the art of
Burtonesque. According to The New York Times it’s a “part of the cul-
tural lexicon…[Tim Burton] has developed a singular if not easily pinned-down
sensibility…His style is strongly visual, darkly comic and morbidly fixated, but
it is rooted just as much in his affection for monsters and misfits.” Some of his
common techniques include: the witch, flashbacks, the skittish outcast, and usage
of the same actors. Tim Burton commonly uses the character of ‘the witch’. As
blogger Meredith Woerner said, “Burton loves to throw in a sassy witch to stir
the pot.” The persona of ‘the witch’ has appeared in Sweeney Todd’s Mrs. Lovett
and in Alice in Wonderland’s the Red Queen. A common plot device Burton uses
is flashbacks – he uses them to explain the usually morbid background stories of
his characters. Some examples would be The Corpse Bride when Emily is sing-
ing about getting murdered and Sweeney Todd, when Mr. Todd has flashbacks
about his days as Benjamin Barker. One common character role Burton uses
is “The Skittish Outcast.” The Mad Hatter, Sweeney Todd, and Edward Scis-
sorhands are the most known of this type of character. And finally Tim Burton
is known best for his usage of the same actors.
Tim Burton often works with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter.
When asked about his relationship with Depp, Burton responded: “he’s
great… he’s always into a challenge…that’s the joy of working with him.
He’s kind of up for anything.” Burton is also known for casting his partner
Helena Bonham-Carter. When asked about this, Burton said, “I wouldn’t just
cast her to cast her the same way I wouldn’t cast Johnny or anybody that I love
working with just to have them in the movie. You always want it to be the right
thing, the right role…Most of the people I work with understand that.”
When Depp was asked why he continuously works with Burton he said,
“Working with Tim…is really like going home for me.” Depp even remarked
that, “For me, I see myself as just a very, very lucky boy who’s been drafted to
come along for the ride…it’s just that we’re good friends and we understand each
other.” Johnny Depp even told Cal Fussman with Esquire that, “My life is my life
because of Tim.” When Dave Itzoff from The New York Times asked Burton
about his relationship with Depp he said, “He’s always been able to decipher
my ramblings.” When asked about his relationship with Burton, Depp
responds, “It’s always been, with Tim and I…that you get these
sort of mysterious phone calls out of nowhere after sometimes months,
sometimes years…I mean, there’s no subject. There’s no project.
There’s nothing. It’s just like, ‘Okay. I’m going to go see Tim in a
week.’ It’s always been like that.”
When Helena Bonham-Carter was asked whether she
liked to work with the same directors she said, “I defi- nitely like
working with the same person… particularly if they’re Tim, because
he’s pretty good.” Carter remarked on her working-relation- ship
with Burton when she said, “I hope I don’t just [get cast] because
I sleep with a guy…But you know what? Actually it’s quite the
opposite. Because I sleep with him he asked me to audition, you
know? So it obviously doesn’t work for me.” When Burton talked
about his relationship with Carter he remarked, “I think maybe, be-
cause I am with her, I probably was a bit harder on her. Nobody else had
to audition, that’s true (laughing).”
But as Tim Burton would and did say, “There’s something quite exciting
when you have a history with someone and you see them do new and
The common techniques, moods, plot lines, and characters that make up
the coined term “Butonesque.” Story by: Jaclyn Ryan
Lighting - Low Key
Shot - Long Shot
Angle - High Angle
Sound/Music - “Ephiphany“
Explanation - In this scene Tim Burton uses the film
technique “High Angle“ to show the subject (Sweeney
Todd) from above to make the subject appear small,
weak, inferior, and to show the characters location.
By using this technique it shows how Mr. Todd’s de-
sire is too much for him to handle. This is foreshad-
owing of Mr. Todd’s ultimate death and failure.
Lighting - High Key
Shot - Two Shot
Angle - Low Angle (slight)
Sound/Music - “By the Sea“
Explanation - Tim Burton uses the “High Key“ lighting
technique to show lots of lighting with the daylight scene.
Tim Burton uses this technique to create a feeling of hap-
piness and/or excitement. This is especially important
because it shows Mrs. Lovett’s fantasy of a “happy” family
with “Mr. T” once he kills fulfills his mission.
Lighting - Side Lighting
Shot - Two Shot
Angle - Eye Level
Sound/Music - “Final Scene“
Explanation - Tim Burton uses the technique “Two Shot“ to
show the relationship between Sweeney Todd (AKA Benjamin
Barker) and the street rat (AKA his wife Lucy). In this scene Swee-
ney Todd wanted to avenge his wife Lucy by killing Judge Turpin.
But, he lost control and unknowingly killed his beloved Lucy. His
throat was slit shortly after he realized what he had done.
Sweeney Toddthe demon barber of fleet street
Fussman, Cal. “What I’ve Learned: Johnny Depp.” Esquirecom Article. N.p., 17
Dec. 2007. Web. 13 May 2014.
Itzkoff, Dave. “Tim Burton, at Home in His Own Head.” The New York Times. The
New York Times, 22 Sept. 2012. Web. 12 May 2014.
Murray, Rebecca. “Helena Bonham Carter Interview-Corpse Bride, Tim Burton,
and Finding Her Character.” About.com Hollywood Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 13
Murray, Rebecca. “Johnny Depp Interview - Corpse Bride, Tim Burton, and
Voicing Victor.” About.com Hollywood Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014.
Murray, Rebecca. “Tim Burton Interview on Corpse Bride, Johnny Depp.” About.
com Hollywood Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2014.
“Tim Burton Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 13 May 2014.
Woerner, Meredith. “10 Things You’ll See in Almost Every Tim Burton Movie.” Io9.
N.p., 10 May 2012. Web. 12 May 2014.
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