Tim Burton's monster carousel comes to Paris

US director Tim Burton poses with his wife Helena Bonham Carter as they arrive for the promotion of the exhibition dedicated to his work.

PARIS - Peopled with lonely little monsters, dancing corpses and boggle-eyed creatures from the underworld, Tim Burton's cult universe comes to Paris this week with a show that journeys through his life's work.

Some 500 sketches - the starting point for all Burton's films - whisk visitors deep into the US director's surreal inner world, with gothic doodles dating back to his misfit childhood in Burbank, a bland suburb of Los Angeles.

"These are things that were never meant to be seen by anyone," the filmmaker told a press conference introducing the travelling exhibit, titled "Tim Burton" and first set up for New York's MoMa in 2009.

"But I am so grateful to the creators!"

Film clips, photos and props complete the picture, from a pumpkin-headed scarecrow from the 1999 "Sleepy Hollow", to a life-sized "Martian Anatomy" chart from the 1996 "Mars Attacks", or black rubber masks from "Batman" in 1989.

When Ronald Magliozzi went rifling through Burton's accumulated possessions, the curator initially planned a show looking back at his career.

"We discovered he had these vast archives," he told AFP. "His parents had saved every last drawing he had ever done. We realised this would be an exhibit of Tim Burton's art - art that we didn't even know existed."

Gems include Burton's earliest animated film, made in 1974 and unearthed by a former art teacher: a 33-second long, gory attack by a pair of pliers on a green plasticine monster.

Burton's world is always shot through with humour.

"I never try to make it just dark. I'm always drawn to material that's both funny and sad, light and dark," he said.

Paired with witty little poems, his sketches come under headings like "Childhood", full of bandaged little mummies, or "Couples", one of them of a man and woman tucking gorily into eachother's shins.

"Drawing keeps your hands busy. And it keeps depression at bay," said Burton, who doodles constantly, including on restaurant napkins - with dozens from the Paris Ritz lined upon display.

Glow-in-the-dark creatures, all eyes and tentacles, spin on a carousel like a kind of "monster-go-round", while a gallery of polaroids from the 1990s features a macabre mother and child, deathly blue and covered in Frankenstein stitches.

"My three-year old loved the scary bits. When the show was unveiled in New York, "the art world was a little rude - perhaps that's the best way of putting it," said the director.

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