17-year-old Tim Burton's rejection from Walt Disney Productions

In 1976, a 17-year-old Tim Burton sent a hand-drawn manuscript for a children's book called "The Giant Zlig" to Walt Disney Productions, hoping for a publishing deal. They rejected the manuscript, but they still hired him a few years later, after he had graduated from CalArts and been out in the field for a few years.
February 19, 1976

Dear Tim:

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.

The manuscript and letters were on display at Kid City's Tim Burton@MOMA exhibit in NYC.

Letters of Note: The Giant Zlig (via IO9)


  1. He spelled ‘laid’ wrong, but I still like it. His original art for Edward Scissorhands is very impressive too.

    1. Yeah, I was totally expect the whole “Geez your work sucks, you’ll never amount to nothing kid” sorta shoot down that you always see in the movies, that the hero then turns around and refutes with the burning pride of a thousand suns!

  2. This is currently on exhibit at the suprisingly jam packed (took me two hours) MOMA travelling Tim Burton exhibit in Toronto (TIFF LightBox). It is definitely worth checking out if your a fan of Burton or just film (I didn’t really consider myself a fan but I am now!).

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