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Tim Burton Hits Toronto!

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Bonkers for Beetlejuice? Adore Alice in Wonderland? Worship Ed Wood? Wanna see them all again – all in a row — along with 14 of eccentric director Tim Burton’s other movies?

The weekend-long “Burton Blitz” is one of the standout events of Toronto’s “Tim Burton” exhibit, which will debut at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on November 26 after a mega-successful run at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition follows the director’s 27-year career, from his early drawings as a teenager to his achievements as an Oscar-nominated filmmaker. It includes over 700 items, including paintings, puppets, and storyboards from his personal collection – plus special display windows that Burton himself will create especially for the TIFF Bell Lightbox. (The windows will change seasonally, beginning with a Christmas theme, until the show ends on April 17, 2011.)

Noah Cowan, the artistic director of the TIFF Bell Lightbox — which opened last September during the Toronto International Film Festival — caught up with Us Weekly’s Bradley Jacobs.

Q: First of all, tell Us about this marathon of movies called the “Burton Blitz.” It’s 36 hours, right? Sounds intense. It starts with “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” at 6 PM on Friday November 26 and ends around 10 AM on Sunday November 28 with “Alice in Wonderland.” Not even a 10-minute break. I think the end credits is when you pee. Back to back to back. The concessions will be armed with lots of coffee and snacks to keep people going. We have people looking forward to it!

How many people do you expect at the Tim Burton show? Our projections show about 100,000. But it got 275,000 visitors in Australia. And 700,000 in New York. We’re arming the barricades. Tourists from all over the world come to see it whereever it plays. I’m looking forward to the first day we let the public in. So they see how unique it is.

Why this director? He speaks to our interest in how films and the visual arts interact. Through his sketches, you really understand him as an artist — even better than you do watching the films. He’s a great example of a filmmaker whose background in visual arts has allowed him to expand what’s possible in the medium.

How will the show be different than the one that ran in NYC? We are reorganizing it. MOMA followed the parameters of a drawing and painting show. It showed the development of his craft as a visual artist. But the TIFF Bell Lightbox is a film-based institution, so the principal arc of the show will follow his film career. We have a large side annex that allows you to go deeper into his creative genius. You enter the doors and go to the source of the genius. We’re calling that area “Burbank” because that’s where he was born. You see his creative genius flowing as he grew up in the suburbs of LA. His upbringing was really central to the originality of his art.

We see you’re doing some really fun double bills. We’re pairing his movies with unexpected influences. Alice in Wonderland is paired with John WatersDesperate Living. Another is the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts and Burton’s James and the Giant Peach. It’s been really fun putting it together. Some are more obvious, too – like Nosferatu and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

You’ll have lots of activities and workshops for kids too, right? Every Saturday while it runs, kids can participate in activities like creating their own Burton-inspired creatures, or dabbling in stop-motion animation. Kids will be able to watch a clip of The Nightmare Before Christmas and create their own Jack — and their own story. The various floors will all have presentations and exhibitions and areas for kids. We want families to be able to engage in all those activities, see a film retrospective and engage in hands-on youth activities. We suspect this will be really popular around Christmas.

Finally, we hear Tim Burton’s creating something original for your window? He’s creating a special Christmas monster for us. It’s loosely based on a character from an abandoned project. All we know is it’s going to be a creature and he’ll be devouring Christmas. We’re working with the Tim Burton studio now to see if he’ll keep munching through various holidays.

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