"It's funny, because 'Nightmare' wasn't a real success when it came out," marveled Burton recently, adding that the stop-motion aesthetic employed by both films contains an emotional element that other forms of animation simply can't approach. "It's why I wanted to do ['Nightmare'] in stop-motion, and why I wanted to do the new film in stop-motion. There's a sort of visceral power to it, a primal power that's like a dream or something; it stays with you."
If "Corpse," meanwhile, garners a tenth of the success and taps into the same popular vein that its predecessor has belatedly enjoyed on home video, its place in the goth hearts of Burton fans worldwide is assured.
"There are ['Nightmare' hero and heroine] Jacks and Sallys everywhere," remarked a proud Helena Bonham Carter, who voices the undead bride in the new film and also plays Burton's very-much-alive wife in the real world. "Obviously, he just sort of captures a [mood.] He obviously touches a lot of people. He has millions of fans. There was this woman who came up to us once and said, 'Please, would you sign my tattoo?' He really does sort of have a massive following."
Appropriately enough, Burton has once again employed Danny Elfman (the composer on Burton projects dating all the way back to 1985) to link "Nightmare" and "Corpse" together musically.
"Mr. Bonejangles, in this film, was going to be singing an old jazz tune in the underworld," Elfman revealed about a standout "Corpse" skeleton character. "It reminded me a little bit of the song I wrote for Mr. Oogie Boogie in 'Nightmare.' There was, like, a link there to that kind of old jazz, and a little bit of a Max Fleischer, Betty Boop kind of influence. Both of the characters had a bit of a string leading back to those Fleischer cartoons," he concluded, referencing the legendary, revered producer of more than 600 animated shorts in the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
Although Burton is thankful for the fans of "Nightmare," he does often conceal one particularly terrifying tidbit about the film's legacy. His wife, however, unhesitatingly reveals the awful truth: "I just hope that this time, at least, Tim has a cut of the merchandising."
Yes, you read that right: All those T-shirts you see on sale at Hot Topic? All those action figures at toy stores everywhere? The creator doesn't get a dime.
"No, absolutely not," insisted Bonham Carter. "No, no, no. You know, [there's always] new things, too. Everyone's [wearing] skulls, and all that. But no. Nothing."
This time, Burton wields considerably more power as he brings back his stick-thin-character style, his darkly humorous themes and a longtime companion who also just happens to be, arguably, the most popular movie star in the world at the moment.
"He has grown enormously, which I thought impossible, having worked with him 15 years ago on 'Edward Scissorhands,' " enthused Johnny Depp, who voices Victor in this, his fifth collaboration with Burton. "But his vision and his genius keep getting broader and broader. He's a real gift to an audience member like me."
Burton returned the compliment, saying that his longtime leading man "has grown because he's always trying different things. The things that remain the same about him, which I find amazing, is that he's kept his artistic integrity. Most people get swayed by failure or success or pressure from the studio, or whatever. But he has just always kept on that [same, even keel] while still trying to grow as an artist. And that's very impressive."
Bonham Carter, too, is thankful for their A-list friend, but could only shrug while admitting that most fans are incorrect when they assume that the two men sit around the set all day talking about death.
"They really are about age 4 together," she said, shaking her head. "They like poo jokes. They're really into pretty childish, puerile jokes that I don't find funny. Like Johnny will give him some cat-butt chewing gum … with pictures of cats' butts! I mean, is it funny? No."
"There is a kind of strange shorthand that it's almost impossible to explain, but it's been there since day one," Depp said, struggling to explain their connection. "I've actually had crew members come up to me after watching Tim and I talk about a scene or something and the guy says, 'I watched Tim and you talk for like 10 minutes, and I have no idea what you said, I couldn't understand a word of it.' With Tim it's just much more emotional. I can see it in is eyes, the way he tilts his head a certain way. Or he moves his hands and I can just feel it, you know?"
With Burton, Depp and Elfman together again, and Bonham Carter now factored into the equation, the audience is also likely to feel it when "Corpse" hits theaters.
"It wouldn't be so bad, you know?" said Depp of living in a Tim Burton afterworld. "It's pretty snazzy."