Before BeetleJuice, Batman, Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure, and Sweeney Todd, Tim Burton directed a modern gothic violent retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Never heard of it before? I assure you, It exists. Although very little evidence can be found. And if you haven’t seen it, you likely never will.
Filmed for $116,000 on 16mm, this live-action short film featured a cast of amateur Japanese actors, kung fu fights and Japanese toys, as Burton was obsessed with Japanese culture at the time of production. The film’s design style and color schemes paid homage to the Godzilla movies and is said to be heavy on special effects, making use of front projection, forced perspective and even some stop-motion animation. Most reputable sources claim the film runs a full 45 minutes, but other fan reviews have a listed runtime anywhere from a 15-30 minutes. The plot of the film is very traditional: Hansel and Gretel must escape a witch and her gingerbread house to find their father.
Tim Butron’s Hansel and Gretel aired on the Disney Channel on Halloween night in 1982, and was never seen or heard from again. This gem is near impossible to find. Search Google, Ebay, YouTube, Torrent Sites, you won’t find anything. Tim Burton is said to have been embarrassed of this early work, which might explain why the short has never been released on home video or DVD.
I haven’t even seen this film, nor have I met anyone who has personally seen it. It’s become somewhat of an urban legend around Hollywood. Accounts of this short vary from person to person, and from source to source, so the above description might feature inaccuracies.