Weird Man's Party: Tim Burton and His Macabre Collaborators

Ransom Riggs

Director Tim Burton has long been known for his dark sensibilities: even his most lighthearted films, like Pee Wee's Big Adventure, feature accomplished touches of the macabre. But one peculiar thing about Burton is that he seems to surround himself -- or somehow spawn -- collaborators that have the same tendencies, creating a cottage industry of sorts ... of filmic weirdness. Let's start off with Burton himself, and one of many scenes from Pee Wee that I found absolutely nightmarish as a kid -- the Evil Clown Dream.

One of the films Burton is most closely associated with is one he didn't actually direct: The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was helmed by stop-motion animator Henry Selick -- who's now working on the much-anticipated stop-motion feature film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, a strange, dark and otherworldly tale which seems very much in line with the Burton style:

Burton's longtime composer collaborator, Danny Elfman, has made a lot of happy/creepy music for movies like Edward Scissorhands and Pee Wee, but his rock-'n'-roll side project, 80s band Oingo Boingo, had plenty of creep factor of its own. In fact, their biggest hit, "Dead Man's Party," sounds like it was written for a Burton film -- and the video for it (which features a lot of lame footage from Back to School) even opens with macabre stop-motion animation a la a very cheap version of Nightmare Before Christmas:

Another collaborator closely tied with Burton is actor Johnny Depp, who of course has played the lead role in so many of Burton's films, from Edward Scissorhands to Ichabod Crane to the "demon barber of Fleet Street" in Sweeney Todd, and so on. But Depp's done plenty of strange and macabre films without Burton's involvement, as well: witness his role as a scholar searching for a gate to Hell in Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate and his breakout role (well, kind of) in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Here's the Ninth Gate trailer -- in Japanese! (Even creepier!)