Tim Burton Talks Frankenweenie at the Opening of His Star-Studded Museum Retrospective in Los Angeles

Tim Burton (Frank Micelotta/Picture Group)

Burton partied with such frequent collaborators as Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Danny Elfman at the opening of the director's traveling art exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Saturday, May 28.

Around 700 guests packed the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Resnick Pavilion Saturday May 28 for the L.A. opening of Tim Burton, a 700-work retrospective of the director's career. Actors from Burton’s films including Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Crispin Glover attended as did frequent collaborator Danny Elfman and screenwriter Scott Alexander (Ed Wood).

 "The people are really amazing. That’s the most important thing — people respond to you," said Burton, who had signed more than 600 exhibition catalogues and his 2009 book The Art of Tim Burton at an earlier appearance at LACMA that day.

The exhibit, which runs through October 31 in Los Angeles and first opened at New York's Museum of Modern Art in November 2009, includes more than 700 works by the director, including drawings, paintings, photographs, moving-image works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, and costumes. "It was an enormous success and there are lines all around the block," said former Warner Bros’ chief Terry Semel, who first worked with the director when the studio hired Burton to helm 1989's Batman. "I think his drawings are really fantastic."

Burton had flown in for just one day for the opening from London, where he's close to starting production on the film Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp, based on the 1960s soap opera. "It’s really nice to be one day in L.A. Luckily, the volcano didn’t stop me from coming," said Burton.

The director — who recently decided not to make Disney's Maleficent, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty— is working on a second movie concurrently with Dark Shadows: the black-and-white, stop-motion Frankenweenie. The film is a full-length version of his 1984 short of the same name, about a young boy who tries to bring his dog back to life after it is struck by a car. Burton said he's purposefully eschewed any new technologies in making the film. "It's the old stop motion. The material felt right to do it that way. It's a bit cruder but I feel like it works well with the material," said Burton. Both Ryder and Landau are among the actors voicing characters in the film.

Landau said at the opening that he had already "had two wonderful sessions so far" working with Burton on Frankenweenie. To describe his character, Mr. Rzykruski, Landau said: "I'm playing… it's a long name. It looks like an eye chart. It’s Frankenweenie's professor. He's got an accent and he's funny and interesting."

 Elfman — who said that the night "really was memory lane" — confirmed that Frankenweenie, which is due for an October 2012 release, is "more than halfway through" production. He'll be scoring the film but has yet to start. "I really don't start until they are in a rough cut. Tim usually cheats it a little bit. He usually brings me in about the middle somewhere and often I will come up with some ideas then. I do read the scripts and get ideas, but none of those ideas have ever survived. When I look at one of his movies, I blank out my mind from anything I thought from the script."

Also seen in the crowd: Eva Mendes; Johnny Knoxville, who proudly patted his wife Naomi Nelson's baby bump (she's pregnant with their second child); LACMA trustees Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, Carole Bayer Sager, and The Huffington Post's Willow Bay (with husband Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company); Slash of Guns 'N Roses, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker (Ed Wood), Warner Bros. svp, production Sarah Schechter, and not a few children who arrived as Mad Hatters.

At the end of the night, Jane's Addiction performed a set on a temporary stage on the LACMA plaza. Burton was spotted right up near the stage, watching as frontman Perry Farrell sang while swigging from a bottle of red wine. At one point, Farell offered a sip to a fan in the audience. "You are 18 right?" he asked. Perhaps remembering the drinking age in California is 21, the singer decided against handing over his bottle.

Below, a still from the 2005 film Corpse Bride, directed by Mike Johnson and Burton (photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures).