Tim Burton’s Napkin Sketches & More At Paris Cinematheque

Tim Burton in Paris

Tim Burton in Paris – from paris.fr

The Tim Burton exhibition, third most visited exhibition at MOMA, New York no less, opened in early March at the Cinematheque in Paris and I’ve been chomping at the bit to go ever since. I got to see it this weekend, and was not disappointed.

I have to own up, Tim Burton has been a favourite director of mine ever since Edward Scissorhands, and his partnership with my favourite actor, Johnny Depp was to me a match made in heaven. So no high expectations of this exhibition then!

Nightmare before Christmas storyboard

Nightmare before Christmas storyboard – cities.rendezvousenfrance.com

Over 700 objects are brought together in this survey of the auteur/artist/writer’s work, including artwork, models, photographs, short films and objects and storyboards from his films.

Burton’s talent for art and film was obvious from an early age. His earliest known film, The Island of Doctor Agor was made when he was 13 years old, and we’re shown the artwork which won him competitions at school in the Burbank suburbs, before he arrived at CalArts as a student in 1976. “Stalk of the Celery Monster” (excellent title), made in this arts institution, is one of the short films shown at the exhibition.

Favourite exhibits of mine are definitely Johnny’s Scissorhands outfit and his angora sweater from Ed Woods. There’s a great picture and model of “Max the Soundman” – a 7-legged monster carrying a saw, bell, symbols, gun, hammer and a cat! And the storyboards and preliminary drawings of characters from his films show just how much of an auteur Burton is – his films are completely him.

Tim Burton napkin doodle

Napkin doodle – paris.fr

There is a series of napkins with doodles by him of characters from his films, ladies with logos of the hotels he’s stayed in as part of their hair do or face, art with titles such as the man with dogs coming out of his eye sockets entitled “A blind man with permanent seeing eye dogs” and quirky photographs taken as part of a personal project.

Edward Scissorhands drawing

Edward Scissorhands

Burton always felt himself to be an outsider and it is this that has made his work appealing to a large number of geeks, freeks and shy people. (I count myself as one of this elite group.) At Disney, where he worked in the animation department he said “I would sit in the closet a lot of the time and not come out, or I would sit under my desk.”

But through his art, Burton has been able to express his dark humour and vivid imagination we’ve all benefited from that, and this exhibition shows just how talented this man is.


Runs from 7 March to 5 August 2012. If you can, book tickets on the internet in advance. There was quite a queue when I arrived 25 minutes before it was due to open and it wasn’t the fastest to shift. Try to get there early on.

Address and Open Times of the Cinematheque

51 Rue de Bercy
12th arrondissement

Nearest metro: Bercy

Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 12 noon to 7pm.
Weekend, public holidays and school holidays (14 to 29 April and 4 July to 5 August): 10am to 8pm.
Thursday evenings to 10pm.

Julie McNamee
Born in Belfast and now living in London, Julie McNamee is involved in internet marketing as a day job and blogging as a hobby. She's interested in all things quirky and Fortean, as well as art, photography and theatre. Her blog Quirky Travel, specializes in London and Paris top tips and off the beaten path information with subjects such as London film locations and unusual Paris museums.
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