Tim was born in 1958, in Burbank, California to Jean Burton, the owner of a cat-themed gift shop, and Bill Burton, a former minor league baseball player. When he was a preteen, he would make short films in his backyard using stop motion animation techniques or shoot them on 8 mm film without sound (one of his oldest known films is The Island of Doctor Agor, that he made when he was 13 years old). He wasn't a very good student in High School. He enjoyed painting, drawing and watching films. He was influenced by the works of such childhood heroes as Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl.
He attended the California Institute of the Arts in Santa Clarita, California, to study character animation. As a student he made the shorts "Stalk of the Celery Monster" and "King and Octopus".He graduated in 1979.
"Stalk of the Celery Monster" attracted the attention of Walt Disney Productions' animation department, which offered Burton an animator's apprenticeship at the studio.He worked as an animator, storyboard artist and concept artist on films such as The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, and Tron. However, Burton's personal style clashed with Disney's standards, and he longed to work on solo projects.
While at Disney in 1982, Burton made his first short, Vincent, a six-minute black-and-white stop motion animation film based on a poem written by the filmmaker, and depicting a young boy who fantasizes that he is his hero Vincent Price, with Price himself providing narration. The film was shown at the Chicago Film Festival and released for two weeks in one Los Angeles cinema. This was followed by Burton's first live-action production Hansel and Gretel, a version of Brothers Grimm fairy tale for the Disney Channel.The short would finally go on public display in 2009 at the Museum of Modern Art, and again in 2011 as part of the Tim Burton art exhibit at LACMA.
Burton's next live-action short, Frankenweenie was released in 1984. It tells the story of a young boy who tries to revive his dog after it is run over by a car. After Frankenweenie was completed, Disney fired Burton, saying he was spending the company's resources on doing a film that would be too dark and scary for children to see. This movie was released recently into theaters and has been very successful.
Other stop motion animation movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, James and the Giant Peach and Frankenweenie.