Tim Burton in Roppongi

Continuing until the 4th of January 2015 in the Roppongi Hills Arts Centre Gallery, is “The World of Tim Burton”, an exhibition dedicated to the King of all Weird-looking Misfits with a Heart of Gold. It’s divided into fourteen sections, and contains hundreds of mixed-media exhibits, some of them instantly recognizable from his hit movies, some of them never seen before.

The sections are divided up along the lines of media and themes. There are sketches of characters such as Edward Scissorhands and Jack Skellington, accompanied by pages from Burton’s scrapbooks, showing how they proceeded from idea to screen reality. There are also models and maquettes of characters such as the Oompa Lumpas, and original sculptures and a series of outsized Polaroids by Burton himself. Video screens show a few adventures from “The World of Stainboy”, a series of flash animation shorts that Burton created with Flinch Studio in 2000 – as well as the Disney “Hansel and Gretel” TV special shown once in 1982 (and never repeated on mainstream TV – wonder why?)


Of particular note are three sections. One is Unrealized Projects, with 90 works of art hinting at what darkly glorious works could have reached the screen … if only the conditions had been right.
The others are Influences and The Carnivalesque, containing a total of eighty artworks in various media. It’s common knowledge now that Burton’s trademark is the misunderstood freak, the shunned outsider who hides a heart of gold beneath a bizarre appearance. His signature designs are based on German Expressionism and old-time sideshow carnivals (that get a whole section to themselves), as can be seen in his movies right from “Edward Scissorhands” to “Frankenweenie”. What impressed me personally, however, were the influences that I wasn’t expecting, but seem only logical considering Burton’s work as a whole. One of these is the influence of H. P. Lovecraft. The painting “Surrounding” is a clear nod to Lovecraft’s universe of Cosmic Horror, where our world is bordered by fathomless voids of time and space filled with intelligences beyond the scope of human comprehension.


Another nod goes to Ralph Steadman – curiously enough, when I was looking at one of Burton’s scrapbooks I had the sudden feeling I was reading the paperback of Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”.
The World of Tim Burton, then. Go and lose yourself in it. You might not find your way back to your previous reality … and you might not care.

All images copyright Tim Burton, natch.

About J P Catton

Speculative storytelling and skewed fiction: the blog and website of author John Paul Catton.
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