Tim Burton began his career with Disney after the company saw his short Stalk of the Celery Monster and offered him a job right out of college. However, after finishing his animated short Frankenweenie in 1984, he was fired because the House of Mouse felt his work was too dark and scary for children at the time. He was fortunately brought back into the fold in the 1990s to produce The Nightmare Before Christmas, which earned him a lot of notoriety. And, ironically, Frankenweenie became a full-length feature directed by the award-winning director himself in 2012.
Burton reportedly told Deadline that when he produced the live-action movie Dumbo in 2019, he realized that Disney had grown to be too big for him and that the weird, spooky movies he enjoyed producing no longer made sense at the media powerhouse.
“My history is that I started out there. I was hired and fired like several times throughout my career there. The thing about Dumbo, is that’s why I think my days with Disney are done, I realized that I was Dumbo, that I was working in this horrible big circus and I needed to escape. That movie is quite autobiographical at a certain level.”
The plot of Dumbo revolved around a baby elephant with large ears who was the newest addition to Max Medici’s circus. Though Dumbo’s physical characteristics already distinguished him, Medici soon realized that Dumbo could fly by using his ears. The original Dumbo animated film had a mostly animal cast with a few human characters; however, Burton’s Dumbo changed several key character details, earning both praise and criticism.
Burton also touched upon the studio’s current focus, which centers significantly around Pixar and the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. The notable director emphasized that the studio’s limited cinematic agenda makes it difficult to develop projects outside of the scope.
“It’s gotten to be very homogenized, very consolidated,” stated Burton. “There’s less room for different types of things.” Burton also made it clear that Marvel would not be a path he would ever venture down, noting that a multi-universe was something he could not deal with in his professional career.