Burton exhibit an eccentric lot

A Tim Burton aficionado could spend hours poring over the more than 700 paintings, drawings, puppets, costumes, storyboards and other ephemera from the eccentric director’s career on exhibit in Toronto beginning this week.

Film director Tim Burton poses for photographers in front of part of his exhibition being shown at the Bell Lightbox  in Toronto on Monday.

Film director Tim Burton poses for photographers in front of part of his exhibition being shown at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto on Monday.

TORONTO — A Tim Burton aficionado could spend hours poring over the more than 700 paintings, drawings, puppets, costumes, storyboards and other ephemera from the eccentric director’s career on exhibit in Toronto beginning this week.

But for Burton himself, the less time spent in the exhaustive archive of artifacts, the better.

“I have trouble looking at it, to be honest,” Burton said. “It’s just weird, you know? . . . When I go into it, it’s like an out of body experience. I kind of look at it all but not too closely.”

“Even watching (my) movies, it’s hard for me. This was even weirder, ’cause . . . a lot of that stuff was never really meant to be seen, so to see it hanging up on a wall is really strange.”

The shiny TIFF Bell Lightbox — the permanent new home of the Toronto International Film Festival — will launch its Burton exhibit on Friday. It runs through April.

The exhibition (which was originally organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York) is a treasure trove of artwork, artifacts and personal effects from Burton’s past, gathered from his own personal vault, studio archives, private collections (including contributions from frequent collaborator Johnny Depp) and even Burton’s mother’s basement.

Among the movie memorabilia on display: the titular hero’s cowl from Batman; Depp’s black-leather getup from Edward Scissorhands and a carefully preserved puppet from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

But ardent fans of Burton (some of whom were lined up early Monday morning in the Lightbox in anticipation of an afternoon autograph signing session) might flock to the more obscure pieces.

For instance, the Crush Litter cartoon he designed at an early age, which was adopted by his native Burbank, Calif., to be used on the side of garbage trucks.

Or the illustrated story he submitted to an editor at Walt Disney in 1976. Burton’s submission letter, his manuscript and the resultant rejection letter are all on display, alongside high-school essays, personal Polaroids and idle doodles dating back decades.

Of course, there will also be a film component to the exhibition.

This weekend, the Lightbox will screen a Burton marathon that will follow his career.

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