Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tim Burton's goth bona fides go all the way back to his time as a blood-spitting Disney animator

Photo: Edward Berthelot (Getty Images)

Before Tim Burton ignited the imaginations of mall goths across the world, he was just a young animator trying to find his way in the film industry. Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, and the Keaton-led Batman movies still just a twinkle in his (probably detachable, very spooky) eye, Burton worked at Disney on early ‘80s films like Tron, The Fox And The Hound, and The Black Cauldron. While there, helping to bring fantastical worlds to life for an entire generation of children, he was already showing signs of his real artistic preoccupation: being a macabre weirdo.

Just look at the below photos of a youthful Burton, cheeks swollen from surgery, drooling blood on a white shirt as he walks around showing off his recently removed wisdom teeth like the world’s grossest magician. They were resurfaced yesterday by writer/director/editor Nick Usen, and we thank him for the nightmares.


A trivia section for Burton’s TV Tropes page sheds a bit more light on what was happening here—at least as much as can be expected within the context of a blood-spitting young man delighting in his own severed teeth. Apparently, Burton wasn’t “able to to emulate Disney’s in-house look (he claims most of his drawings ‘looked like roadkill’),” which led to him having, as TV Tropes puts it, “outbursts of literal insanity.”

The above photos show Burton during a moment where he “eventually [vented] his frustration by wandering with his mouth open after getting his wisdom teeth pulled and letting blood pour onto the floor in the hallway.”

While this may have been a difficult time in Burton’s life, it probably sucked a lot more for his co-workers, who had to work with a miserable young man who expressed his artistic struggles by getting his blood all over the place. For the rest of us, though, pictures of this time are just a valuable record of an influential director’s early days—a real portrait of the artist as a young ghoul.


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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.