…and I’m not talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas, which he didn’t even direct. I’ve said it before, I’m a fan of Burton even though I don’t love his work wholly. He’s no Scorsese – but, few are. The man has issues, but I think credit should be given where it’s due. It’s ironic somehow that my two favourite Burton pieces are two that I rarely hear people championing. I admitted my love for Big Fish before, and the 2005 magnum opus (I kid you not) that was Corpse Bride appears in my list of favourite films. It holds the distinction of being my favourite animated film. It’s probably not incidental that Corpse Bride features Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp – mainstays of Burton’s filmography. The film introduces us to a young man, something of a simpleton, set to be married. Whilst practising his vows in the forest he mistakenly gives the eponymous Corpse Bride the impression that she is the object of his desire – and thus, the drama ensues.
When we think of things that are Burton-esque thoughts of dark, somewhat macabre humour are evoked. We recall dark and gloomy sets with nary a piece of light, and of course we imagine a fascination with death and such things. Corpse Bride serves up all, and I suppose it’s easy to mistake it for Burton’s lack of wit or unoriginality. Perhaps, but each time I watch this film I’m constantly amazed at the complexity and sensitivity that Burton manages to infuse in an eighty minute animated tale. The atmospheric nature of it probably means that children will be diverted by the look of it, but Corpse Bride is not about the aesthetic – at least, not alone. Helena Bonham Carter is someone I’m very fond of, and her incarnation of the Corpse Bride is the strongest work she’s done alongside Burton – but for the whole animation glitch. There’s something profoundly real about the deliberate self-delusions she yields to and it’s precisely why the film is named after her, even if it takes some time for us to actually meet her. Her poignant departure from the film always moves me, even if it’s just a little too pat.
Speaking of that “pat” ending, I’m well aware that Corpse Bride is not without its glitches – but I suppose the fact that I like it despite them (or maybe because of them) that makes it a favourite of mine. It’s maddeningly short, so that just as you’re about to experience the first swallow of contentment it’s all over. And of course, because it’s animated, there’s the rare penchant to infuse it with some inane form of physical comedy, but Corpse Bride triumphs nonetheless. As someone who’s openly (but not on the blog) disliked Wallace & Grommit I consider it a great disservice to animation and Tim Burton that Corpse Bride lost that Oscar 2005. But, then again, isn’t that the usual? The decade ends and with its apparent sleight of hand in animation everyone remembers Pixar only and the odd Shrek or Fantastic Mr. Fox. When Coraline **came out least year (#3 of 2009) I championed it for its atmospheric similarities to Corpse Bride. Coraline didn’t win the Oscar either, so I guess Corpse Bride isn’t bad company…but it’s unfortunate that it’s rarely remembered when we stop to talk about the aughts and how it changed animation for the better. Hopefully, I’m not the only one who remembers it with such fondness.