What's this? A virtual tour of Tim Burton's weird, wonderful art

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Here's a factoid that (depending on your age) is likely to make your head spin. This year marks the 25th anniversary of goth-pop director Tim Burton's big-screen directorial debut, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985). Stunning, we know.

Over that last quarter of a century, Burton has evolved into a master storyteller who's birthed his own oeuvre of dark, off-kilter creepy confections that revolve around the themes of alienation, loss and the search for love. If you're a fan, you can spot a Burton project a mile away, as they often delve into nightmarish landscapes resplendent with recurring chiaroscuro motifs and grotesquely garish and bizarre characters. Yet practically bubbling up through the bleak in everything Burton does there's always a lonely heart looking for solace, a misunderstood monster that remains beautifully identifiable to everyone despite its horrific exterior.

The release of Alice in Wonderland this March will mark Burton's 14th theatrical film, but if you only know Burton from Beetlejuice to Batman, then you barely know Tim at all. A prolific artist from way back in his early years as a disaffected youth raised in the suburb of Burbank, Calif., Burton's since amassed half a century's worth of fascinating drawings, sketches, maquettes, canvases and animation projects that chart his creative evolution. And for the first time, the public can dive into his treasure trove of the bizarre at the Tim Burton Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which runs until April 26.

Sponsored by Syfy, the exhibition of more than 700 rare and exclusively produced Burton originals is a must-see for fans, not just because it's so freakishly cool, but also because it gives audiences a better idea of his influences, his own stylistic evolution that's been distilled over time into what is instantly recognizable now as "Burtonesque."

Of course not everyone has the luxury of traipsing off to New York City to see the exhibit, so we've put together a brief, and hardly exhaustive, look at some of what's featured at the MOMA.

Thanks to the MOMA press office for their assistance in this story.

Click on the images below for larger versions.