“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 – https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/edward_scissorhands/
2 Website – https://the-artifice.com/art-tim-burton/
3 Book – ‘Tim Burton’ –
4 Website – http://wiki.unity3d.com/index.php?title=CameraFacingBillboard
5 Website – http://dontstarve.wikia.com/wiki/Wilson