One really great way Melbourne embraces its winters is to hold special exhibitions dubbed ‘Melbourne Winter Masterpieces‘. Over the years they have had some wonderful shows, but I think nabbing the Tim Burton exhibition from the Museum of Modern Art in New York is pretty high on the wow list.

I can’t say that Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors. But he does have an interesting body of work ranging from gothic stop animation to Hollywood blockbusters, which means that I’ve seen about 50% of his films. This retrospective is not just for film buffs or Tim Burton aficionados – it’s a comprehensive, multi-modal show for adults and children which charts the course of a very creative mind and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the film-making process.

No photographs are allowed inside the exhibition but here are my highlights:

  • The first showcase as you walk down the stairs, a replica of the topiary deer from Edward Scissorhands;
  • Burton’s early cartoons when he worked as an animator at the Disney studios and his funny drawing of ‘Mothera’ (his take on Mothra, the Godzilla arch-enemy). You can already see a fascination with exaggerated forms, the theme of ‘otherness’ and being an outsider, and a keen sense of humour;
  • the teeny-tiny catsuit worn by Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns;
  • the film Hansel and Gretel, which was only aired once as it was deemed too scary and grotesque for middle America. It’s extremely entertaining and well worth a 30 minute sit-down;
  • the puppets used in The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride;
  • the Mad Hatter’s intricate costume from Alice in Wonderland, complete with an ammo belt made from spools of thread; and
  • the Tim Burton Carousel, introduced by a black tunnel lit with flourescent creatures and complete with creepy music from long-time collaborator Danny Elfman.

I spent about 2 hours in the exhibition and you could easily spend a lot more time there, inspecting all the details of his early drawings and watching every single film reel (apparently there are over 700 works on display). One of our party purchased the audioguide as well but said that he didn’t feel that the guide gave any more interesting insights than what you could already see and read. If you’re well prepared you can download the guide for free here.

Other than that, my only piece of advice is to get there early or to pre-purchase tickets online. We arrived at the opening time of 10am on Saturday and still had to line up (though not much). Once a certain number of people enter, you have to wait until the next 30 minute time slot, which is pretty frustrating if you’ve already had to wait in line to buy your ticket. By the time we left at around midday, the number of people inside meant that you kind of had to look at everything as part of a conveyor belt of people, and the ticket queue snaked out into the blasting cold of Federation Square.

The Tim Burton exhibition is accompanied by a program of talks, films and events. I’ll probably be going back for a screening of what many consider to be Burton’s masterpiece, Edward Scissorhands, which I haven’t seen since it was released in 1990.

NB I’ve found a blog post which actually contains photos of the exhibits! Check out Sea of Ghosts. Oh, and the Monster Mouth and all the other monster-y displays around the exhibition were made by Melbourne company BiGfiSh, impressive.