Corpse Bride

Synopsis: Returning to the painstaking stop-motion animation he employed with amazing success in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton presents a hair-raising legend based on a 19th-century Russian folktale, in which a young man mistakenly weds a corpse while on a two-day trek to the village of his real bride-to-be. It is up to the groom's flesh-and-blood fiancée, who has been pining for the arrival of her intended, to face her wraith-like rival and make peace with her by promising to live her dreams for her and by vowing to remember her always. Only then are the living bride and groom free to proceed with their own wedding ceremony in the warmhearted fable Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.


Screenplay by Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettler and John August

February 18, 2004 © 2004



We GLIDE OVER beautiful, shimmering lakes of color.

PULLING OUT, we find the colors make up the patterns on a butterfly's wing, drawn in miraculous detail on a large sketch pad.

VICTOR, a handsome 19-year-old with a gentle, slightly dreaming quality, adds tiny finishing touches to the sketch. His Victorian-style room is filled with drawings and paintings of all sizes, mostly of butterflies. There is one prominent painting of Victor with a friendly ­looking dog. The drawing done, Victor lifts a glass bell jar. A butterfly escapes, flits around the room and out of the open window.



We FOLLOW the butterfly on its flight around the town.

The streets are cobblestone. The architecture is cold and severe. Hues are muted and grim: the butterfly is the only really colorful thing in view. Stiff-looking TOWNSPEOPLE walk along --nodding very formally, and without warmth, when they pass each other.

A church BELL CHIMES the first of four strokes. The TOWN CRIER strides into the square and rings his big HAND BELL.


Four o'clock and all's well!

MUSIC begins to grow -- a methodical MARCH. As the butterfly floats along a line of shops, we see:

The GREEN GROCER... arranging fastidious little piles of withered onions. The gentle RUSTLE adds a rhythm to the song.

The WATCHMAKER... checking and re-checking the large clock that hangs in front of his shop, resetting the second hand until it's just so. The clocks TICK like metronomes.

The BAKER... wearily adding another plain brown loaf to the pyramid that stands in his window. Each loaf as dry and flavorless as the next.

The BUTCHER... whose arm rises and falls mechanically, filling the air with a constant CHOPPING sound on the downbeat.

WIDOW MUNCH, the seamstress, sits among bolts of cloth, all shades of gray. Her SEWING MACHINE CHUGS along in rhythm to the MUSIC.

As the butterfly floats off, we STAY ON the entrance of a large stately house. We are back at the home of Victor's family, the Van Dorts.

The front door opens, and out steps WILLIAM VAN DORT. He's a slouch-shouldered gentleman who speaks from behind his drooping mustache.


Where is Victor? We might be late!

Victor leans out of an upstairs window. With zero enthusiasm...


Coming, Father.


Right, right. Very good.

Victor's mother, NELL VAN DORT, is a plump, pushy Victorian matron. She gazes across the town at the Everglot Mansion with its two imposing gables.

She begins to sing, "According to Plan." Nell has the voice of an opera diva. William, who talk-sings most of his lines, is the gentle voice of reason.


A beautiful day!

A very nice day.

For a wedding!

A wedding _rehearsal_.

A practice run ...

... of a sort ...

Of what's to come.

Assuming nothing goes wrong.

That is why everything,

Every last little overlooked thing,

Must... Go...


According to plan!

Our son will be married,

According to plan!

We will be carried

According to plan!

Into the halls Of high society!

Have tea with the Queen!

At parties to be seen,

Dressed in pale aubergine,

We'll forgot who we've beeeeen.

They look into each other's eyes, agreeing...


This is a fortunate day,

For those of recent fortune.

Victor arrives beside them. With his gangly legs and stiff collars, he always seems miserably uncomfortable.


Where is Mayhew? We might be late!

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Caroline Thompson

Caroline Thompson (born April 23, 1956) is an American novelist, screenwriter, film director, and producer. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton's films Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. She co-wrote the story for Edward Scissorhands and recently co-adapted a new stage version of the film with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne. Thompson also adapted the screenplay for the film version of Wicked Lovely, a bestselling fantasy series, in 2011, but the production was put into turnaround. more…

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