In his 1838 novel “Oliver Twist,” Charles Dickens used the term “straight as the crow flies” to denote the most direct path between two points.
Today, with the expression “as the crow flies” being a common way to convey distance, please allow a wee bit of poetic license in the replacement of a crow with a Jubjub bird.
The creation of another acclaimed novelist of the 19th century, Lewis Carroll, the Jubjub bird, which looks like a cross between a vulture and a black chicken, is perhaps better known today as the antagonistic Red Queen’s liege in the 2010 Walt Disney Pictures cinematic production of “Alice in Wonderland.”
This past week, in the ballroom of the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel, the director of that film, Tim Burton, was honored during the Burbank International Film Festival’s awards gala for his legendary filmmaking and influence in the entertainment industry and worldwide.
Born and raised in Burbank, the man of the evening, or more appropriately, the entire day, in that Mayor Konstantine Anthony proclaimed Sept. 24 to be “Tim Burton Day,” was introduced to the assemblage to thunderous applause.
As Burton accepted the mayoral proclamation, and was then peppered with questions on his life and career by the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, the man who brought the world such classic films as “Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Beetlejuice,” “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Ed Wood, “Mars Attacks!,” “Big Fish,” and the 2005 remake of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” found himself in a most unique geographical location.
From the stage, on which he sat in an oversized bright red chair, Burton was just a tad more than half-a-mile, as (here comes the poetic license part) the Jubjub bird flies from the unassuming, 1,016-square foot home on North Evergreen Street in which he grew up.
The late Jean and William “Bill” Burton raised their son in that house (yes, it is still there) that sits in the flight path of the Hollywood Burbank Airport, then known as Lockheed Air Terminal, just a block from Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery. When he was young, that house served as the “studio” for Burton’s first films, stop-motion animation productions he shot with his father’s 8mm movie camera. He went on to graduate from Burbank High School before matriculating at the California Institute of the Arts where he studied character animation.
Burton’s father Bill Burton, who had a short-lived career as a Minor League Baseball player, worked for the Burbank Parks and Recreation Department, where during his 33-year career he became a local sports legend. He improved and expanded the city’s slow and fast pitch leagues. He played a role in the invention of the rubber home plate extension, created the “intentional base-on-balls” rule which helped speed up the game, and invented the now universally used California tie-breaker system.
Burton’s father also established a policy for the collection of Program Improvement Fees to support Burbank athletic facility enhancements. For these accomplishments the city named a ballfield at George Izay Park in his honor in 1996, four years before his death.
With Tim Burton now also honored in his hometown by having his own day, his recognition was followed by the evening’s awards ceremony hosted by actress Kelly Stables who played Melissa, Alan Harper’s girlfriend in the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”
Among the 25 awards given for excellence in filmmaking, some of the highlights included Best Feature Film honors going to “Ruby’s Choice,” which stars Jane Seymour as a woman with early dementia who proves that people living with the disease can still offer a meaningful contribution to those around them.
The Best Actor nod went to Melora Hardin for “Golden Vanity.” In the film, Hardin portrays a Judy Garlandesque type aging movie star who over the course of one night videotapes scenes that just may be her final act.
Floriane Andersen took Best Director honors for “Unforgotten,” a film about a grieving woman who relies on her art and imagination to heal her trauma.
The Best Documentary Feature award was bestowed upon “Song of the Cicada,” which showcases an eccentric mortician grappling with his legacy. Other highlights of the evening were the Best Comedy Short award given to “The Avon Lady,” which tells the tale of an immigrant grandmother who becomes an Avon Lady and learns it takes more than being able to speak English to make a sale, and Best Animated Short honors going to “Flutter” a story of an awkward and plump hummingbird named Jerry who desperately tries to fit in with his siblings.
For the past 15 years, the BIFF’s mission has been to promote and support inclusive and culturally diverse perspectives and content in cinematic storytelling. The festival recognizes the work of well-established filmmakers, as well as emerging talent by providing them with a gateway to expand their careers in the entertainment industry and assist them with funding and distribution for their cinematic art.
For more information on BIFF, the festival’s volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, and ongoing programs, visit burbankfilmfest.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.
First published in the September 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.