The best thing about Tim Burton’s exhibition currently on view at LACMA is the window into his imagination and creative process. I wasn’t too sure what to expect – I am not a wide-eyed fan of his work that looks a little bit repetitive to me and, as I do not possess an inner child, fantasy movies tend to bore me. Still, I was quite taken aback by the massive amount of drawings, doodles, pastels and other mixed media material on view. Most of it goes back to the “Burbank period”, Mr. Burton’s effort to escape suburban life by creating parallel lives and beings in his mind. Some of it relates to his work, mostly unused, at Disney and some sketches the initial ideas for his first movies, such as “Beetlejuice”,” Mars Attacks” and “Edward Scissorhands”.
Many of the drawings are downright hilarious: women confronted by all manners of bad dates, pot-bellied beings spewing out tiny babies from elephantine trunks, snippets of suburban couples depicted as hats, sitting atop big-headed and thin-legged otherworldly creatures, frustrated teenagers – there is something for everybody to identify with. At times the show becomes a bit too repetitive, especially as the latest cinematic work of Mr. Burton is merely skimmed over.
Some short films, from high school to just before the big time, dot the walls here and there and, most disappointing of all, are some of the costumes or props displayed at the center of the exhibition rooms. Really, the Batman masks and the Catwoman suit, without taking anything away from the brilliant studio costume departments, belong in a Hollywood movie memorabilia museum and not at LACMA.
If the work is hardly groundbreaking and on show as a means to showcase a particular facet of popular culture, it’s enlightening to see how characters, stories and fantastical beings are steeped in Mr. Burton’s early life. Curiously, a lot of his drawings feature men and women with huge eyes, wide foreheads and tiny mouth – no wonder Johnny Depp became his “muse” and he got married to Helena Bonham Carter.
Surprisingly, despite the huge offering of merchandise in the store one is forced to walk through on the way out of the Resnick Pavilion, there was absolutely nothing I wanted. Shame, you would think that all those monsters and puns would inspire some merchandiser’s creativity..
Tim Burton at LACMA is on show until October 31