Vincent (1982)

The video above is Tim Burton’s first project, Vincent, completed in 1982. Vincent is the story of a young boy with a wild imagination, influenced by his love of both Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe. He pretends to be like Vincent Price and also like characters in Poe’s tales and poems, most notable the narrator of “The Raven”. This pretend play drives him to delusions of himself being a tortured artist, and ultimately to his own “death” while quoting the ending lines of “The Raven”.

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Ending scene of Tim Burton’s Vincent

This was the fist time I had seen the short film Vincent, and it did really help me to learn some things about Tim Burton and his work. While I had previously learned about Burton’s beginnings with Disney and his drawings, I did not know that his first project was actually stop-motion animation. I knew that this was his favorite form of animation, but not that it was his first. I had also previously known that Burton looked up to Price and had considered him a mentor, but I only learned through watching this short film that Burton actually worked with Price. Vincent Price narrated this short film. Burton had grown up idolizing Vincent Price, much like the protagonist of the story, Vincent Malloy, but to see that he was able to work with his idol so early in his career was surprising. Another interesting thing, given the previous discoveries I had made about Burton. was that he was able to make a dark film under Disney’s Animation Studios. Vincent is listed as Disney’s second horror movie, after 1980’s The Watcher in the Woods. The idea of a Disney horror movie is interesting enough, but given that Burton’s dark and “traumatizing” style was what caused his later departure from Disney, it is surprising to see that this film was made to completion, though it was never released individually.

Looking at Burton’s Vincent is very beneficial in answering my guiding question. Having learned about Burton’s own childhood and his fascination with horror, Vincent Price, and Edgar Allan Poe at such a young age, it is not hard to see that Vincent Malloy is a representation of Burton himself. Vincent directly answers the question of how events in Burton’s life influenced his film making by presenting¬†situations which directly correlate to his childhood experiences. Tim Burton is Vincent Malloy, so Vincent is a kind of autobiographical fiction story. Burton’s own disconnect from his family is showcased in Vincent Malloy’s mother being so disconnected from her son and his delusions. She does not show him compassion, but rather reprimands her son’s creative play. Both children are trapped in darkness and find their only companion in the family dog. The entire film is a reproduction of Burton’s childhood, presented in his signature dark, stop-motion animation.

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Tim Burton: Wickedly Funny, Grotesquely Humerous

2.13. (2014). In B. Barnett, J. Negedly, J. Victoreen, D. Waugh, & N. Woolridge (Comps.),  SpringBoard English Language Arts Grade 9 (pp. 133-134). College Board.

burton class

In a biographical essay, the author discusses the influence of famous children’s stories on Tim Burton’s films, namely Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and the Grimm brothers. Burton likes to offer the darker perspective that is visible in most children’s stories, which makes his movies different than the average Disney movie. The essay points out that “Burton worked for many years at Walt Disney Studios, whose approach to adapting fairy tales tends to understate the more sinister elements. Burton, however, embraces the dark elements” (134).

The essay also names Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent Price as major influences on Burton’s dark style. His first project, Vincent, was inspired by both. Burton says he related to both of these men and even considered Vincent Price to be a mentor. This short film is a great outlook into the themes Burton would incorporate into his future films.

What I learned is just how big of an influence children’s literature influenced Tim Burton. I was surprised to learn that Burton was a huge fan of Dr. Seuss; however, looking back to the rhythm and rhyme of movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas, it is easy to see the connection in style. The influence of children’s literature on Burton’s work also makes sense when combined with the information I previously learned about Burton’s childhood and his ability to remain child-like. I also learned about Burton’s first project Vincent, which highlights both Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe’s influence in his life. Vincent is the story of a seven year old boy who “fantasizes about acting out Poe’s gothic horror stories and dreams of being an anguished character like Price” (134). This is not surprising since he grew up connecting to Poe’s characters and idolized Vincent Price.

This helps me answer my guiding question because it directly states stories and iconic figures who have influenced his work and Burton’s unique style of film making. Using previously learned information, I am able to make the connection from Burton’s own childhood that would draw him to these particular figures and stories, and in that way I can see how events in his life have influenced his work.