Tim Burton may not necessarily be known as a horror director, but he has always had one foot in the genre. Even his early mainstream work like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Batman have their scary moments, while The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice are simply horror films made with children in mind. More than most modern directors, Burton has an incredibly pronounced style.
Audiences are generally thrown off when a poster or trailer uses the word “presents.” Language like Quentin Tarantino Presents on the poster for Hostel and Wes Craven Presents on the poster for Wishmaster led a lot of people to believe that they had directed those films. When in truth, they had only produced them. Tim Burton finds himself in the same predicament all the time. Every time he produces something audiences generally believe that he directed it.
Other films try to recreate or recapture Burton’s style, or simply take the same influences, without his involvement at all and yet many still seem to believe he directed them. We now present to you Five Films You May Be Surprise To Learn Tim Burton Did Not Direct.
The Addams Family
The 1991 adaptation of The Addams Family is one of the better children’s horror films of that decade. Despite having a very similar look and offbeat humor, Tim Burton had nothing to do with this film even if it is often attributed to him. Instead, it was directed by the underrated Barry Sonnenfeld. It doesn’t look like a Burton movie so much as it looks like the Charles Addams cartoons on which the whole story is based. Sonnenfeld clearly took influence from the Addams cartoons, which is readily evidenced by his own poetry and artwork. Even still, the style, humor and the presence of a young Christina Ricci—who would go on to star in Burton’s Sleepy Hollow—mean that this is often considered a Tim Burton production.9
9 was an animated feature produced by Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, famous for the most successful Russian film ever, Night Watch. In America, he has made Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Burton and Bekmambetov are often thought of as the director of this one, although neither actually did. Instead, it was directed by Shane Acker based on his own short. It’s a little surprising how often this is attributed to Burton considering how few similarities it has to the director’s work stylistically. It’s a larger scale story than he usually goes for and is computer animated, whereas all of Burton’s animated projects have been achieved through stop-motion.
James and the Giant Peach is the second collaboration between Burton and director Henry Sellick, and while it is the less Burton-esque of the two, his visual style is still felt all over the final product. This is a funny and upbeat picture and much more colorful than Burton’s gothic films. The director generally works on two levels, visually: There are the dark movies and the light movies. They all have about the same narrative, but a different visual style. James and the Giant Peach would perfectly fit into this second category if it weren’t for the fact that it was directed by Henry Sellick.
Coraline, though, is what really makes you feel bad for Henry Sellick. Tim Burton’s name was not used once in the production of this movie, which is based on the children’s book of the same name by Neil Gaiman. All the promotional material said was “From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas” and because everyone still believes Burton directed that film twenty years later, they assumed that he directed Coraline as well. While there are some visual similarities with the director’s other work, this really is Sellick and Gaiman’s show and it’s a shame that the entire thing was done in the shadow of Tim Burton.
Technically, it is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. He wrote the poem that the movie is based on and he created and designed every single character and location. But the question is whether or not he directed it, and he did not. This was Burton’s first collaboration with Henry Sellick. Burton, who had started out in animation could have handled the job, but it was going into production at the same time as Batman Returns and he was contractually obligated to deliver that sequel for Warner Bros. While it is still one of the most Burtonesque things that he was ever involved with, Henry Sellick deserves the director’s credit, and therefore deserves a lot more credit than he gets in general.
*Updated February 24, 2020