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Did Tim Burton Just Steal My Idea?

April 15th, 2012 No comments

As some of you may know, not know, or know and not really care all that much, I recently released a satirical short story called, “Employment Interview With A Vampire”, featuring a severely anachronistic vampire named Nathaniel who struggles to adapt to the current century.

Cover of J Bennett's short story - Employment Interview With A Vampire

A while ago, I went to see The Hunger Games in theaters. There I was, eagerly anticipating some delightful child-on-child violence when I was accosted by a preview for Dark Shadows, a new Tim Burton film featuring, you guessed it, an anachronistic vampire struggling to adapt.

Coincidence?

Check out the trailer and then come back.

The trailer features a scene where Burton’s anachronistic vampire, Barnabas (played by Johnny Depp) sees a television for the first time and exclaims “what sorcery is this?”

Compare that to a specific line in “Employment Interview With A Vampire”:

“I demand tea each noon when I arise,” Nathaniel says, “and I expect you to learn the magics of the television so that you can bespell the TiVo to show Law & Order at my whim.”

A little too similar if you ask me.

There are certainly some differences between my story and Mr. Burton’s upcoming movie. The main characters have different names and Dark Shadows takes place in the 1970s, but couldn’t these variances also be the small tweaks someone might make who is attempting to cover their trail? Like a schoolchild copying his best friend’s essay and changing a couple of words here and there so the teacher doesn’t notice.

Now, I can already hear the naysayers (possibly in the pay of Tim Burton) who might suggest that Tim Burton is not the villain but the victim. According to Wikipedia, that bastion of truth, filming for Dark Shadows, began in May, 2011, a full ten months before “Employment Interview With A Vampire” was published in March of this year.

 Could it be that I stole Tim Burton’s idea and not the other way around? All I can say is that anything can be bought, or actually freely changed when it comes to Wikipedia.

Of course, even with the similarities between my story and Dark Shadows, would Tim Burton, an incredibly successful producer, director and writer stoop so low as to steal a story idea from an unknown writer? The very idea seems ridiculous, but nevertheless, I did some digging into Burton’s past. Accompanied by a peppy montage melody, I typed away at my computer, pulled books off the shelf at the local library, looked through old newsreels, scribbled notes, rubbed my eyes, tapped my pen against my lip as I struggled to make connections and…finally, gaped in shock as I revealed Burton’s dark and dirty secret.

woman studying

Accurate depiction of me in the midst of a hardcore research montage

What I discovered was this: Three of Burton’s past blockbuster movies, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepy Hollow were all direct rip offs of little known books. In all three cases, Burton didn’t even bother changing the name of the title or the names of any of the main characters.

Like me, I’m sure you’re incredibly disgusted by this scandalous revelation. I just can’t imagine for the life of me why the whistle hasn’t been blown on Burton until now. My only theory is that Hollywood protects its own. Also, I’m pretty sure Johnny Depp is in on the whole thing.

So, did Tim Burton steal my brilliant anachronistic vampire idea? Perhaps we’ll never know. All I can say is that given Burton’s seedy past, nothing would surprise me.

And Mr. Burton, if you’re reading this, don’t think you can shut me up. Sending Johnny Depp over with flowers in chocolates probably won’t change my mind about speaking out against you…though maybe you should send Johnny over anyway just in case. Make sure he doesn’t forget the chocolates.

P.S. For all of those interested, Tim Burton did take the idea for Dark Shadows from someone else…just not me. According to Wikipedia, the film is based on a gothic soap opera from the 1960’s also called Dark Shadows, which Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have mentioned being huge fans of. The film rights for the property were lawfully acquired by Warner Brothers after which Tim Burton was brought onto the project. The movie opens in theaters May 11th.