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Tim Burton: A Weird, Innovative and Passionate Entrepreneur – Much to Learn from this Man

The media often describes Tim Burton as weird, even a bit twisted, but no matter how he’s described by the talking heads, I think this guy epitomizes an entrepreneur who, like the theme of this site, ‘never stops creating’.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Tim Burton was a golden boy and his films were money making machines. He created very eccentric and heartfelt pieces such as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Corpse Bride, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. He was the director who brought Batman to the silver screen and pieced the very scattered book Big Fish into a cohesive narrative that was moving and heartfelt. As a movie buff, I appreciate his creative film-making style. And Tim Burton has a certain style that he has built a booming business around because he isn’t afraid to be himself.

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Success Didn’t Come Easy

Tim didn’t exactly start out as a success, though. Upon graduating in 1979, Disney picked up Burton to work in their animation department. However, if you’ve ever seen any of Tim’s personal art, it is obvious that he wouldn’t fit into Disney animation style.

He was stuck doing in-between animations until Disney commissioned him to make a short film to show before the re-release of Pinocchio in theaters. Seeing an opportunity, he took a risk and filmed a story that he had been mulling around in his mind: Frankenweenie. The short film about a boy reviving his dead dog got Tim fired from Disney on the grounds that he was “spending company resources” on a film that would purposely frighten children. His creative and daring mind, like so many entrepreneurs, wasn’t accepted in the corporate world of Disney.

After leaving Disney, Tim did not give up on filmmaking. He immediately dove into his first feature length film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure which, made with a meager $8 million budget, grossed more than $40 million at the box office.

Tim’s eclectic style, which was shunned by one of the biggest studios in the world, brought iconic scenes to the screen that made audiences flock to the Pee-Wee Herman movie franchise, opening the door for other films to be made for the character, though not by Burton. Instead of continuing the franchise, Burton brought a passion project to life in the form of Beetlejuice, which had a smaller budget than Pee-Wee’s, but grossed twice as much in the long run and made him a Hollywood superstar.

Not About the Money – It’s About Passion

Burton’s motives were never about making big bucks though. He was always looking for passion projects that would allow him to innovate and display his creativity.

Like most great innovators, Tim’s work was all about his passion. Passion is what will carry you, the entrepreneur, through those long work nights where you can’t see a pay day at the end of the tunnel. Passion keeps you moving, keeps you grinding and eventually it will lead to that big pay day. And passion will keep you striving for more even after that big pay day arrives. If you’re not passionate about what you do, why do it? Life is short and we sacrifice a hell of a lot as entrepreneurs, so do something you love!

After making two relatively large hits in a row, Warner Brothers contacted Tim about filming the Batman franchise. Many were skeptical about the directing choice, but the film was a smash, making $400 million worldwide.

By 1990, Tim had made a name for himself that was large enough for him to walk back into the halls of Disney and make his biggest passion project a reality, but it certainly didn’t come easy.


The Nightmare Before Christmas is seen by many as the Tim Burton film to rule them all. However, Disney did not see it this way at the time. Since Tim had come up with the idea for the film while still working in his animation cubicle at Disney, they owned the intellectual rights to the film and never wanted to produce it. Tim went in many times over six years to try and convince Disney that his most treasured film idea was worth creating. Finally, after many changes in the company, Disney agreed to give the financing over to him. What a great decision for Disney that turned out to be.

Because of Burton’s strong vision and unbreakable passion, which was carried out by his friend Henry Selick in the director’s chair, Disney got one of their most iconic and long-lasting franchises of all-time. Nightmare has made roughly $75 million dollars worldwide (and counting). The film has been remade in 3D in recent years.

Since Nightmare, many argue that Tim’s filmmaking has gone downhill. His later films such as Mars Attacks!, Ed Wood, and Planet of the Apes were seen as flops either critically or in the box office. However, Tim Burton’s aesthetic and craftsmanship has remained virtually unaltered. Burton has, and probably always will be, uncompromising when it comes to his vision and ideals. He took his gothic visions and made a name for himself out of it without changing to be more socially acceptable. He never fit in to the corporate world and was fired because of his creative genius. Passion and innovation belong in the entrepreneurial realm and Burton is a prime example.

Always be Creating

One of Tim Burton’s main pieces of advice for likeminded entrepreneurs is to always be creating, the exact same message behind this site. Burton says that anytime he thought of a creative idea, he would write it down on a piece of paper, or start drawing it on the spot (no matter what he was doing or where he was). This is a simple but valuable piece of advice.

Whenever my creative juices start flowing and I come up with a concept or idea, it goes into my iPhone and I set a reminder to delve into that idea the next day (no matter how big or small). It doesn’t matter what I’m doing; whether I’m having a couple pints with friends, on a date with my wife or playing with Logan, I save that thought (it only takes a few seconds).

The concept for one of my most popular investing E-books came to me on a date with my wife.

Never let an idea come and go without action. Great creative ideas often come to us at moments of relaxation and when we are away from our desks, so make sure to record them and then revisit them ASAP.

“Do what today others won’t, so tomorrow, you can do what others can’t.” ~ Brian Rogers Loop

Burton has become so iconic that the phrase ‘burton-esque’ has been coined to describe a gothic tone in film or art. Whether you enjoy his style of film or not, no one can deny that Tim Burton has created a business on being himself and staying loyal to his passion.

How Tim Burton Turned a Gothic Aesthetic into a Successful Business

  • He never compromises his vision. Even after being fired from Disney for making a film that was ‘too dark’ for children, Burton continued making films that almost always kept the same style and tone.
  • He is never afraid of taking risks. When Batman was a success, he knew it was a risk to change the tone to the more darker sequel Batman Returns; however, Burton knew that the story being created for the sequel was much darker than the first and he was not willing to stick to the original almost light-hearted tone of Batman just to guarantee that the sequel would be a success.
  • He isn’t afraid of failure. Tim Burton realises that his films are, and were, very different and strange to most people. Mars Attacks!, though a commercial failure, is seen by Burton as a building block that he is still proud to have made. He realizes that, especially in film, you win some and you lose some, but that you always learn more from your losses than victories.

Stay hungry,