For longtime Tim Burton fans, the director’s Hansel and Gretel has become something of a Holy Grail. Created in 1982 by Burton and frequent collaborator/production designer Rick Heinrichs, it’s a batshit crazy take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale that’s been all but impossible to see since it aired on the Disney Channel on Halloween night back in 1983. It showed up in the recent Tim Burton retrospective art exhibit that hit New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. But seeing as how that exhibit was always packed with tourists, even most of the folks who visited only caught a glimpse of the thirty-four minute film. Fortunately, someone had the foresight to videotape it way back when, and that recording has just been made available on YouTube.
Featuring an all-Asian cast, including a male actor as both the wicked stepmother and the witch, Burton’s Hansel and Gretel is fascinating on multiple levels, not the least of which is how it offers a nascent version of the filmmaker’s later work. The creepy clown in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure? We get a prototype here. That sandworm in Beetlejuice? Its head shows up as part of a ceiling light fixture. And how about those curlicue hills in The Nightmare Before Christmas? They’re here as well — as the backdrop to the forest in which the the titular brother and sister find themselves lost… Check out the trippy madness below, complete with ninja throwing stars, candy cane nunchaku, and the most sinister looking gingerbread man you ever did see. But watch it soon — because you never know when Disney might step in and hide this classic away for another thirty years.
Vintage Tim Burton, eh? I love the fact that Hansel and Gretel‘s soundtrack almost sounds like it was pulled from an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, while its sensibility is that of the young director who was so famously disenchanted working on dull-as-dishwater Disney projects like The Fox and the Hound. It’s also worth pointing out that the twisted work of animation/special-effects artists the Chiodo Brothers — who’d worked with Burton on his earlier short Vincent, and would collaborate with him again on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure before helming their own Killer Klowns from Outer Space — is also very much evident. I suppose it’s too much to ask that Disney put this on DVD. But I’m just glad I finally got to see this little lost gem I’d heard so much about.
Thanks to Ain’t It Cool News for bring this to my attention.