Even though Tim Burton worked as a concept artist for Disney in the early '80s, the Mickey Mouse studio had rejected the filmmaker only a few years before hiring him to work on 'The Fox and the Hound' and 'The Black Cauldron.'
Before the director was crafting creepy greats like 'Beetlejuice' and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas,' he was penning a letter to Disney in 1976 asking them to take a peek at his illustrated children's book, 'The Giant Zig.' An image from Letters of Note shows that the monster-riffic title looks similar to the works of Maurice Sendak. A written response from a Disney editor, however, indicates that Burton's creation might "be too derivative of the Seuss works to be marketable."
T. Jeanette Kroger sent a polite rejection letter to the 18-year-old Burton, complimenting him on his talents and encouraging him to press on. Thankfully her mindful manners didn't make things awkward for Burton when Disney eventually hired him after graduating from CalArts in 1979. Although his quirky, macabre style didn't mesh with the animation giant, they clearly played a pivotal role in his artistic development. In 1982, Burton made his first movie, the six-minute stop-motion film 'Vincent,' while working at Disney. The rest, as they say, is history.
Check out Burton's proposal and Disney's letter after the jump.
I am submitting this book in hopes that you might consider publishing it. The book has been layed out in rough form, and I would be glad to make any changes that you feel would be necessary. I would hope to hear from you either way. Thank you.
Disney's Rejection Letter:
February 19, 1976
Here are some brief impressions of your book, The Giant Zlig.
STORY: The story is simple enough for a young audience (age 4-6), cute, and shows a grasp of the language much better than I would expect from one of today's high school students, despite occasional lapses in grammar and spelling. It may, however, be too derivative of the Seuss works to be marketable--I just don't know. But I definitely enjoyed reading it.
ART: Considering that you suffer from a lack of the proper tools and materials, the art is very good. The characters are charming and imaginative, and have sufficient variety to sustain interest. Your layout is also good--it shows good variety in point-of-view. Consequently, I not only enjoyed reading about the Giant Zlig, but I got a chuckle watching him, too.
I hope my comments please you. Thanks for the opportunity to read The Giant Zlig; keep up the good work, and good luck.
Very truly yours,
T. Jeanette Kroger
Walt Disney Productions