Disney: 7 Projects You Didn’t Know Tim Burton Worked On


Tim Burton is an ingenious director who has built his career on the strange and unusual. From classic horror films like Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd to the more silly and spooky entries like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, and Corpse Bride, the man has cultivated a massive fan following ranging from the mildly weird to the insanely eccentric. But before he truly cut his teeth on films like Batman, Burton was an animator and artist under Walt Disney Pictures.

Before Burton was called to direct remakes of Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo, he had something of a rocky start with a few of their films in the early ’80s. While his work with the company had a heavy influence on his career as an artist, Burton’s weirdness was considered too dark for Disney at one point. Of course, that didn’t stop him from frequently contributing to many of the studio’s projects.


7/7 Burton Animated Vixie In The Fox and The Hound (1981)

One of Burton’s first animation jobs with the Disney company was as an animator for The Fox and the Hound. Burton was in charge of the animation for Todd’s love interest, Vixie. Along with several other animators like John Lasseter, who also got their start with the company, Burton worked on a team of artists to help bring the story to life.

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Anyone familiar with the director’s work will immediately know that his trademark style absolutely does not match the cute and cuddly aesthetic that Disney was going for in the film. As a supervising animator, Burton had to essentially school himself in a more Disneyfied style to get the designs right.

6/7 Buron Did Uncredited Work On TRON (1982)

While TRON definitely feels like something more Burton than The Fox and the Hound certainly was, it wasn’t without its hiccups. That being said, Burton’s contribution as an uncredited animator on the project helped cultivate his talents and lay the foundation for the legendary filmmaker he would eventually become.

The evil faceless programs led by Sark certainly seem like they would feel right at home in a Tim Burton sci-fi movie about video games, but it’s unclear just how much work the man put into this often overlooked entry in the genre. At least it gave him some time with the company.

5/7 Burton Directed Hansel And Gretel (1983)

There’s likely a reason even the most accomplished of Disney fans might not have heard of this Halloween special, as it was supposedly only aired once in 1983. However, it was one of Burton’s first directing jobs, and it featured a collaboration with producer Rick Heinrichs that would help the director establish his trademark style. That all in mind, it was a wildly bizarre production even by Burton’s standards

Heavily inspired by Japanese cinema and culture, Burton’s Hansel and Gretel featured an all-Japanese cast, a nunchuck-swinging witch, and a masochistic little cookie by the name of Dan-Dan the Gingerbread Man. While the special was undeniably weird, the production served as the perfect platform to display the styles of both creators involved. Such designs and creations would later be seen in features like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands.

4/7 Burton Designed Concepts For The Black Cauldron (1985)

Of all the Disney features to best utilize Tim Burton’s gift for the strange and unusual, the fact that it wasn’t Disney’s The Black Cauldron is an outright shame. Although the meddling of the infamous Jeffery Katzenberg is mostly to blame for the film’s state, the fact that the dark and twisted fantasy didn’t utilize Burton’s concepts for characters like the Horned King, the Creeper, and the Gwythaints is just tragic.

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Although the project was certainly a dark route for Disney to take, the studio execs had absolutely no idea what a gold mine they were sitting on with Burton as a designer. It might not have been the same shade of darkness the film became known as, but it would have certainly been a more entertaining feature.

3/7 Burton Produced Cabin Boy (1994)

Since it was released under Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, Cabin Boy technically falls under their jurisdiction. A fever dream of a film, this adventure film is something of an undeniable outlier, but it did have Tim Burton acting as a producer. Burton’s career is unarguably defined by his weirdness, and this movie is certainly no exception.

The plot is all over the place as a snobbish aristocrat mistakenly joins a fishing crew instead of a cruise ship, but the hallucinations, strange sequences, and other outlandish scenes are 100% Burton. It might have been worthy of a Razzie award, but there’s still something to be said for Burton’s “Big-Ass Floating Cupcake.”

2/7 Burton Produced James And The Giant Peach (1996)

Despite coming from the minds behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach has often gone overlooked more times than even the biggest Burton Buffs care to admit. Given the strange and unusual content of the original novel by Roald Dahl, it makes perfect sense that both Tim Burton and Henry Selick would be the creative geniuses to bring this tale to the big screen.

Although only credited as a producer, the stop-motion sequences positively drip with Burton’s influences, especially with Jack Skellington’s cameo among the pirate crew. The designs, movements, and sense of humor arguably have more of Burton’s hand at work than Selick’s, but that’s highly debatable. Either way, it’s an underrated gem that fans of the director should desperately re-watch.

1/7 Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009) Showcases Disney Animators

This documentary might not have featured Burton in the director’s chair, but he was definitely a part of the overall narrative. The film pulls back the curtain on Walt Disney Animation Studios and a whole generation of animators as they grew and evolved during the Disney Renaissance. The film consists of interviews, archival footage, and recordings of big names under the Disney banner, including Don Hahn, Michael Eisner, Roy E. Disney, and yes, even Tim Burton.

Burton might be a prolific figure among the film’s cast of creators, but he doesn’t work alone. That being said, seeing a young Burton working on projects like The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron before making it big as a filmmaker should grab the attention of any film buff.

NEXT: 10 Non-Tim Burton Movies For Fans Of The Director’s Work


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