The outcast and misunderstood monster are two characters that feature prominently in the work of Tim Burton, so it is fitting then that the opening to the exhibit is a larger than life Balloon Boy, a piece originally created for the MoMA exhibit, who is awkward everywhere he goes. Balloon Boy adds a carnivalesque feel to the exhibition and perfectly sets you up for what’s inside.
As you enter the space, it is the sound that hits you first. Music created specifically by Danny Elfman for this exhibition floats through the space. Ray guns and ghoulish giggles follow you as you are slowly surrounded by the sketches, statuettes and maquettes of his early work. Themes of armour permeate Burton’s work. Be it real (Batman), perceived (Catwoman), physical (Edward Scissorhands) or metaphorical (cashmere sweater from Ed Wood ), this interesting facet of Burton’s work is on display clearly for all to see.
It would have been easy to fall back on Burton’s film work and make the exhibition a Hollywood museum of objects from his films, but both MoMA and TIFF have steered clear of this. Highlighting instead his personal works, such as “Stainboy” and “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy” – short stories that were made into webisodes and have derived their own cult following – and his less celebrated works, such as Mars Attacks! , the exhibition shows a side of the artist few have taken time to look at before now. Nowhere can this be seen more than in the small gallery [quote_left]It would have been easy to fall back on Burton’s film work and make the exhibition a Hollywood museum of objects from his films, but both MoMA and TIFF have steered clear of this.[/quote_left]dedicated to Burton’s juvenilia. Much of the work in this room is poetry, experimental sketches, and paintings. These are personal works created by Burton to look at the world and his responses to his work. Much of this room was never meant to be seen by eyes not his own, but it was the MoMA’s interest in these items that bolstered his own impression of himself as a visual artist. The exhibition closes with sketches, paintings and maquettes from unproduced works that Burton created while at Disney.
Peppered throughout the space are seven new sculptural works that were created specifically for the MoMA exhibition, after Burton began to become excited at the prospect of being honoured in this way by such a prestigious art institution. The seven commissions touch on many of the themes and characters that can be found woven throughout his works.
Finally, the crown jewel of the collection — the “Holy Grail of Burtonalia” — is the reimagined Japanese version of Hansel and Gretel that Burton created for the Disney Channel. Only screening once before being pulled, a number of Burton trademarks were clearly seen in this short, previously lost for over a decade. Paraphernalia from the original shoot, or at least all that survived, is available in this space for viewing, along with benches so viewers can sit and take in as much of the short as they would like.
The exhibition of Tim Burton’s work, previously showcased at the MoMA and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, is something that shouldn’t be missed by either fans of his films or fans of visual artists in general. Walking through the exhibition it’s clear that this artist in particular is one of the most prolific and seminal artists of our century and it is a great treasure that he has been celebrated during his lifetime, rather than after his passing, as is the case with so many truly great artists.
The exhibition runs from November 26, 2010 to April 17, 2011. Tickets are $22.75 including HST and are on sale now at the TIFF Bell Lightbox box office, or online.
Also of note, RBC, presenting sponsor of the Tim Burton exhibition, is taking patrons deeper into the experience with an exclusive audio guide created especially for the TIFF installation. This services is free of charge. Use your smartphone to scan the barcodes (QR codes) inside and listen to commentary from MoMA curators Ron Magliozzi and Jenny He, as well as Burton himself.