Tim Burton's iconic world of misunderstood misfits returns to Korea

Tim Burton, iconic filmmaker behind "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), "Beetlejuice" (1988) and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (2005), holds his second retrospective in Korea at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Seoul is the first stop of his latest world tour, "The World of Tim Burton." / Courtesy of GNC Media

Seoul becomes first stop for the American filmmaker's new world tour

By Park Han-sol

Tim Burton, the Hollywood mastermind behind films "Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands" and "Sweeney Todd," has returned to Seoul with his world of inventive eccentricity and misunderstood yet endearing misfits.

"The World of Tim Burton," held at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in central Seoul as part of its world tour, is the filmmaker's second retrospective showcased in Korea, following the first one held a decade ago at the Seoul Museum of Art.

This time, Seoul became the first stop for the traveling "Burtonesque" wonderland of horror, fantasy and comedy.

"Untitled (Trick or Treat)" (1980) ⓒTim Burton / Courtesy of GNC Media

The director revelled in the chance of presenting his exhibition at the DDP, an amorphous and futuristic structure designed by late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, with the building's peculiar shape complementing Burton's universe of macabre outcasts.

"It's like being in a weird funhouse or a spaceship," he noted during last month's press preview.

The show traces five decades of the evolution of Burton's artistic achievements and unique cinematic vocabulary through more than 520 pieces of original drawings, paintings, photographs and short films. It also features sculptures and site-specific installations that have brought his freaky yet adorable characters to life.

Installation view of the "Carousel Room," reminiscent of the visuals from "Beetlejuice" / Courtesy of GNC Media

With a heavy focus on his two-dimensional sketches and drawings ― including spontaneous doodles made on hotel notepads and restaurant napkins during his trips across the world ― the exhibition is more of an intimate look at Burton beyond his identity as a filmmaker.

Fans will get to see his drawings from childhood and early career, whose styles recall those of classic cartoonists like Edward Gorey and Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, as well as his visual homage to monster movies and German Expressionist cinema.

"I've always loved monsters and monster movies," the director once said. "I felt most monsters were basically misperceived; they usually had much more heartfelt souls than the human characters around them."

Installation view of "The World of Tim Burton" / Courtesy of GNC Media

One section is filled with his series of personal photographs that consist of oversized Polaroid prints he produced between 1992 and 1999. Their visual theme and motif form a part of his instantly recognizable vocabulary ― such as an inventive mix of the carnivalesque with the grotesque and the recurring imagery of "stitching."

But of course, it would not be a Tim Burton show without a section dedicated to his iconic filmography ― from his first feature "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" to the most recent movie "Dumbo."

Concept drawings, script notes, storyboards, full-scale character models and short films are sprinkled throughout the gallery to present the growth of his ideas scrawled on the pages of a sketchbook into memorable cinematic scenes ― "Batman," "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Mars Attacks!," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Corpse Bride."

Five sculptures inspired by Tim Burton's stories revolving around pirates and their exploits are on display at "The World of Tim Burton." Courtesy of GNC Media

After showcasing works from Burton's film, television and book projects that were halted in various stages of development and never fully realized, the show ends with a replica of the filmmaker's studio to offer a glimpse into the birthplace of his boundless imagination.

Two big cork boards placed next to each side of the desk feature artworks hinting at his recent projects in progress, including his Brazilian street art mural and upcoming comedy horror Netflix series, "Wednesday."

"I'm an adult, and I think part of the creative spirit is to maintain that sense of a child," he said.

"The World of Tim Burton" runs until Sept. 12 at the DDP.

A replica of Tim Burton's studio office / Korea Times photo by Park Han-sol
박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr

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