Weekend Roundtable: Burtonize This!

Tim Burton has a new movie in theaters today. Needless to say, it’s a “re-imagining” of a famous existing property made over in the director’s signature visual style and starring Johnny Depp in the lead role. You can complain about that if you must, but this is how Burton likes to work, and it won’t be the last time that he does. While we wait for the inevitable announcement of which old movie, TV show or work of classic literature that the Burton-Depp combo will tackle next, we thought that we might toss some suggestions their way in this week’s Roundtable.

Tom Landy

We’ve already had a few versions of this story already, but I’d really like to see what Tim Burton would do with ‘The Wind in the Willows‘. This classic 1908 children’s book by Kenneth Grahame has Burton’s name written all over it. I’d expect a much darker, twisted interpretation, of course, and maybe this could be the first adaptation entirely in CGI animation, which is something Burton hasn’t done yet himself. Without question, Johnny Depp would have to voice Mr. Toad, but I could also see him pulling multiple duties as Mole, Ratty and Mr. Badger. Helena Bonham Carter would also need a character in there somewhere, and the Chief Weasel could be voiced by Michael Keaton. Let’s also make it 3D! With Disney’s backing, I could foresee this becoming a huge hit.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Tim Burton already reanimated one long-dead TV series with a rich, dense mythology to explore. Why not make it two? When I said “rich, dense mythology”, you probably already know precisely what I have in mind, don’t you? That’s right: ‘Small Wonder’! Can’t you picture it? Helena Bonham Carter as V.I.C.I., the android modeled after a human girl. Johnny Depp as Jamie, the flesh-and-blood human “brother” to that pixie-like little robot. Johnny Depp as Ted, too, the giant mind who brought V.I.C.I. to life. Maybe Deep Roy could play a sinister foreign robot sent to destroy… Wait, I think I’ve taken this gag too far and need to stop now. Sorry.

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

The Night Stalker‘ – Depp as Carl Kolchak investigating all manner of Burtonized beasties? I’d pay to see that.

UFO‘ – Short-lived British series from 1970 set in a slightly optimistic (technology-wise) version of 1980 in which we have a moon base (staffed by sexy purple-haired ladies), super-sleek cars and spacecraft, and we’re facing a pesky alien invasion problem. (They’re harvesting us for our organs!). Depp would play Commander Edward Straker, who poses as the head of a film studio while really running the secret organization (SHADO) charged with identifying and eliminating the alien threat. I could see both Burton and Depp sinking their teeth into this one, though the scope might be a little ambitious for Burton, whose stories normally play out in a tighter, more self-contained setting.

The Mod Squad‘ – Classic ’70s police drama designed to appeal to the young, hip counter-culture crowd. Johhny Depp as The White Guy, Barack Obama as The Black Guy (he’ll need a job after the White House gig), and Farrah Fawcett (CGI) as The Blonde Girl. C’mon, Farrah already has the right hair style for it. And yeah, I know it was made into a movie once, but did anyone actually see that? A veritable lock for Oscars sweep. Too bad we’ll have to wait until 2016 for one of the leads to become available.

Luke Hickman

As much as I love the Tim Burton movies that are the least Burton-ish (‘Big Fish’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’), I would like to see him take on the failed franchise ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events‘. I saw the first film, which felt like a rip-off of Burton’s trademark style, thinking the whole time that it would have been so much better had Tim Burton done it. My wife loves the books, and I usually agree with her opinion, so I’ll go off her word. After all, the books have to be better than the Jim Carrey movie!

M. Enois Duarte

I think the gothic director should test his visionary talents by Burtonizing ‘All in the Family‘. that would be hilarious. A little weird to be sure, but hilarious nonetheless. Robert De Niro will play Archie Bunker and Barbara Streisand could be Edith. I know, I know, that’s not exactly along the lines of the show’s white Conservative / Protestant fundamentalist approach to comedy, but this is Burton after all. In his hands, the Bunker family would live in the Addams mansion on 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Helena Bonham Carter would play Gloria and Johnny Depp would be Micheal. (Depp as Michael actually does seem kinda funny.) Unfortunately, with my luck, the movie will end up some sort of Z-grade micro-budget affair that only airs on an obscure late-night horror movie show, and the director is some dude named Timothy Burtonowski.

Aaron Peck

Tim Burton should remake ‘Labyrinth‘, if only for the joy of watching all the die-hard Jim Henson fans explode internet message boards complaining that no one should ever remake such a classic. Thinking back on it, though, it’s right up Burton’s alley. He can create as many oddball sets as he wants. He’ll most likely CG the crap out of all the puppets, which he thinks will add a modern vibe to it, but will only fuel the endless flames of criticism that will come his way. Johnny Depp could star in the David Bowie role. (That’s the biggest no-brainer of this whole what-if). Burton could also find some way to shoehorn Helena Bonham Carter into the movie. Finally, his last go-to Burton calling card would be casting a really pale actress as the lead, like Mia Wasikowska, Jayne Wisener, or Bella Heathcote. It’s just too easy. You know that he’s thought of this already, and at some point in time, we’ll hear this exact news. That’s why you’re shaking your head right now, because you freaking know this will happen.

Josh Zyber

My favorite of Burton’s “re-imaginings” are ‘Sleepy Hollow‘ and ‘Sweeney Todd‘. I prefer the films where the director indulges his darker tendencies over his whimsical affectations. For that reason, I think that the writings of Edgar Allan Poe would be a natural fit for the Burton treatment. Something like ‘The Masque of the Red Death‘ or ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue‘ would offer plenty of opportunity for Burton to go crazy with his visualization, while letting loose with some good, bloody, hard-R violence. Unfortunately, the failure of this year’s John Cusack vehicle ‘The Raven’ has no doubt put a damper on Hollywood’s enthusiasm for Edgar Allan Poe, so Burton and Depp will probably need to hold off a few years before attempting another Poe revival.

Failing that, how about ‘Flash Gordon‘ or ‘Buck Rogers‘? Burton’s only previous attempts at science fiction may have resulted in the misbegotten ‘Mars Attacks!‘ and ‘Planet of the Apes‘, but I hope that doesn’t mean he’s given up on the genre altogether. I’d love to see what weird ideas he’d bring to a genuine space opera, and these old movie serial franchises would be perfect vehicles for his oddball humor and camp sensibilities.

I bet that our readers have some good ideas for this. Tell us about them in the Comments.

[Editor’s Note.: Before we go, I just need to make a brief announcement regarding the blog posting schedule for the next week. I will be traveling to a series of conferences all week. (You’ll hear about those at some point soon.) I’ve tried to lay out some posts for the week, and will try to work whenever I can. I can also guarantee you that there will be some content available here every day, including our participation in a pretty cool feature that will run throughout the week. However, it’s very likely that our number of blog postings may be a little skimpier than usual on some days. Don’t worry, things should get back on track when I return. –JZ]


  1. August Lehe

    Lots of Great ideas here…Wish I was 37, instead of 67! Would like to see a remake of PHANTOM of the RUE MORGUE with the Gorilla is just a stand-in for an alien-human-hybrid. See what happens when your brain goes stale? I was always impressed with ‘reports’ of petite women lifting Cadillacs and Buick’s off their children in the 1950’s.

    • EM

      Burton’s feature-length stop-motion remake of his own Frankenweenie is due out this October. (So far as I know, Depp’s not in it, though.)

  2. JR

    “It’s just too easy. You know that he’s thought of this already, and at some point in time, we’ll hear this exact news. That’s why you’re shaking your head right now, because you freaking know this will happen.”


    They’ve already done this to me twice with Chocolate Factory and Wonderland. I don’t think I could handle them completing my childhood trifecta with Labyrinth.

  3. Brian H

    My read on this new Dark Shadows is Johnny Depp playing an anachronistic dashing rogue running around in a combination gothic/60’s throwback setting (and of course Helena Bonham Carter is there).

    And this just leads to an obvious need for Burton, and Depp (and of course Helena Bonham Carter) to tackle JFK.
    I see Alec Baldwin/Danny Devito/Bill Murray playing LBJ- swearing in as president and planning to address the country in a lead up to Vietnam when the recently passed JFK appears. JFK, played by Depp and emanating the feel of anachronistic dashing rogue running around in a combination gothic/60’s throwback setting, is terribly upset that everyone treats him as a ghoul and can only be seen initially by Jackie O.(played of course by Helena Bonham Carter). Like most Burton/Depp projects the rest writes itself.

  4. JM

    Tim Burton should adapt Judith Vigna’s classic children’s book, ‘I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much.’

  5. JM

    Tim Burton would be perfect for Nicholas Allan’s ‘Where Willy Went: The Big Story Of A Little Sperm!’

  6. JM

    Johnny Depp would be iconic in Elaine Landau’s ‘Joined At Birth: The Lives Of Conjoined Twins.’

    • William Henley

      I think that would be called “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”. Seriously, I think if Burton did Gremlins, it would be almost identical to Gremlins 2, except a bit darker (lighting wise).

      • EM

        I don’t think so. Burton’s visual style is more lush. And while The New Batch was largely about pop culture, Burton films tend to be about the bourgeoisie. I suppose Depp could play Billy Peltzer; Depp’s getting older but maybe not too old yet, and maybe Billy’s age could be adjusted upward a bit. But I think Billy would have to be a little more kooky. Maybe he could start off fairly normal but become transformed by the events.

        • EM

          Oh, and of course, the role of Pete, played by Corey Feldman in the original, would be turned into a sullen, wisecracking girl.

  7. JM

    Burton & Depp might work to adapt Steve Martin’s fantastic play ‘Picasso At The Lapin Agile.’

    Or Donald Barthelme’s ‘Snow White.’

    Harold Pinter’s ‘The Hot House.’

    David Ives’s ‘All In The Timing.’

    Alan Moore’s ‘Lost Girls.’

    Maybe even C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy, ‘Out of the Silent Planet,’ ‘Perelandra,’ and ‘That Hideous Strength.’

    But mostly I want Tim Burton to direct musical porn parodies of his own classic films.

  8. William Henley

    Oh, I can have some fun with this one!

    First thought that came to mind was Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. This can be done two ways. The first way would be to stick with the new JJ Abrams storyline. Poor little Kirk, grown up fatherless, fighting his way through the academy, who had finally made it to ship’s captain, is now forced into the admiral’s chair. The Enterprise is now old and delapidated, and sticks out at odd angles. Ceti Alpha V, after Ceti Alpha VI has exploded, was thrown off its orbit and plunged into perpetual winter ( hey, we are Burtonizing this!). Khan (played by Johnny Depp) and his crew, have scrunged together a small shelter, and all they have to eat is cabbage soup. His wife(played by Helena Boham-Carter) was not killed, but is bed-ridden, a shell of her former shelf. She is half-crazed. Of course, Khan is fully-crazed. He steals a starship and starts beheading people. Poor little Kirk is put back out on the Enterprise, and must go after him, going through the carnaige that Khan has left behind him. After an all out space-battle, where little Kirk’s best-friend gets killed (he was the most human, after all), both ships are crippled, and Kirk gets into Khan’s head. Khan breaks down in tears, they become good friends “Star Treking across the universe”, and Kirk is rewarded by being given the captaincy again.

    The second way is to tell the story from Khan’s point of view. Previously a prince of earth, war has driven his people from their homes, and into a deep sleep for hundreds of years. When they awaken, they find the crazed Kirk, played by Johnny Depp, and his crew. Khan and the refugees from Earth try desperately to survive, but are marroned by Kirk on Ceti Alpha V (BTW, Khan should be around 9 or 10 years old when this is happening). They try best they can to make the best out of a bad situation, but shortly after their arrival, Ceti Alpha VI explodes, sending Ceti Alpha V into a perpetual winter. The only thing that will grow is cabbages, and they melt snow and put cabbages together, to live off of cabbage-soup. One day, some invaders from the evil Federation show up, but Khan and his man stage an ambush and are able to get off the planet. Just wanting to find a new home, the crew of the Botney Bay set off, but are soon pursued by the relentless Kirk. Khan tries to stay one step ahead of Kir, but the evil Federation scientists, with their half-mad Genesis device, get in their way, and Khan is forced to fight them to the death. To keep the ruthless Kirk from getting his hands on the Genesis device, Khan takes it and makes a run. A space battle follows, in which both ships are badly damaged. Khan gets into Kirk’s head and discovers daddy-issues from a father who was never there. They go to make up, but find out that during the battle, the Genesis device was damaged. They eject the device into space, and both ships try to make a run for it. Kirk narrowly escapes, but the explosion knocks out the engines of Khan’s ship, which is now adrift. As the planet starts to form, the ship is caught in the gravity well, and soon crashes on the newly formed surface. It turns out to be an absolute paradise, the crew of the Botney Bay are happy here, and Kirk, now reformed, drops in from time to time and brings huge roasted birds and Romulan Ale with him.

    • EM

      They could be made and played simultaneously, kind-of like Clue with the multiple endings.

  9. William Henley

    Full House. Poor little Stephanie Tanner has just lost her mom and baby sister in a car accident. To help out around the house, her father asks her perverted uncle Joey and mental friend Joey to move in. In retalliation, her older sister, Donna Joe, runs away and starts doing meth. D.J. eventaully comes back, messed up in the head, and creates a clone of their baby sister, Michelle, but it goes wrong and there are now two clones, one with blonde hair, the other with strawberry-blonde hair. Their IQ is pretty low, and can pretty much only say “You got it Dude”. D.J. starts researching reanimation, in hopes to bring their mom back from the dead. Her assistant, Kimberly Gibbler, moves in and starts sleeping with Uncle Jessie. Can Stephanie bring her family together, or will DJ or her Uncle Jessie want to start doing “experiments” on her as well? (Of course, though, Jessie won’t actually do that to her, the movie has to maintain a PG rating).