Film director Tim Burton, speaking this week at the Lumière Festival in Lyon, France, revealed he will probably never make another film for Disney. His last picture for the studio was the 2019 remake of Dumbo.
It’s more significant than most realize. Disney is where Burton was first hired. After seeing his CalArts student film, Burton was made part of the “new boys” team of animators in the 70s that also included John Lasseter, Don Bluth and a few others. All of these people left for one reason or another — Lasseter was fired, Bluth outright rebelled, and Burton was let go after his bizarre, macabre sensibility just didn’t blend with the Disney of that period.
Burton would go on to achieve fame through Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Batman, and once Disney was comfortable with his gothiness he returned to make The Nightmare Before Christmas for them, a timeless flick that’s tied to the two most profitable holidays at the same time.
“My history is that I started out there,” Burton said. “I was hired and fired like several times throughout my career there. The thing about Dumbo, is that’s why I think my days with Disney are done, I realized that I was Dumbo, that I was working in this horrible big circus and I needed to escape. That movie is quite autobiographical at a certain level.”
If Burton and the Mouse are really through…well, it’s not that big a loss. His last few features for Disney have been critical disasters (regardless of how much money they made). His Alice In Wonderland was an ugly mess, and has the double stigma of launching the modern “remake everything animated with real people or CG equivalents” trend at the studio.