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Vincent - Tim Burton - 1982
After leaving the California Institute of the Arts in 1979, Burton went to work as an apprentice animator at Disney. Here, he came face to face with the reality of working in the animation industry. He recalled being strapped to a table all day, and you have to draw. I just flipped out. Working with animator Glen Keane on The Fox and Hound (1979), he realized his visual sense was different from the Disney norm; he couldnt even fake the Disney style. His then developed character sketches for The Black Cauldron (1980), none of which were used.
Feeling out of place and ready to leave, Burton was given the opportunity to direct Vincent, a six minute short based on a childrens story he had written. The film is a humorous look at a suburban boy named Vincent who reads Edgar Allen Poe and identifies with horror film star Vincent Price. The studio gave Burton the go ahead after Price read the story and agreed to do the voiceover.
Price said later that the film was the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortalitybetter than a star on Hollywood Boulevard Though critics found similarities between Vincent and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Burton says the film just happens to be shot in black and white, and theres a Vincent Price/Gothic kind of thing that makes it feel that way. . . .I think it probably has more to do with being inspired by Dr. Seuss. . . The rhythm of his stuff spoke to me very clearly. Dr. Seusss books were perfect: right number of words, the right rhythm, great subversive stories. Burton paid homage to Dr. Seuss by writing his story in rhyming couplets. These couplets juxtapose a set of binary oppositions between the melodramatic imaginings of Vincent and the reality of his boyhood existence.
Vincent visualizes his nightmarish fantasies: his aunt dipped in wax, his beautiful wife buried alive, and his dog Abacrombie transformed into a horrible zombie. But at every turn he is reminded by his mother that, Youre not Vincent Price, youre Vincent Malloy. Youre not tormented, youre just a young boy. The film ends with a tongue-in-cheek citation of Poes The Raven: And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor, Shall be lifted . . .Nevermore! Thus, in a humorous way, the boy Vincent shares with the protagonist of the poemthe student trying to forget his lost Lenorewhat Poe himself described as the human thirst for self torture . . the luxury of sorrow, as he melodramatically indulges his dark fantasies. Vincent is for Burton the same sort of indulgence, a chance to represent himself on the screen as the tortured boy/outsider/artist. He characterizes Vincent as an artist by associating him with both the easel and the quill pen. Isolated and misunderstood in the grand tradition of the romantic artist, Vincent engages the darker side of life via the screen personae of Vincent Price, a figure associated with Poe through his roles in Roger Cormans Poe films of the 1960s.
The film is also an early stylistic benchmark for Burton, whose collaboration with Heinrichs established a pattern of combining 2D and 3D animation within a single film. Heinrichs, who has since collaborated with Burton as associate producer (Frankenweenine) and production designer (Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas), argues that Vincent was a breakthrough project that taught Tim and me that you can combine the really graphic look of a two-dimensional picture with something that works in three dimensions. The melding of these two modes of animation is found throughout the film, and endures as a stylistic signature in Burtons later work. Heinrichs says that this notion of combining dimensional and flat animation was suggested by the three-dimensional models that Disney used to provide its animators as reference material.
The films combination of 2D and 3D methods is foregrounded by its use of black and white. Without the use of color to establish spatial separation and define areas of screen space, the combination of 2D and 3D spatial representations is distilled and clarified. Black and white also reinforces the binary juxtapositions throughout the film: Burton effectively opposes light or high key scenes for Vincents normal childhood with dark or low key scenes for his imagined torments.