Sunday, April 3, 2011

REVIEW: Tim Burton MoMA Exhibition (Toronto)

I got to see Johnny Depp's angora sweater from Ed Wood [insert squeal of girlish glee here] !

Okay, now that's out of the way . . .

With only 2 weeks to go in it's Toronto run, I finally had the great pleasure of checking out the Tim Burton exhibition (organized by The Museum of Modern Art) yesterday afternoon. There were a few issues with the exhibition format that I found disappointing but, overall, it was lovely to revel in a child-like sense of wonder and delight for an afternoon.

The pieces that truly stand out in my mind are:

  • Tim's early Disney contributions for The Black Cauldron.It's such a shame none of his ideas were used, but I don't think he could ever just contribute. Unless Disney made the bold move of handing the whole project to a rookie, I can't imagine mixing his vision with anything more traditional. His drawings of a group of little monsters who, when frightened, merge into one big monster was a definite highlight.
  • The costumes from his live-action efforts. Everything you could hope for is on display, from Michael Keaton's Batman cowl and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman outfit, to Johnny Depp's Edward Scissorhands costume (including one of the scissor-hands), to Christopher Walken's Headless Horseman cape. Although I think I was one of the few visitors to truly appreciate it, Johnny Depp's white angora sweater from Ed Wood was on display as well!
  • The miniatues from his stop-motion efforts. Just about everything you could hope for is there, including a lovely display of all of Jack Skellington's facial expressions, a lovely display dedicated to Zero (Jack's ghostly dog), a wall with the entire cast of The Corpse Bride, and even a few artifacts from Beetlejuice.
  • Tim's original artwork and personal projects. The series of poster-sized Polaroid photos of his stop-motion miniatures was jaw-dropping, and his alien black-lit carousel/mobile was just a joy to watch spinning in the darkness.
  • The abandoned/unfinished projects. A significant portion of the exhibit is dedicated to projects that Tim has conceived of over the years, which have never become films themselves, but which have made their way into other films in bits and pieces.

Like I said, though, there were a few things I found disappointing in how it was all put together. Crowds were a definite problem. While there was a timed-entry system with tickets to ensure everybody couldn't enter the exhibition at once, there was no such system to get people out. That meant there were still 3:00, 3:30, and 4:00 people wandering around with our group. The layout didn't help, as it encouraged overlap and more than a few bottlenecks.

My other problem was with the video presentations. They had a video of Tim's original short, Vincent, playing, along with test footage from Mars Attacks, and a few others . . . all on small TV screens set into the walls. I get the intent to present the videos as art, no different from the script pages or drawings, but it made it impossible for more than 2 or 3 people to view. The only footage shown on a big screen was, ironically, Tim's web-based Stainboy shorts . . .  which we're used to seeing on small TV screens.

Overall, though, it was a great experience. If you get a chance in Toronto, or wherever it goes next, check it out.


  1. I caught this exhibition when it was in Melbourne Australia last year and really enjoyed it too. My favourite was the dresses from Alice in Wonderland

  2. Okay, now I'm jealous, Mel - we didn't get a single piece of Alice artwork or costuming. That is something I would have dearly loved to see!

  3. We're going this Friday! Tim Burton is awesome!