Burton Preps for MOMA Show with Screening of Little-Seen Hansel and Gretel


Tim Burton (right) receives the plaudits of MOMA assistant curator Ron Magliozzi.

Candy-striped bondage gear, sagging walls spurting Technicolor blood, a menacing gingerbread man crying for his death. And finally, an evil (and, ostensibly, drag-queen) witch incinerated to thick, graphic smoke inside her own oven.

“Hard to imagine that was on the Disney Channel, huh?” said Tim Burton.

It is, probably even to the few who were awake for the single 3 a.m. broadcast of Burton’s Hansel and Gretel in 1983. Today, Burton screened a clip of his early movie for the first time since then, at the press briefing for his exhibition at MOMA, which runs November 22nd through April 26th.

Dressed in black, with typically disheveled hair and a silver pinkie finger brace for sartorial flourish, he amiably discussed the “re-energizing process” of revisiting the props and storyboards he’d diligently hoarded throughout his 30-year career, to which the MOMA received unrestricted access.

In his introduction, MOMA assistant curator Ron Magliozzi likened Burton to a modern-day Andy Warhol; when a reporter asked Burton what his mother would think of the comparison, Burton replied: “She wouldn’t know who Warhol is.”

The MOMA retrospective will display Burton’s sketches, photographs, props, and “cinematic ephemera” (in MOMA’s typically merry, oblique term) alongside clips from commercial and rare films — the former including Mars Attacks!, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the latter including this therapy-inducing fairy tale. (He suggested similar cheerfully grotesque elements will reappear in next March’s Alice in Wonderland.)

Also shown: 1980’s amateur Super-8 short Doctor of Doom, a takeoff on poorly overdubbed B-movie horror flicks. Part of it can be found here; the sallow-eyed fatalist is none other than 22-year-old Burton. It is safe to say, even then, that Johnny Depp did not feel threatened.