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Tim Burton opening draws creative crowd to L.A. County Museum of Art

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Fine art, pop culture and local pride converged Saturday at a LACMA reception for Tim Burton, whose Resnick Pavilion retrospective began Sunday and runs through Oct. 31.

In the patio area behind the Resnick, Burton was upbeat and gregarious, after signing 1,440 books for fans, then introducing a screening of “Ed Wood” on his whirlwind stop here while working simultaneously on “Frankenweenie” and “Dark Shadows.” He did a great job of working the house, and told Variety the whole experience was “amazing,” though he was concerned about the exodus of production from Hollywood. The Burbank native fretted that when he was filming “Alice in Wonderland” here, it was the only major feature lensing in Southern California.

Terry Semel, co-chairman of LACMA’s board of trustees, picked up on that theme of recognizing Hollywood’s heritage, saying “An integral part of this museum will be film and the history of film. If photography belongs in a museum, so does film,” since it is an art form — and one that blossomed locally.

Offering, in his words, “peripheral support” to Burton, Danny Elfman talked about the strange experience of revisiting old work, as he did for Warner Bros. Records’ recent 16-disc set of his scores for Burton films.

Burton got a lot of similar support Saturday from LACMA director-CEO Michael Govan as well as friends and collaborators including Robert Iger, Dick Cook, Lorenzo DiBonaventura, Peter Guber, Catherine O’Hara, Bo Welch, Winona Ryder, Rick Baker, Martin Landau and Slash.

The other guests ran the gamut of demographics and styles, including several who looked like refugees from Burton’s whimsy-Guignol sketches as they sported Dada hats, feathers, test-pattern suits, extreme makeup, red fish-net stockings, Edwardian ruffles and one shirt emblazoned with such mug shots as O.J. Simpson.

Evening concluding with a “surprise” performance by Jane’s Addiction.

For a man whose films usually center on misfits and outcasts, Burton seemed surprisingly at ease connecting with his admirers, posing for photos, shaking hands and accepting gratitude and compliments. At all of LACMA’s events Saturday, it’s clear people connect to him on a personal level. They’re not just fans, but consider him a therapist/alter-ego/friend.

Elfman enthused about his first visit to the set of “Frankenweenie,” the b&w stop motion animation pic. He was amazed by the detail lavished on everything: “real-time lighting, real time shadows, but all on a small scale: It’s grand, tiny moviemaking.” The filmmakers, he said, work on multiple sequences at the same time: “It’s one building, with the equivalent of 10 soundstages. It’s amazing!”

The Burton exhibit at LACMA includes not only sketches, props and costumes from his many films and other projects, but doodles on newspapers and drawings on sketch pads dating back to his high school days, showing how his trademark style has evolved. In all, more than 700 items make up the exhibit, from Burton’s private collection as well as studio archives and collaborators’ collections. Elfman also composed music to accompany the LACMA show. In addition to the film and TV related items, on display was a baby doll painted blue with black stitches and a pair of large black and white striped wind puppets dancing to Elfman’s music.

The LACMA website is inviting browsers to upload pics of their “Burtonesque” art.

— Timothy M. Gray and Terry Flores

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