promptly fell in love with ‘Winters’, who he recognized as his reincarnated love, Josette. Collins and Evans soon banded together to defeat diabolical Angelique, still alive and unwell via witchcraft and now very implicitly linked to the Dark Side of Los Angeles and Hollywood South as the successful, statuesque and Evil blonde head of Angel Bay, the rival cannery that had taken over the fishing and cannery businesses in Collinsport after the banishment of Collins and the bankruptcy of the Collins Cannery Company. For Angel Bay evoked Anchor Bay Entertainment, a Hollywood film production company. In addition, the sight of a righteously furious Collins putting the teeth to Carter’s implicitly Fawcett linked Dr. Julia Hoffman before drowning her, and giving Jonny Lee Miller’s implicitly Christopher Nolan linked and avaricious deadbeat Roger Collins the boot from Collinwood-clearly, Burton did not like Nolan’s Batman films-implied that Burton was also using DARK SHADOWS to defeat Fawcett and Nolan.
Significantly, as the defeat of Angelique not only freed the implicit Hollywood North of Collinsport from her Wicked grip, but ended the curse of Collins and returned Josette to him, in the end, Burton implied one of three things. One: that Burton was trying to use an allegorical film to disperse the black cloud that had hung over Landis since the TZ disaster so as to allow the infamous director to succeed again with his film art in Hollywood. Indeed, the fact that Collins prevented Evans from perishing from her fall off Widow’s Hill by successfully transforming her into a vampire version of Josette, in the end, allowing Collins and Josette to live happily undead together forever implied that Burton wanted Landis to succeed again with his film art so that the two would also live happily forever. Two: that Burton had noticed my website-which mentioned my Ontario birth but B. C. upbringing-when it appeared on the internet in 2010 or 2011, and was hoping that its insightful Zonebuster essays and book length look at the life and film art of Lucas would somehow restore the reputation of Landis and allow him to succeed again with his film art, symbolized by the Landis linked Collins working with the B. C. and Canada linked Evans to defeat Angelique. Three: that DARK SHADOWS had nothing to do with Landis and his film art, but was simply a sardonically sympathetic nod to my site and myself that tried to free me from my ‘cursed’ obsession with Landis and the TZ disaster.
Indeed, given that after defeating Wicked Angelique and walking away from her, Collins then threw himself after Evans and bit her neck as she fell from Widow’s Hill in another allusion to THE DARK at the end of the film, transforming her into Josette and giving him an undead life to love at last, Burton implied that he was telling me to let go of Wicked Los Angeles and the cursed TZ disaster and to literally get a life. Given that the license of the ‘Canadian’ red and white VW hippie van that dropped ‘Victoria Winters’ off at Collinwood was P1 647, evoking my birthdate, and given the open link of both Barnabas Collins and Evans to B.C. and Canada, the implication was strong that interpretation Three was the one that correctly explained DARK SHADOWS. A not entirely bizarre interpretation, as the allegorical and implicitly Wright roasting Jason Reitman film, YOUNG ADULT (2011), the first allegorical film to address my site, had been released the year before the release of DARK SHADOWS (see the ‘Cinema Garite’ essay at the Gary W. Wright tab at the Zonebusters section of this site for more insight into films that implicitly address my Zone War essays and my book on Lucas). At any rate, an implicit interest in Canada was reaffirmed that year when Burton returned to Hallowe’en Town with Disney, Elfman, Frey, Heinrichs, Higham, Landau, Lebenzon, O’Hara and Ryder again on the newly reanimated, stop-motion and CGI enhanced allegorical animaction artbuster, FRANKENWEENIE (2012).
‘I was doing it for the wrong reason.’
Significantly, the new CGI enhanced stop-motion FRANKENWEENIE began with the animated and colourful Walt Disney intro with its familiar castle and magical theme suddenly waylaid near the end by a crack of thunder and burst of lightning that brought with them a gothic, spooky and black and white dark and stormy night with a full moon brooding in the cloudy sky, accompanied by appropriately gothic and spooky organ music from Meister Elfman. Like the snowswept Warner Brothers logos that preceded BATMAN RETURNS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, this gothic and spooky transformation made it clear that audiences had returned to Hallowe’en Town. Thus, and as with DARK SHADOWS, Burton reassured his fans that he had not only not sold out with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but had actually taken over Disney with that film rather than vice versa, as he was doing again with FRANKENWEENIE.
Curiously, after making this reassuring assertion, Burton also soon renewed the interest in Canada seen in DARK SHADOWS. For O’Hara and Martin Short-who had played presidential aide Jerry in MARS ATTACKS!-voiced Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein in this new FRANKENWEENIE. This linked young suburbanite Victor Frankenstein-voiced by Charlie Tahan-to Canada, as well. Making the triumph of young Frankenstein and the reanimated Sparky over the equally reanimated monsters of five of his classmates-Bob, Edgar ‘E’ Gore, Nassor, Toshiaki and Weird Girl, voiced by Robert Capron, Atticus Shaffer, Short, James H. Liao and O’Hara, respectively-that plagued the New Hollywood evoking suburb of New Holland on its annual Dutch Day an implicit triumph of Canada film art or scholarship, in the end, as in DARK SHADOWS. A hope not shared by James McTeigue in his allegorical film, THE RAVEN (2012). Which saw the fittingly and implicitly Burton linked Poe-played by John Cusack-destroy his literary art and himself saving his young blonde love, Emily Hamilton-played by Alice Eve-from the Poe inspired serial killer, Ivan Reynolds-played by Sam Hazeldine-implying the conviction of McTeigue that Burton had sold out and killed his film art and himself saving the equally young and blonde Alice in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Indeed, the fact that a ‘Disney’ was hidden in the name of Ivan Reynolds affirmed the implicit intent of THE RAVEN. An implicit message dismissed by Burton, for he teamed up again with Atwood, Elfman, Frauenfelder, Frey, Heinrichs, Higham and Lebenzon with his most real and deep film since ED WOOD, and one that was not only implicitly linked again to Canada, but just as implicitly addressed this essay and its paltry ‘insight’ into his film art-which Burton could not do in DARK SHADOWS and FRANKENWEENIE in 2011-12 as the first draft of this essay had not been posted in the Zonebusters section of my website then-in his next animated and allegorical artbuster, BIG EYES (2014).
‘How could anyone be so cruel?’
For a Burton evoking Jekyll and Hyde battle between artbuster and blockbuster was literally waged throughout BIG EYES between sincere, virtuous and artbuster promoting Margaret Albrich-played by Amy Adams-and her husband, greedy blockbuster profit lusting, Walter Keane-his name fittingly evoking Timothy Walter ‘Tim’ Burton as much as Walter Disney and Bob Kane, and played by Christoph Waltz-over who really painted and owned Albrich’s popular, money making and idiosyncratic ‘Big Eyes’ paintings of children, vaguely gothic and idiosyncratic portraits which were as distinctive and quirky as the gothic drawings, paintings and artbusters of Burton. As this battle was linked to art criticism in the form of Terence Stamp’s intimidating and uncompromising NEW YORK TIMES Senior Art Critic, John Canaday, his link to Canada implied when a close-up of one of his columns cut off the ‘-y’ in Canaday to create Canada, Burton implied that a film scholar critical of his film art inspired BIG EYES. As the only Canadian observer easily found on the internet at the moment writing essays on Burton was me, the implication was that Burton was responding to my assertion in this essay-more forcefully and sarcastically conveyed in earlier drafts-that a Jekyll and Hyde battle between a sincere and virtuous film artist who crafted memorable artbusters like EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and a greedy and lustful director out for beastly blockbuster profits who stamped out films like BATMAN, eternally raged within the festering interior of Burton. Heck, a waiter named Gary was even hailed in passing in a bar at one point in BIG EYES, affirming the implication that the film was addressing an ‘insightful’ film scholar named Gary W. Wright.
As Albrich really painted the Big Eye paintings, not the good for nothing Keane, who erely tried to pass them off as his own, it was no surprise and quite a pleasing relief that she won the legal battle that determined that she was, indeed, their creator, in the trial at the end of the film. A triumph of the artbusting Albrich over the blockbusting Keane that implicitly evoked the triumph of Burton’s artbusters over the greedy and beastly Hollywood blockbusters. Making it implicitly clear to audiences and this Canadian ‘scholar’ that Burton was confident that no Jekyll and Hyde battle between film art for film art’s sake and film art for profit’s sake raged within him, and that he had indeed broken as free from the control of blockbuster lusting studios like Disney and Warners and established himself as a truly sincere and independent film artist as Albrich had broken free from Keane to establish herself as a truly sincere and independent painter-despite her ironic resemblance to Monroe! Alas, and ironically, after reaffirming his commitment to idiosyncratic artbusters in BIG EYES, Burton again veered dangerously close to being captured by the crass and soulless blockbuster beast despite returning to Hallowe’en Town and reuniting with Atwood, Frauenfelder, Frey, Green, Higham, Lebenzon and Stamp-with music provided by Higham and Matthew Margeson-on the DARK SHADOWS and THE DARK evoking allegorical animaction artbuster, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016), inspired by the allegorical Ransom Riggs novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2011).
‘September 3, 1943. All day, every day. It’s our loop.’
Significantly, Green’s Good Witch Miss Alma Peregrine was as devoted to her peculiar young charges at The Children’s Home at LLangarsydd on Cairnholm Island off the rugged coast of Wales-evoking the supposedly Welsh location of THE DARK-as Elizabeth Collins was to her own peculiar children at Collinwood in Collinsport on the equally rugged coast of Maine. This linked Llangarsydd to Hollywood North, a link reaffirmed by the return of Green from DARK SHADOWS. And as hopeful that they would one day break free from September 3, 1943 as some embattled film artists and at least one intrepid film scholar were that film art would at last be broken free from July 23, 1982 and the allegorical Zone Wars. Not surprisingly, as the peculiar children trapped in that endless loop of September 3, 1943 were implicitly linked to the main cinematic players in the dread allegorical Zone Wars, including the implicitly Burton linked Enoch-played by Finlay MacMillan-the implicitly Kennedy linked Olive-played by Lauren McCrostie-the implicitly Landis linked, invisible and mayhem causing Millard-played by Cameron King-and the all too fittingly dead, briefly reanimated and implicitly Morrow evoking, Victor-played by Louis Davidson. And as hopeful as at least one intrepid ‘film scholar’, as their modern day ‘ little Tiger’ friend and savior, Jacob ‘Jake’ Portman-his Natalie Portman evoking surname linking him to film art, and played by Asa Butterfield-the one who could see things like the creepy Hollows that were invisible to other people, evoked the peculiarly insightful and Tigerish Gardevil.
Indeed, the fact that Jake’s helpful and encouraging Grandpa Abe was played by Stamp, last seen as the perspicacious and Gardevil evoking critic, John Canaday, in BIG EYES, affirmed the implicit link of Jake to the Gardevil and to Canada. An implicit link to Canada reaffirmed by the English port city of Blackpool at the climatic end of the film, for Blackpool, its waterfront and its Tower evoked Toronto, its waterfront and the CN Tower. The red brick base of the Blackpool Tower also evoked the red brick of the St. Lawrence Market just down Front Street from the CN Tower, reaffirming the implicit link of Blackpool to Toronto. For his part, Samuel L. Jackson’s head baddie, Barron, evoked the implicitly David Cronenberg linked Doctor Samuel Norman in the allegorical and implicitly Gardevil addressing Besson film, LUCY (2014), implicitly linking Barron to either Besson or Cronenberg. At any rate, the triumph over Barron and his Evil colleagues, in the end, appeared to symbolize a victory for Toronto, its film artists, and its film scholars. A triumph that Burton implicitly agreed with, as he appeared in a cameo riding one of the tilt-a-wheel cars in the Blackpool waterfront amusement park during the final battle.
Alas, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN was as disturbingly blockbusterish as MARS ATTACKS! and PLANET OF THE APES. Just as insidious, the X-Men-like film was the first in a dreaded franchise of money sucking films, if Burton so desired. Making a truly idiosyncratic and independent artbuster yet again a necessary follow-up for Burton. One that would reaffirm the quirky, idiosyncratic, imaginative and gothic oeuvre of Burton, and yet again take audiences, reviewers and scholars away from the TZ disaster and the economic, historical, military, political and technological upheavals of the last four decades to a place as lighthearted and exuberantly creepy as Hallowe’en itself, the kind of creepy and macabre artbusters you expected to experience in an out of the way, jack-o’-lantern guarded and sometimes dark and nasty but freedom, democracy, life and creativity loving place nestled deep in a spooky hollow called Hallowe’en Town.
Gallo, Leah. The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar
Children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2016.