When New York’s Museum of Modern Art exhibited the surreal worlds of Tim Burton in 2009, the director described the experience of walking through the show as akin to looking at his soiled socks nailed to the wall.
Perhaps the American auteur has grown accustomed to the sensation because he’s lent his eye and considerable artwork to a major exhibition currently on the second leg of a global tour. “Tim Burton’s Labyrinth,” staged at Paris’s Parc de la Villette through August 20, follows through on the title’s promise, taking visitors on an hour-long choose-your-own-adventure tour of Burton’s bizarro universes.
“Immersive experience” may have become a tainted phrase in some art world circles, indicative of high-cost skin-deep crowd-pleasers, but “Labyrinth” leans in. This is to be expected from Spanish producer Letsgo, known for throwing mega events, and indeed from Burton himself, a creative whose work is not best suited to white-walled surroundings.
This is not, however, an immersive experience of panoramic screens and dazzling projection mapping. It’s the physical kind—a button press, door push, down-the-rabbit hole maze—one Burton calls a “weird funhouse.” Under a giant tent inside Villete Park, visitors stumble along one of more than 300 possible labyrinth routes encountering Burton’s full filmography along the way.
“[Visitors] cross from universe to universe. Each room is really very different and everything in the immersive experience is supervised by Tim Burton. We worked together for a long time on the exhibition,” creative director Álvaro Molina said in a statement.
For , there’s a mirror room of contorted candy canes, for a wall scrawled with demonic neon laughter, and for an enormous Jack Skellington looming over a doorway. From the flooring to the soundscape, each space is a detailed miniature of a Burton universe. No matter the chosen route, organizers promise that visitors will encounter their favorite film—Burton’s early, lesser-known titles included.
At the debut of “Labyrinth” in Madrid last year, Burton said he hoped the exhibition would transport visitors inside his creative process. He begins projects with characters, unsure if they’ll materialize as animations, sculptures, or live action figures and here they’re woven together—albeit with costumes standing in for actors. Burton notably began his career in cinema as an animator at Disney and each room is accompanied by artworks that informed the relevant film, from early doodles to animated sequences, numbering around 150 in total.
Like most immersive experiences, “Labyrinth” is pitching itself as essential viewing for young and old alike, though it’ll likely bring out the inner child in most.
See more images of “Tim Burton’s Labyrinth” below.
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