There are no mist-shrouded haunted houses in Tim Burton’s spick-and-span hometown of Burbank, Calif.
The only blood suckers out at night are mosquitoes. No corkscrew trees claw the sidewalk on Evergreen Street, where the filmmaker grew up in the 1960s and early ’70s in one of its many neat little cracker-box houses.
But then, at the end of his road … was a sprawling graveyard.
With the filmmaker’s new stop-motion animated movie Frankenweenie debuting in theaters this weekend, it seemed like a good time to go back and tell the strange story of Tim Burton’s otherwise normal hometown, and how it shaped his twisted cinematic visions.
The director not only spoke with EW about those years growing up in Johnny Carson’s backyard of “beautiful downtown Burbank,” but also dug into the old family albums to share some of childhood photos, such as the one above from many, many Halloweens ago.
Here’s what it was like as Tiny Tim grew up …
While it may have seemed eerie to some, the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery at the end of his quiet suburban street was a sanctuary for the teenage Burton. “It didn’t quite feel morbid, although people probably think it is,” he says. “It felt more exciting and lonely and special and emotional.” Burton was an introverted kid, after all — and nobody bothers you when you’re sitting alone in a cemetery. “I guess it was a good place to think.”
It’s not hard to imagine the 54-year-old filmmaker as some gothic teenage rebel, draped in black, peering out between clumps of stringy hair and provoking fear and dismay in the clean-cut citizens of his hometown. That’s what we’ve come to expect from his creepy, misfit char acters in movies such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the stop-motion animated Frankenweenie, a PG-rated dark comedy about a boy who freaks out his town by using mad science to bring his deceased dog back to life.
But Burton wasn’t like that at all — although some of his happiest memories are a little twisted.