Tim Burton is one of the most successful filmmakers in history whose style is so distinctive that it can be easily recognized by moviegoers.
In his five decade career as a filmmaker, Burton has directed a number of memorable films including Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Corpse Bride (2005) and Dark Shadows (2012).
Burton started his career as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios and his talent in animation greatlycontributed to his success as a filmmaker. With his unrivaled Gothic art style approach in filmmaking, Burton is without a doubt a living legend in the film industry.
In this article, we’ll be sharing our 48 favorite Tim Burton quotes on movies, storytelling, horror, drawing and animation and more.
Tim Burton Filmmaking Quotes
That’s why we’re all interested in movies. Those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it’s actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.
[On becoming a movie director] There was one moment, and it happened in school. I had a big final exam–we were supposed to write a 20-page report on this book about Houdini [Harry Houdini]. I probably would have loved reading it, but I didn’t, so I just decided to make a little super-8 movie based on it. I tied myself to the railroad tracks and all that. I mean, this is kid stuff, but it impressed the teacher, and I got an A. And that was maybe my first turning point, when I said, ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being a filmmaker.’
I’m going to put that on my gravestone. “He created such a category of unwanted pop culture – Famous for directing unwanted cultural references.”
When you’re making a movie, it’s a very interiorized world.
Movies are like an expensive form of therapy for me.
All these kinds of stories, whether it be The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, are an internal journey. I think that’s a fairly universal concept. These characters represent things inside the human psyche. I think that’s what every child does. You try to work out problems as you go along. Same thing as an adult. Some people get therapy, some people get to make movies.
Tim Burton on Horror and Fantasy
People say, “Monster movies – they’re all fantasy.” Well, fantasy isn’t fantasy – it’s reality if it connects to you. It’s like a dream. You have a nightmare, and it’s got all this crazy imagery, but it’s real. You wake up in a cold sweat, freaking out. That’s completely real. So I always found that those people trying to categorize normal versus abnormal or light versus dark, yada yada, are all missing the point.
All monster movies are basically one story. It’s Beauty and the Beast. Monster movies are my form of myth, of fairy tale. The purpose of folk tales for me is a kind of extreme, symbolic version of life, of what you’re going through. In America, in suburbia, there is no sense of culture, no sense of passion. So those served that very specific purpose for me. And I linked those monsters and those Edgar Allan Poe things to direct feelings. I didn’t read fairy tales, I watched them.
I grew up watching monster movies and horror movies, which I felt were like fairy tales and I think this always spoke to me. Something about that is symbolism – the beauty and the magic which helps me work with film and start making modern fairy tales.
The great thing about visual horror films is there’s real potential for strong, beautiful imagery. It’s the one genre that really lends itself to creating strong images. And I’ve always loved that idea of windmills – your mind aimlessly spinning.
I had never really done something that was more of a horror film, and its funny, because those are the kind of movies that I like probably more than any other genre. The script had images in it that I liked.
I have a problem when people say something’s real or not real, or normal or abnormal. The meaning of those words for me is very personal and subjective.
One person`s craziness is another person`s reality.
Every day is Halloween, isn’t it? For some of us…
For me, fantasy has always been a means of exploring reality: it explores the fact that your internal life, your dreams and the weird images and the things that come to you are things that are actually important tools for dealing with real issues.
I always appreciated movies and things that had everything, because that’s the way I feel about life. There’s nothing that’s just funny, just dramatic or just scary. It’s all mixed together. I’ve always felt, and still feel probably even more, that life is an incredible jumble of being funny and sad and dramatic and melodramatic and goofy and everything.
Burton on Characters
When I was growing up, Dr. Seuss was really my favorite. There was something about the lyrical nature and the simplicity of his work that really hit me.
I always liked strange characters.
I’ve found that the people who play villains are the nicest people in the world, and people who play heroes are jerks.
People told me I couldn’t kill Nicholson, so I cast him in two roles and killed him off twice.
Jack Nicholson is a textbook actor who’s very intuitive. He is absolutely brilliant at going as far as you can go, always pushing to the edge, but still making it seem real.
Johnny Depp is somebody I really love working with because he doesn’t care how he looks. He wants to become weird characters and I like that.
Tim Burton on Animation and Technology
The good thing about animation is that you can affect it. If something is not working, then you just fix it.
I think of Ray Harryhausen’s work – I knew his name before I knew any actor or director’s names. His films had an impact on me very early on, probably even more than Disney. I think that’s what made me interested in animation: His work.
Drawing is exercise for a restless imagination.
Disney and I were a bad mix. For a year I was probably more depressed than I have ever been in my life. I worked for a great animator, Glenn Kean. He was nice, he was good to me, he’s a really strong animator and he helped me. But he also kind of tortured me because I got all the cute fox scenes to draw, and I couldn’t draw all those four-legged Disney foxes. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even fake the Disney style. Mine looked like road kills.
I am not a big technology person. I don’t go on the Internet really much at all. Drawing is like a zen thing; it’s private, which in this day and age is harder to come by.
Technology is technology and then art form and people’s creativity is another thing. Anything that helps an artist do anything – great! Technology for technology sake doesn’t mean much to me anyway.
In Hollywood, they think drawn animation doesn’t work anymore, computers are the way. They forget that the reason computers are the way is that Pixar makes good movies. So everybody tries to copy Pixar. They’re relying too much on the technology and not enough on the artists. The fact that Disney closed down its cel animation division is frightening to me. Someday soon, somebody will come along and do a drawn-animated film, and it’ll be beautiful and connect with people, and they’ll all go, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do that!’ It’s ridiculous.
I love all forms of animation, but there is something unique and special to stop-motion. It’s more real and the set is lit like a set. But I think it’s also a kind of lonely and dark thing to want to do.
I had seen other stop-motion animated features, and they were either not engaging or they’re just too bizarre. There was one I liked when I was a kid called Mad Monster Party. People thought Nightmare was the first stop-motion animated monster musical, but that was.
Don’t worry about how you ‘should’ draw it. Just draw it the way you see it.
Tim Burton on Becoming a Filmmaker
The problem with film is you never know when you’re going to be able to make a film so you can’t have people waiting around for you. Sometimes it’s fun to work with the same people and work with new people and mix it up.
Half the fun is plan to plan.
It’s like getting into film – I didn’t say early on, ‘I’m going to become a filmmaker,’ ‘I’m going to show my work at MoMA.’ When you start to think those things, you’re in trouble.
I wouldn’t know a good script if it bit me in the face.
First of all, you make a movie that you want to see and then you just hope for the best.
Anybody with artistic ambitions is always trying to reconnect with the way they saw things as a child.
It’s less about staying in childhood than keeping a certain spirit of seeing things in a different way.
People say I am stuck in childhood, but it’s not that. I remember seeing a Matisse retrospective, and you could see he started out one way, and then he tried something different, and then he seemed to spend his whole life trying to get back to the first thing.
It’s good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way.
Even if you’re doing something that the studio sends you, or something that’s based on a book or story, at the end of it all, you try to make whatever it is your own.
I like the challenge of doing things you know that you maybe shouldn’t do.
Why not, if something is going to be flawed, why not have it be interestingly flawed, as opposed to boringly flawed?
It’s good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way.
You always have to feel like it’s going to be the greatest, even if you know it’s going to be a piece of crap.
Recommended Tim Burton Books
Disclaimer: Filmmaking Quotes is an Amazon Associate and earns from qualifying purchases. All links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for any purchases you make. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but this commission keeps Filmmaking Quotes running.
Tim Burton: The iconic filmmaker and his work (2019)
Conversations with Filmmakers Series: Tim Burton Interviews (2005)
Tim Burton Quotes Final Words
Have a favorite Tim Burton quote? Share it on social media and link back to us. The more links we have, the more time we can spend finding quotes and sharing filmmaking wisdom.
If you’re looking for more quotes from legendary film directors, check out our profile article section of the website for quotes from masters including Walt Disney, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and more.