Tim Burton at MoMA: A Family Visitor's Guide

Tim Burton is most known for his films like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, but the new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art takes you beyond the films to see the art and inspiration of the man from this childhood in California to the present. The Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA is a great show for children as Burton has claimed the art museum and taken it over with his creativity, fantasy and whimsy. This massive exhibit contains hundreds of drawings, paintings, sculptures, videos and movie memorabilia from Burton’s life and career. From the moment you step through the gaping jaws of a fantastical Tim Burton-designed creature, you are entering his world and Burton's world is a child's world (not often found at our great art institutions).

Read on for a preview of the exhibit and some tips for visiting with kids, plus read to the end to also find out how to see Tim Burton's work for free.

Before you go:

Visit the MoMA Tim Burton Exhibit website where you can see videos and artworks to familiarize kids and get them interested in the show.

Download the terrific family guide which will engage children with the exhibit and get their creative juices flowing (find the family guide link at the bottom of the Tim Burton exhibit page link above).

Wear white to take advantage of the black light room.

Consider going to a screening or family program. Screenings of both popular and lesser known burton films are scheduled for December and January. Family programs will be listed in January and will fill up fast.

Picture 53.pngWhat to expect when you are there:

The exhibit is recommended for ages 7 and up. The black humor and spooky creatures in Burton’s early paintings and drawings might be more appreciated by older children or teens, while the younger set will enjoy the costumes, puppets and sculptures on display.

Step through the ghoulish entrance into a dark room with videos playing throughout the black-and-white striped hallway. Because they can also be viewed on the Moma website, there is no need to stop here if you want to move through and watch them at home.

Next, a black-lit "entrance room" welcomes you, displaying Burton’s glow-in-the-dark paintings of acrylic on black velvet. His massive “Carousel” sculpture revolves slowly in the corner, complete with macabre hanging creatures and a pulsing plasma ball. Your white clothing will glow eerily here.

The adjoining room comprises Burton’s drawings and paintings on paper. These character studies of men, women and couples are Burton’s outside perspective and while some works are elaborate paintings with brilliant colors, others are simple pencil drawings torn from his personal notebooks. Burton’s characters are strange and lurid and show us how Burton views the world - through kaleidoscopic lenses.

A portion of the exhibit focuses on Burton’s youth in Burbank, California. The segment, “Surviving Burbank 1958-1976” gives us a glimpse of a young man full of artistic promise. Burton’s earliest drawings and short stories are just as wonderfully warped as his later and more mature works.

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Continuing through the exhibit, there are hundreds of drawing and paintings from Burton’s personal and professional life. Notable is the collection of pencil on paper cartoons that Burton drew while he was an animator at Walt Disney. These drawings range from the silly “Mental Floss” (a gruesome creature drawing a string through his ears), to the slightly scary “Sue and John Like to Hold Hands” (a man and woman holding each other's severed hand). According to the exhibit plaque, the drawings were Burton’s way of venting the creative frustration he felt at Disney.

Completing the Tim Burton exhibit are transcripts, photos, costumes, puppets and other memorabilia from Burton’s most well-known movie work, such as The Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice. Kids will most likely enjoy these tangible items that brilliantly show Burton’s visions brought to life.

The Tim Burton exhibit at the Moma is like walking in a gothic dream. The over seven hundred works of art overwhelmingly represent a lifetime of creativity and artistic genius. Burton’s works peek behind the mundane curtain of life and expose the fantasies that lurk there. You might be surprised to find a little bit of yourself in one of Burton’s characters - and have great fun while you are at it.

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Tim Burton at the MoMA
11 West 53 Street New York, NY.
Nov. 22, 2009 - April 26, 2010
Third Floor and Theater 1 & 2 Galleries

$20/ Adults
Free/ Children 16 and under

Timed tickets required on weekends, recommended but not necessary during the week.

Moma hours: 10:30 am - 5:30 pm Monday - Sunday (closed Tuesday)

Mommy Poppins TIp: If you're not ready to do the MoMA with your child, stop by SoHo gallery Animazing where they have Burton drawings and animation stills on display. The show will not give you the impact of the MoMA exhibit, but it's free and open to the public and worth a swing by for a taste of Burton. The same gallery has a Maurice Sendak exhibit with many works by the children's illustrator and author as well. Both exhibits run through December 31, 2009.