It should come as no shock to the fans of director Tim Burton that he spent his formative years glued to the tube, watching old cartoons and horror flicks. Such early influences no doubt helped to form the deliciously ghoulish and artfully warped sensibility of a director who was to become known for his forays into the bizarre outer regions of mainstream celluloid. The emphasis on "mainstream" is notable: Burton's career has been distinguished in part by the director's skillful ability to remain just inside the realm of the mainstream while producing work of a decidedly unconventional vision.
A native son of Southern California, Burton was born in Burbank on August 25, 1958. He never really took to suburbia, where he was raised, and instead of joining little league or selling lemonade spent his time drawing, watching old horror movies, and reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Winning a scholarship in 1980 to the Disney-created California Institute of the Arts, Burton went to work as an apprentice animator at Disney. It was an aesthetically and financially dead period for Disney animation (megahits like The Little Mermaid were years in the future), and Burton's most vivid memories of his time at the studio were of constant firings, ill-will, indecisiveness, and paranoia. He felt decidedly out of place working on cartoons like The Fox and the Hound, later saying "I was just not Disney material. I could just not draw cute foxes for the life of me." For their part, the Disney higher-ups weren't interested in any of Burton's independent ideas, and refused to release his 1984 short Frankenweenie on the grounds that it was "unsuitable" for children. His first animated short, Vincent -- a 1982 tribute to his idol Vincent Price, who also narrated the film -- met with a similarly cool reception from Disney executives.