How Tim Burton Defines Halloween

By: Marlee Billiter

One of the nation’s largest holidays, Halloween, is around the corner. Close your eyes and picture decorations…costumes…candy…horror movies…and what’s a recurring theme? Tim Burton. with impressively strange storylines, Burton was able to create some of the best Halloween classics. His unique style of storytelling and art hit America’s creative sense dramatically around the 1990s. The intense themes behind each of his works leaves viewers shocked and wanting more. It’s obvious they’re all really weird, but that’s what’s so great about it. Because of this weirdness, America devoured Burton’s creations, ultimately making his characters the face of Halloween. Everywhere you look on this spooky holiday, some form of Tim Burton is around. Whether it’s an Alice in Wonderland costume or Jack Skellington decoration, his creativity never fails to make its appearance.

What grabs the attention of viewers is the interesting detail to his characters. They never look normal, simple to say. Edward Scissorhands turned Johnny Depp into a pale, wicked looking robot with scissors as fingers. I doubt many other creators have thought of that. The fun thing about the movie is despite the scary outlook of Edward, he’s mistaken and the public becomes the real bad guy. 

Some of his other classics involve illusive intentions as well. The monsters Burton makes his characters out to be, are never really the problem. He justifies their backgrounds with the simple aspect of their nurturing: “It’s how they grew up.” Take The Nightmare Before Christmas for example, Jack Skellington is made to be one of the most important scarers on Halloween, and after years of being known for his immense impact, he never feels fulfilled. After stumbling upon the world of Christmas, Jack has a life-altering idea… become the next Santa Claus.

Jack gets everyone in Halloween Town behind him. All characters, despite some feeling iffy about the changeup, work together to reach Jack’s dreams. Of course, in the end it’s horrible. People were getting snakes and flying dolls as Christmas presents. But what’s striking is Jack’s longing to break out of his structured life.  Burton’s characters always try to outgrow their intended purpose. Their minds outreach the typical stereotype created by an audience’s perception. 

A notable quirk of Burton’s directing style is the light ambience of the world’s he’s introducing. In Nightmare Before Christmas, the light was dark and dim within Halloween Land, but as Jack discovered Christmas Land, the first thing he notices is bright lights. He gazed in bewilderment at a variety of colors and creative clothing. Everything about Christmas Land was noticeably brighter than that of Halloween. This happened in Corpse Bride as well. From the original poor, eerie setting, the underworld consisted of vibrant coloring, protruding to the audience a message that this place is livelier–more enjoyable to live in. Who knows what this means to Burton. Perhaps he’s trying to subliminally convince audiences that the second world introduced in his stories is superior with the prior an afterthought. Either way, Burton’s use of sizable contrast in lighting compels viewers with naive wonder.

Tim Burton’s creations are meant to scare audiences at first glance, but they eventually twist an audience’s view as the message is portrayed. It’s scary, thrilling, confusing, very very strange, but  ultimately cool. It’s expressionism at its finest. Burton is Halloween.


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