Tim Burton is a director, producer, artist, writer and animator who creates dark and quirky work. Many of his films star Johnny Depp – a close friend who became the godfather of Burton’s children – and Helena Bonham Carter – Burton’s former domestic partner and the mother of said children (a son, Billy Raymond, named after Burton’s and Bonham Carter's fathers, born in 2003, and a daughter, Nell, born in 2007).
Burton's mother owned a cat-themed gift shop, and his father played minor league baseball. Burton attended the California Institute of the Arts, and he might be making a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas.
And on top of all of this, he’s the center of numerous fan theories...So. Many. Theories. His films are twisted enough, but once audiences get a hold of them, they run with fantastical ideas and create out-of-this world links. Here are some of the craziest fan theories that just might be crazy enough to make sense!
15 How It All Began…
After leaving the California Institute of the Arts in 1979, Burton ended up as a Disney apprentice animator, where he was “strapped to a table all day and [would just] have to draw”. He knew his dark aesthetic was different from the fluffiness of Disney’s, especially after his character sketches for The Black Cauldron were denied. But then, he was asked to direct Vincent, a six-minute piece based on a children's story he had written, starring Vincent – a boy who loves to read Edgar Allen Poe and who has a dog named Abercrombie. In this short, Vincent’s mom gives the dog away, to keep Vincent from performing more experiments on the poor creature...and that is when, according to some theorists, Abercrombie is adopted by Frankenweenie’s Victor and renamed Sparky.
14 Man’s Best Friend
After Sparky died in Frankenweenie...What if he became a spirit in The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Halloween Town? Perhaps he was taken in by Jack Skellington, who gave him the name Zero, and his nose glows, because he is Sparky reincarnated! Despite Zero being a ghost-dog, it is implied that he still needs to breathe, since, when he is asleep in his basket in Jack’s tower, part of his sheet-like body around his chest moves up and down. Also, his “tail” wags when he is happy - because obviously, Victor wanted his rebuilt pet to be as life-like as possible. Furthermore, in Frankenweenie, Zero’s gravestone is apparently seen in the Pet Cemetery, as Victor is walking toward Sparky’s grave, twisting and meshing these stories together some more.
13 Leading Ladies
In the story of Vincent, readers also learn that his wife had been buried alive then dug up by Vincent himself. In reality, though, Vincent actually just destroyed his mother’s flower bed, so was sent to his room as a punishment.
One night while reading a gruesome tale, He read a passage that made him turn pale. Such horrible news he could not survive, For his beautiful wife had been buried alive. He dug out her grave to make sure she was dead, Unaware that her grave was his mother's flower bed.
But what if he did have a buried wife and did dig her up and then brought her back to life? This rebuilt lady could be Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas; she’s pieced together, a rag doll of mismatched patches - looking just like something a little boy would piece together yet also like the perfect female protagonist of Halloween Town.
12 Rebirthed Into The Nightmare Before Christmas
Bob from Frankenweenie looks awfully similar to a boy in The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s been stated that if you die in a Tim Burton film, you may get rebirthed into Christmas Town or Halloween Town. Bob is a momma’s boy and runs to Victor for help when he gets in over his head. The glasses-wearing kid in The Nightmare Before Christmas also runs - when he’s chased by a jack-in-the-box.
11 Grown-Up Versions
Speaking of similar-looking characters...Could Victor from Corpse Bride be the grown-up version of Frankenweenie's Victor? Their looks, names and pets suggest this could be true! Both also enjoy creating, as the older Victor (Victor van Dort) draws and plays the piano, while the child (Victor Frankenstein) creates inventions inspired by science. Also, Victor’s Frankenweenie neighborhood looks very similar to the neighborhood from Edward Scissorhands (more connectedness!).
Skeptics may argue that this is impossible, since Corpse Bride came out in 2005 and Frankenweenie in 2012. However, in 1984, a shorter version of the latter was released, Burton’s second short film made while he was working as a Disney animator. Still not sure? Don’t worry: The whole time element of the Burton universe is discussed below.
10 Misunderstood Daughters
In Frankenweenie, Victor has a cute little neighbor named Elsa Van Helsing. There seemed to be a crush there, and after Victor ran away, Elsa became deeply depressed...so depressed that her parents gave her up for adoption. She then changed her name to Lydia and moved on with Delia and Charles Deetz and into Barbara and Adam Maitland’s old house, all in the movie Beetlejuice.
At the end of this film, Lydia is a bit happier than when we first see her (in her normal, mopey, angsty teen way), since Adam and Barbara (the ghosts in her new house) become her parental figures. Just as Lydia’s parents ignore her, find her strange and put her in situations she doesn’t love, Elsa, too, was forced to be the Little Dutch Girl for her town’s celebration, something her uncle talked her into while her parents were away.
Frankenweenie also gave the world Weird Girl (Anne Chambers)...who is actually Kim in Edward Scissorhands; her parents believed she was going crazy when she tried to explain what happened to her beloved Mr. Whiskers, so - like all crazy Burton-inspired parents - they put her up for adoption, which gave way for Peg and Jim to take her in. Supposedly, there are no photos of Kim in the house as a child, which supports this theory.
Kim is a weird chick who falls in love with a weird guy (one who barely talks and has scissors for hands), making her relatable to the ominous little girl with a monotone voice and unblinking stare we find in Frankenweenie. This character also gets to be seen at three ages, since Anne is 10, and Kim begins the movie as a 16-year-old girl and ends - spoiler! - as an elderly woman.
8 More Reincarnations
ONE. It can be believed that Victor from Corpse Bride is the grown-up version of Frankenweenie's Victor.
TWO. This previous point can be thrown out, and we can go with the fact that Frankenweenie’s Victor became Jack.
THREE. We can believe that all of Burton’s male characters are technically the same person, meaning that if Frankenweenie’s Victor is Jack, then so is the Victor from Corpse Bride, and Jack is both of them...as well as the Mad Hatter, Edward Scissorhands, Pee-Wee Herman, Batman…? Man, this is getting confusing! Choose your own theory (and share it in the comments below;).
7 The Real-Life Connectivity
The real-life happenings of Burton films also go along with this theory of connectedness; the director often uses the same actors, actresses and collaborators in his films, such as…
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee, who all appeared in eight, seven and six films, respectively.
Danny Elfman composed the music for all of Burton's feature films, with the exception of Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
Jason Hervey appeared in the 1984 Frankenweenie before appearing in Pee-wee's Big Adventure the next year.
Vincent Price worked with Burton on three projects, by hosting the television film Hansel and Gretel, narrating the short film Vincent and appearing in the feature film Edward Scissorhands.
Last but not least, Winona Ryder starred in Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Frankenweenie, as well as appeared in the Burton-directed music video for The Killers' "Here with Me".
Moreover, Samuel L. Jackson is the first black actor to play a leading role in a Burton movie, according to Bustle. In an interview about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Burton stated, “I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct, like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black — I used to get more offended by that than just — I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”
Possible complaints aside, perhaps the actors and actresses Burton casts in his films are chosen to assist his intertwined worlds.
6 Easter Eggs
Hidden animated cameos happen, too, as Jack Skellington appears during the final minutes of Vincent. He’s on the Mad Hatter's bow tie in the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland. He plays Captain Jack in James and the Giant Peach. His silhouette is shown in The Princess and the Frog. His face appears on a doormat in the first volume of the graphic novel series Lenore. In the opening scene of Edward Scissorhands, one of the cookie-cutter machines closely resembles Jack. Plus, Jack has been featured in South Park, the MAD episode “Kitchen Nightmares Before Christmas” and Tiny Toon Adventures, to name a few.
To bounce off that idea...Disney has theories and Easter eggs galore - and some even tie into Tim Burton’s universe. A hidden Mickey Mouse can be found in Nightmare Before Christmas, in the scene where Jack’s Christmas gifts attack (It’s a scary Mickey yet still the beloved mouse.). Also, the girl it attacks is wearing a Mickey nightgown, while her brother’s pajamas are covered in Donald Duck faces.
5 Similar Symbols
Directors often include symbols in their films, and Burton has put his on repeat: bats, dogs, skeletons, spiders, black-and-white stripes, graveyards. Most of these references are due to his love of horror films...but maybe he does it to further show how all of these movies are connected? Either way, we love the spiders in Big Fish, Beetlejuice’s jail-like costume and the Halloween motifs in Nightmare Before Christmas.
Yes, it can be argued that once an artist has a vision - one he loves, one that works for him, and one that he does well - he will stick with it, but in the crazy world of Tim Burton, fanatics like to believe that, for instance, the dogs from Frankenweenie and The Nightmare Before Christmas are one and the same. (Here are some other Burton staples!)
4 Blooming Relationships
Back to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children...Emma Bloom may have joined this universe! In Big Fish, When Edward Bloom becomes ill, his son, William, travels to be with him, despite their strained relationship. All William really knows of his father is his fantastical tales (similar to those of Abraham “Abe” Ezra Portman’s in Miss Peregrine’s world). Upon the death of Edward, William begins to research his life...and maybe Emma Bloom is the orphaned daughter or long-lost relative of Edward?!
In Burton’s 2003 film, Edward travelled a lot, and audiences see him at a couple of different ages. Emma, in Burton’s latest movie, is also adventurous, and with her time loop and supernatural gifts - combined with the craziness of these theories - anything is possible.
3 How In The World...
Some may argue the connectivity of these films, saying that Corpse Bride is Victorian, while Frankenweenie seems to be set in a modern-day suburban neighborhood. However, a Redditor pointed out that Corpse Bride takes place in the near future of Victor's adulthood, where Victorian fashion and other trends have become popular again. No modern technology is seen, because an economic collapse caused technology to be too expensive. Additionally, Burton made his films NOT in chronological order on purpose, so that everyday viewers could enjoy separate films, while crazy people like you and I could piece together every detail. “Look at the Legend of Zelda games; they're completely out of order, yet as each new game comes out, the die hard fans will find its place in the great history of it all. Production dates do not equal chronological dates.”
“It shouldn’t work at all—a world of darkness, wild moors and haunted castles crossed with pastel-coloured bungalows, picket fences and verdant green lawns as American as apple pie.” But it does.
2 A Surprising Twist
The black-and-white striped family tree also tells us that Pee-Wee Herman is the father of The Penguin.
Paul Reubens plays Elijah Van Dahl on Gotham...though he’s best known for his role in the Pee-Wee movies. But he also played Penguin’s father in Burton’s 1992 film Batman Returns.
Gotham fans speculated early on, since not much was known about the father of aspiring crime lord Oswald Cobblepot/Robin Lord Taylor/Penguin, that someone surprising could step in...someone like Reubens, who appeared in Season 2 of FOX's Batman prequel as Penguin’s father...the same role he played 23 years earlier.
Yes, Reubens’ and Taylor’s appearances make this a good casting choice, but in the world of Burton, this is an even better choice, as we’d love for Pee-Wee to have finally found love and had a son (one he hopefully was able to ride bikes with, before said son went crazy).
1 Internal Reincarnation (Starring Johnny Depp)
In 2007, Johnny Depp starred in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as a Victorian barber and serial killer. After that, a theory arose that one of Sweeney Todd’s descendants married into the Wonka family, and after Willy Wonka passed on his factory to Charlie Bucket, he retired in a large gothic mansion on a hill...and instead of making candy, he decided to make a man: Edward Scissorhands. Wonka died before finishing up the project, leaving Edward alone - and with scissors for hands.
We love that the initial points in this post combine the animated dogs and male protagonists...and we also love that Burton’s fans are so creative and dedicated that a similar crashing of worlds happened, with the more modern films, all starring Depp.
This is sort of an internal reincarnation story, with Depp transitioning from one character to the next and ending up as an artificial man who was actually a passion project.