Tim Burton’s Dark Sensibilities, Soft Touch Were Perfect for ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

Tim Burton’s latest film, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” starring Eva Green and Asa Butterfield, will be released Sept. 30 by Fox.

Based on Ransom Riggs’ 2011 novel by the same name, the pic centers on an orphan who falls under the tutelage of the mysterious Miss Peregrine. There he is chosen to protect the children from an evil band of Wights and Hollows led by Mr. Barron.

Jenno Topping, who produced the pic with Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark, said, “I got the book as an unpublished manuscript and read it the same day. “I sent it to Peter Chernin, who also read it immediately and fell in love with it. We sold it to Fox. Peter Chernin and I then got a plane to go see Tim Burton [in the U.K.], who was very intrigued by the book. We pitched the idea of Jane Goldman to adapt, which he loved and subsequently signed on officially.”

Burton was the only director that Topping and Chernin considered for the movie. “We instinctively thought Tim was the perfect director for it,” she says. “Part of why Tim is the perfect filmmaker for this material is his ability to treat darker subject matter with his signature blend of wonder, whimsy and humor. We feel that older children and the general audience are used to seeing dark themes in movies like the later ‘Harry Potter’ films, and the heart at the center of ‘Miss Peregrines’ is what counts the most.”

DREAM TEAM: Ransom Riggs says, “For the best possible director [and writer] to come on board at the very beginning and see the project to the end seemed so unlikely. I got incredibly lucky.”
Courtesy of Courtesy of Quirk Books

“The pictures Ransom chose really had the right balance of mystery, power, and creepiness,” Burton said via email. “I found them compelling — much like old horror films. They all had a story and they asked a lot of questions of the viewer. They existed in a spaced that interested and made sense to me.”

While Burton has directed animated movies such as “Corpse Bride” and “Frankenweenie,” “Peregrine” was always conceived as a live-action film.

Topping says: “ ‘Miss Peregrine’ reminds me of some of Tim’s early work, like ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ Miss Peregrine herself evokes a kind of twisted Mary Poppins. [There’s a] time-lapse sequence, which is one of the most visually arresting in the movie, that reminds me of a Magritte painting.”

Riggs describes himself as a “lifelong fan” of Burton’s work and cited him as a “creative influence during the writing of the book.”

“I grew up loving Tim’s movies. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and ‘Beetlejuice’ and’ Ed Wood’ and ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure’ — all these beautiful, quirky films about outsiders searching for their place in the world appealed to me, a kid who lived in sunny, suburban Florida but loved nothing more than horror novels and gothic fantasy, Stephen King and C.S. Lewis and any story I could find about people finding doors to other worlds hidden within our own,” he says. “I felt at times like one of Tim’s outsiders, and I was always searching for my hidden door, my magical wardrobe.”

Burton says: “The book had elements of a folk tale, or a fable. If you go back before films, fairy tales were these horrible, graphic stories. I always believed for my own self and children that when you’re new to life, everything is abstract, it’s like dreams, you’re somehow processing something you don’t intellectually understand yet as an adult. That’s the interesting thing about the power of fairy tales — they help you process whatever psychological things you’re trying to understand in your life at the moment.”

Although there are two other books in the trilogy, Burton says he doesn’t think in terms of sequels or franchises, each is its own project.

Rather than his usual musical collaborator Danny Elfman, this time Burton worked with composers Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson while Florence + the Machine contributed “Wish You Were Here,” the song that plays as end credits roll.

A longtime admirer of Burton’s work, Welch said, “We have a very similar sensibility. It’s the kind of dark, dark romance of his work — so beautiful and whimsical, but with an element of darkness to it. That’s something that I always try and achieve in my work, too.”

“For me, I always think kids are the best judge of what they can take and what they cannot take. I give kids maybe more credit than some adults do that way,” Burton says. “Ransom didn’t write for kids, but it was embraced by the YA market. I think it’s for adults or kids, and I try to keep true to the spirit of the book.”

And Topping feels “Peregrine” could actually revive the current fortunes of the YA film field. “Although there seems to be some fatigue in the market for dystopian YA fiction, children’s and YA literature will always be a highly valuable source for filmmakers.”

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