Tim Burton Says Disney Is A 'Horrible Big Circus' And He Was Dumbo

It sounds like Tim Burton won't be making more Disney movies anytime soon. Per IndieWire, the filmmaker spoke about his relationship with the massive corporation at the Lumière Festival this week after winning the festival's Prix Lumière. There, the director explained that "Dumbo" was what sounds like the last straw in his working partnership with the major studio.

"My history is that I started out there," Burton said, in reference to his early days spent storyboarding and animating for Disney. One of his short films, the live-action 1984 "Frankenweenie," was produced by Disney, but he was let go from the company right after, for wasting money on a movie that was too scary, according to Yahoo News. He soon went on to make his first feature for Warner Bros., "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," and has since directed many more films, many of which have dark themes yet are perfectly kid-friendly.

'I needed to escape'

"I was hired and fired like several times throughout my career there," Burton admitted during the Lumière Festival event. Over the next several decades he made a handful of movies with Disney, including "Alice in Wonderland," the feature-length "Frankenweenie," and the much-loved classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Apparently, though, his reimagining of the 1941 Disney classic about a big-eared circus elephant made him start to think differently about the company. He continued:

"The thing about 'Dumbo,' is that's why I think my days with Disney are done, I realized that I was 'Dumbo,' that I was working in this horrible big circus and I needed to escape. That movie is quite autobiographical at a certain level."

I appreciate that Burton is being so honest about his experiences with a company that — more than perhaps any other brand name — seems to inspire fervent loyalty among many viewers, to the point that any critical comments from filmmakers tend to inspire backlash. For what it's worth, "Dumbo" wasn't particularly well-received upon release. It made money but wasn't a hit with critics, with /Film's Josh Spiegel saying in his review that "there are flashes of intrigue in 'Dumbo,' but also dull, uninspired details and characters."

Burton doesn't go into detail about what exactly made his time on "Dumbo" feel like he was working for the exploitative, money-hungry circus from the film, but the filmmaker hasn't worked with the company since. His next project, Netflix's series "Wednesday," is his first in three years. Burton will direct the Jenna Ortega-led series, which is set to debut on November 23, 2022 on the streamer.