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“I never set out to become a filmmaker”: Tim Burton’s dark imaginings make for a great exhibition, too

Tim Burton
The World of Tim Burton
A certain vision.
By Vivienne Chow
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Hong Kong

Anyone who’s seen a Tim Burton film knows the American director has a unique artistic sensibility. But as an exhibition in Hong Kong proves, the big screen isn’t the only format for appreciating the mind behind such cult classics as Edward Scissorhands (1990) and the stop-motion animation The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

At the ArtisTree space in the city’s Quarry Bay neighborhood, “The World of Tim Burton” includes more than 500 examples of his work, ranging from drawings and paintings to photographs, storyboards, and materials that show his artistic influences. The director’s signature dark humor and fondness for outcasts are evident throughout.

“I never thought I had a style,” Burton said during the show’s opening in Hong Kong last week. “I started out as an animator at Disney, but I couldn’t draw the Disney style. I only draw the way I can. I can’t draw any other way.”

Among the exhibition highlights are a few dozen large-format Polaroid photographs. One shows the heads and body parts of Sally and Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

“I never set out to become a filmmaker,” Burton said. “I just want to create. Whether it is painting, drawing, or writing, the key is not which medium you use, but to be creative about telling a story. You can do it in many different ways.”

The director has a strong following in Hong Kong. His latest film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, grossed more than HK$27 million (US$3.5 million) in the city’s box office as of Oct. 30. Perhaps appropriately for one the world’s most expensive cities, the exhibition admission price in Hong Kong, at HK$220 (US$28), is higher than it’s been at any other stops, including Tokyo, Prague, and Sao Paulo. Organizers expect more than 220,000 visitors during the show’s Hong Kong run of two and a half months, ending Jan. 23.

Below, some of the works and images from the exhibition and the Hong Kong opening.

The World of Tim Burton
A large-format polaroid of body parts from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
The World of Tim Burton
“Blue Girl with Wine” (1997).
The World of Tim Burton
“The Last of Its Kind” (1994).
The World of Tim Burton
A storyboard from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993).
The World of Tim Burton
Tim Burton directing the exhibition set-up in Hong Kong.
The World of Tim Burton
Tim Burton at the opening.

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