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Tim Burton’s Children’s Book ‘The Giant Zlig’ and its Disney Rejection Letter

It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time the director of such cinematic calamities as Planet of the Apes (2001), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) was once a singularly brilliant, visionary filmmaker. But before that, Tim Burton was an 18-year-old high school kid with dreams of becoming an illustrator. To that end, the young Burton created The Giant Zlig, a children’s book that he submitted to Walt Disney Productions. Although rejected, the book remains an important work in the artist’s journey from promising newcomer to idiosyncratic genius to, well, something else.The Giant Zlig was part of the Museum of Modern Art’s Tim Burton exhibit, a multimedia extravaganza that ended its residency in 2009. Included with the material was Burton’s pitch to Disney and his rejection letter from editor T. Jeanette Kroger, who was uncommonly helpful in her criticism of the work and very encouraging of the young Burton. Both documents were recently published by Letters of Note, a website dedicated to showcasing such interesting correspondence. MoMA’s Tim Burton website remains active, where you can see a great many drawings, paintings, photographs and videos from Burton’s once auspicious career.

The Giant Zlig story itself seems to be a fairly by-the-numbers parable about the karmic effect of being a bully, but it’s hard to be sure from the few images available. Kroger wondered in her letter whether The Giant Zlig was derivative of the work of Dr. Seuss. What do you think?

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