The Art of Tim Burton & Don’t Starve


“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” These are the words of the great art and film maker, Tim Burton. The craziness and wondrous way Burton creates art and films has inspired millions of people to follow in his footsteps and make their own style. I believe that one group of people in particular have been inspired by him – the creators of the game Don’t Starve.


This is Tim Burton’s drawing of one of his most famous characters, Edward Scissorhands. The piece itself was made in pen, ink and pencil on paper. Pencil is used to add shading and give the illusion of being three dimensional. Though presented in a very rough, 2D way, Burton still captures the essence of the character and manages to convey his personality in an odd way. The long, spindly proportions of the body give him an uneasy aura, like he does not fit in or belong to this world. Although his appearance is strange, it is not a scary strange. Even though Burton gave him sharp knives instead of hands he does not feel threatening, in fact the way that he has been drawn makes him look helpless and lost, like a child.

In 1990, a film was made about said character, which delves into his life and tragic backstory. The film was well received, and out of one million reviews 91% said that they liked it (1). Johnny Depp was cast in the leading role (as Edward Scissorhands), but he needed a bit of inspiration before he could portray the character correctly. Upon being shown Burton’s drawing, Depp instantly knew the angle he would use to act, even saying that it was all he needed to “understand what Edward was about” (2). The black and white medium of the drawing sort of emulates Edward’s story – life losing all colour and joy – since at the end he is forced to live without the one he loves.

Tim Burton is an American film director/producer; some of his most popular films include Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman Returns. Before he found films, he was an artist. He used to do animation work for Disney, but the company stifled his creativity and he found it difficult to tone his art down to their child friendly standards. All of the projects he put forward were ‘considered too bizarre’ (2) to be screened, but once he left he was free from restrictions and was able to embrace filmmaking.

In many of his films and art pieces, the common theme throughout is that of misunderstood outcasts, who are usually monsters. This is Burton projecting his life and experiences onto his creations, he has said that he can usually relate to his characters, since as a child he felt different from the other children. The reason his characters have such strange appearances is because Burton ‘delights in the exaggeration of the body’ (3). Since as a child he was influenced by Japanese transformer toys – which often were a mix of animal, human and machine – many of his characters possess animalistic features. Burton can create the most inhuman looking things, then provide them with the most human thoughts and emotions, which give his films a very Frankenstein-esque vibe.

As well as goodhearted, relatable characters, Burton can also make terrifying monsters. Upon watching one of his animated films as a child – The Nightmare Before Christmas – the character I hated the most was the Boogie Man. Although it is a simple design, it appears very sinister, and since it didn’t have a humanlike face you couldn’t read it’s expression (which automatically raises psychological red flags). The style Burton uses in his films and art is very dark and gothic looking, giving the audience an unnerved and sometimes sombre mood. He finds a lot of inspiration from his favourite authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl; he loves their unconventional stories and complex worlds. The development of his style could have also been influenced by German Expressionism, which consists of highly contrasted black and white, with sharp angles and shadows.


German Expressionism – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Along the line of his style development, he began to incorporate colour into his work. These were usually purples and reds, rarely bright colours. In his works, there is no set material or technique, it varies in a spontaneous way. His mediums go from simple pens to crayons, pastels, glitters, and a variety of different paints.


Offering a Valentine, Tim Burton (1980-1986)


Looking Down at Room, Tim Burton (1980)







Burton’s gothic style has influenced many different medias like films, art works, and video games such as Don’t Starve. Don’t Starve is a 2013 survival game, which was developed by Klei Entertainment. The main aim of the game is to survive out in the wilderness, basically to not be killed by monsters, and as the title suggests to not starve.

In the game both two and three dimensions are used; the characters are 2D and the world they live in is 3D. The process behind making this possible is called Billboarding (4). This is when, in Unity, objects will always face towards the camera despite turning around, so 2D characters and animation can be used. Games such as Okami, Paper Mario and Ragnorak Online have applied this technique to make successful 2.5D gameplay.

The art of the game is very dark and gothic looking, much like the work of Tim Burton. Each character seems to be hand drawn as they have a sketchy look to them – like Burton’s Edward Scissorhands drawing. One of the main characters in the game called Wilson is very similar – in both appearance and origins – to Sweeney Todd from the musical ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.  Both of these characters are based on the mad scientist stereotype, complete with unkempt hair. One of Wilson’s perks in-game is to grow a huge beard that gives him an advantage against the ‘harsh weather’ (5). This is yet another similarity to the film, since Sweeney Todd is a barber.


Sweeney Todd (2007)


Wilson (Don’t Starve)








As I have demonstrated throughout this essay, I believe that the work of Tim Burton has greatly influenced the style of the visuals in the game Don’t Starve, which is evident in both the characters and environment. It’s dark and whimsical art style mirrors that of Burton’s films like Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd, along with others.



1     Website  –

2     Website  –

3     Book  –  ‘Tim Burton’

4     Website  –

5     Website  –


Creative and Technical Model Submission


This is my submission post for my 3D asset. Once i’d rendered out my model (shown in previous post), i exported it to my Sketchfab account. Below is the model itself, which you can zoom in and view from different angles.

I’ve put together a powerpoint of my production pipeline. This shows the development of my asset, from the original concepts and moodboards to the final renders:


Overall, i think this project has gone really well. Since my specialism isn’t 3D modelling, i’m not used to making professional assets, but i feel that i adapted well to the production pipeline. The modelling process in Maya was okay; cacti shapes aren’t too complex, so creating one wasn’t too difficult. It was my first time texturing a professional model in Substance Painter, and i found it relatively easy to do. The fact that you can paint directly on the model is very useful, and fun to experiment with. Rendering my model also went well – the settings in Substance were easy to understand, and i could move the light source without problem.

I did come across a few issues during the process, however. The first of which was when i was about to start the high poly version, transferring the low poly from Maya to Mudbox. Once in Mudbox, the low poly had a bunch of errors, and wouldn’t sculpt properly. This turned out to be because of the creases, so i had to go back to decrease a little and export it again. Another problem i had was with baking in Substance Painter. When i tried to bake down the detail onto the low poly, the surface would look glitchy. This turned out to be a problem with the fbx files, the solution was to fix the hierarchy in Maya and then export it as an fbx again.

When i make a model in the future, i should find a quicker way to UV unwrap (like automatic unwrapping), since doing it individually takes a while. I would also organize the hierarchy in Maya better.



Recently i found out about a program called MagicaVoxel, which is a program where you can build things with voxels. Voxels are basically the 3D version of pixels – cubes. In the program you can build anything with these blocks, like in minecraft. You can stack, erase, or paint them, and there is even a set of tools that allow you to get high quality renders of your model. As practice, i tried making the character Frisk from Undertale. I really liked how it turned out, and how i was able to add different coloured lighting and shadows.


This way of sculpting can be used in industry; games like Crossy Road have been made with voxels.





Emerging Tech


A few weeks ago, we were given the task of writing a 2000 word essay on an emerging technology. I chose to base my essay on hand drawn games, and went with this title:

‘Since the rise in popularity of hand drawn games such as Cuphead, will more developers opt to draw their games physically rather than digitally?’



After finishing the essay we had to do a presentation on what we had researched. In the presentation, i talked about hand drawn games that are currently popular, the history of traditional animation, and new technology that artists can use. Doing presentations like these is beneficial to our learning – we gain confidence and it prepares us for presenting things in industry.

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Types of Sound


Diegetic Sound

Sound that originates from a source in the scene, this doesn’t have to be visible. In a forest this could be birds chirping, branches cracking, or characters talking.

Non Diegetic Sound

Sound that doesn’t belong in the scene, which is never visible. For example, this could be music to set the mood, sound effects for dramatic effect, or narrator’s commentary.


In Ruin World, we will mostly have diegetic sounds; e.g. for the sandstorm, pots and pans, etc.


Game vs Film Storyboards


Little Nightmares

General Rules 

  • There are infinite lives
  • Light lanterns to create checkpoint
  • If caught by a monster you die
  • Sneaking reduces the noise you make


  • Six
  • The Janitor
  • Leeches
  • Gnomes


The Maw, a huge submarine


Escape the Maw

How the level progresses

  • Six wakes up in The Maw
  • Six meets a gnome (next to lantern)
  • Leeches try to kill Six
  • The Janitor chases Six

Little Nightmares.png

Storyboarding for games is entirely different than storyboarding for films. In a film you can decide what shot a scene will have (e.g. wide shot showing area, or close up), whereas the camera angle is constantly changing in a game, and the character might be in the wrong place.



Emerging Tech Essay


In our lessons with James we have been looking at Emerging Technology. Recently we have been set the task of writing a 2000 word essay about an emerging technology or trend in the Games, Animation and VFX Industries. We were given examples of topics such as Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, Photogrammetry, etc. Since i am aiming to be a 2D artist, i wanted to choose a topic related to that. The title i decided on is:

Since the rise in popularity of hand drawn games such as Cuphead, will more developers opt to draw their games physically rather than digitally?


Essay Breakdown

  • Introduce topic
  • Current hand drawn games
  • History of hand drawn animations (Disney)
  • New technology (tablets, lightboxes)
  • Future of hand drawn games (opinion)
  • Conclusion