Tim Burton Production Design: A Look at the Bold Sets of Every Tim Burton Film

Tim Burton is known for his playful gothic style. The characters in his films live in worlds of contrast between eerie atmospheres and  whimsical fantasy.

“Anybody with artistic ambitions is always trying to reconnect with the way they saw things as a child.” Tim Burton

His most recent film, Alice in Wonderland, is nominated in the Fantasy Film category in this year’s Art Director’s Guild awards.

Tim Burton Production Design: A Look at the Bold Sets of Every Tim Burton Film Click To Tweet

The Tim Burton Production Design Aesthetic


Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

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When eccentric man-child Pee-wee Herman gets his beloved bike stolen in broad daylight, he sets out across the U.S. on the adventure of his life.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: David L. Snyder
Set Decorator: Thomas L. Roysden


Beetlejuice (1988)

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The spirits of a deceased couple are harassed by an unbearable family that has moved into their home, and hire a malicious spirit to drive them out.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Bo Welch
Art Director: Tom Duffield
Set Decorator: Catherine Mann


Batman (1989)

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The Dark Knight of Gotham City begins his war on crime with his first major enemy being Jack Napier, a criminal who becomes the clownishly homicidal Joker.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Anton Furst
Supervising Art Director: Leslie Tomkins
Set Decorator: Peter Young


Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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An artificial man, who was incompletely constructed and has scissors for hands, leads a solitary life. Then one day, a suburban lady meets him and introduces him to her world.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Bo Welch
Supervising Art Director: Tom Duffield
Set Decorator: Cheryl Carasik


Batman Returns (1992)

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Batman returns to the big screen when a deformed man calling himself the Penguin wreaks havoc across Gotham with the help of a cruel businessman.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Bo Welch
Supervising Art Director: Tom Duffield
Set Decorator: Cheryl Carasik


Ed Wood (1994)

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Ambitious but troubled movie director Edward D. Wood Jr. tries his best to fulfill his dreams, despite his lack of talent.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Tom Duffield
Art Director: Okowita
Set Decorator: Cricket Rowland


Mars Attacks! (1996)

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Earth is invaded by Martians with unbeatable weapons and a cruel sense of humor.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Wynn Thomas
Supervising Art Director: James Hegedus
Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh


Sleepy Hollow (1999)

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Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of three people, with the culprit being the legendary apparition, The Headless Horseman.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Supervising Art Director: Leslie Tomkins
Set Decorator: Peter Young


Planet of the Apes (2001)

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In 2029, an Air Force astronaut crash-lands on a mysterious planet where evolved, talking apes dominate a race of primitive humans.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Supervising Art Director: John Dexter
Set Decorator: Rosemary Brandenburg


Big Fish (2003)

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A frustrated son tries to determine the fact from fiction in his dying father’s life.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Dennis Gassner
Art Directors: Roy Barnes, Jean-Michel Ducourty, Robert Fechtman, Jack Johnson, and Richard L. Johnson
Set Decorator: Nancy Haigh


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

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A young boy wins a tour through the most magnificent chocolate factory in the world, led by the world’s most unusual candy maker.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Alex McDowell
Supervising Art Director: Leslie Tomkins
Set Decorator: Peter Young


Corpse Bride (2005)

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When a shy groom practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman, she rises from the grave assuming he has married her.

Director: Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
Production Designer: Alex McDowell
Art Director: Nelson Lowry


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

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The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, aka Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Dante Ferretti
Supervising Art Director: Gary Freeman
Set Decorator: Francesca Lo Schiavo


Alice in Wonderland (2010)

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Nineteen-year-old Alice returns to the magical world from her childhood adventure, where she reunites with her old friends and learns of her true destiny: to end the Red Queen’s reign of terror.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Robert Stromberg
Supervising Art Director: Stefan Dechant
Set Decorator: Karen O’Hara


Dark Shadows (2012)

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An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Supervising Art Director: Chris Lowe
Set Decorator: John Bush


Frankenweenie (2012)

When a boy’s beloved dog passes away suddenly, he attempts to bring the animal back to life through a powerful science experiment.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Art Directors: Tim Browning and Alexandra Walker


Big Eyes (2014)

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A drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Supervising Art Director: Chris August
Key Set Decorator: Shane Vieau


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Gavin Bocquet
Supervising Art Director: Peter Russell
Set Decorators: Jan Pascale, Monica Alberte, and Elli Griff


Dumbo (2019)

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A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.

Director: Tim Burton
Production Designer: Rick Heinrichs
Supervising Art Director: Chris Lowe
Set Decorator: John Bush


The Stylish Trademarks of Every Tim Burton Film


What is your favourite Tim Burton film? What are your favourite sets in a Tim Burton film?

 

For more Production Design Inspiration, click here.

Posted by Alison Hickey

Alison Hickey is a set designer based in Toronto. Her credits include 'Schitt's Creek', 'The Good Witch', 'Remedy', and 'Spun Out'.

  1. LOVE THIS POST! LOVE! love love love. thank you 🙂
    my favorite set will always be edward scissorhands. i love the pastel suburban tract houses, the kitsch, everything.

    Reply

  2. My favorites are “Sleepy Hollow” and one you didn’t list “Sweeney Todd”. I love it when he goes back in time and recreates those stylish, old world sets.

    Reply

  3. +1 for Tim Burton and this post.

    @Edwina, Sleepy Hollow is right there between Mars Attacks! (1996) and Big Fish (2003).

    Reply

  4. Edwina, I had Sweeney Todd lined up but it slipped through the cracks! I just added it to the post now. 🙂

    Reply

  5. I love them all! So hard to pick a favourite. I really love Edward Scissorhands, and I thought that Sleepy Hollow was very beautiful. Alice in Wonderland was truly fantastic, though! I’m hoping it wins!!
    -J

    Reply

  6. thats so weird burton has a really unique visual style yet he has almost always used a different production designer!

    to be hon. i thought alice in wonderland was DREADFUL, i hope it doesnt win anything, TRON deserves it way more (have you guys peeped the directors background? Architecture degree hello!)
    Apart from Avatar, i doubt we will see such a big budget design heavy flick for a while! I was literally salivating in the theatre…

    I guess Edward Scissorhands was nice but my fave burton prod design is prb the nightmare before chrsitmas. does that count? 🙂

    keep up the blog, shame it isnt more often, btw who is alison? i only knew about rose 🙂 love and wallpaper

    Reply

  7. I wanted to put Nightmare Before Christmas on this list but I wanted to keep it to just movies Burton directed, and Henry Selick directed that one. It’s one of my favourites too, though. 🙂

    I’m a film student who is helping Rose with posts for the website.

    Reply

  8. 17 Interesting Things To Know About Tim Burton - Just Girly Things August 8, 2017 at 2:09 PM

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