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tim burton

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Katie Dorman

on 14 March 2014

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Transcript of tim burton

Tim Burton was born in Burbank, California on the 25th of August, 1958. He attended Burbank High School, and his creativity in film was evident from a young age. As a preteen, Burton would make simple short films in his backyard using stop motion animation techniques or by shooting them on a 8mm film without sound. Burton spent his childhood painting, drawing and watching films, and was considered to be a very introspective person. After high school, he attended the California Institute of Arts, studying character animation. Following his graduation in 1979 he worked as a Disney animator for less than a year, before going on to make his own films and becoming renowned for creating visually striking films with themes of fantasy, macabre and horror. Burton is married to Helena Bonham-Carter and together, they have two children.
Born in Burbank, California, Burton was exposed to the Hollywood lifestyle from a young age. As a child, his parents had an unstable, somewhat turbulent relationship, leaving Tim shy and reserved. Tim was slightly neglected by his father, which affected his relationship with his parents. He was labeled a misfit and an outcast during his school life as a result of wearing different clothes and having alternative interests. Tim was particularly fascinated by horror and science fiction films. In the highly suburban area that is Hollywood, this was unsurprisingly considered strange behaviour. Burton struggled to make friends and became isolated from society. It was this sense of the eccentric, the misfit, which permeates all of Burton’s work. It was this environment which fostered the rampant imaginativation that would later become Burton’s trademark.
I grew up watching things like
The Brain that Wouldn’t Die
on Saturday afternoon television. There’s a guy with his arm ripped off and blood smeared all over the wall…I never saw it as negative. I find that stuff, when it’s not rooted in reality, to be cathartic.
Tim Burton
Walt Disney
Tim Burton’s first job in the film industry was working as an animator at Disney Studios. While he was drafted into animating Disney films like The Fox and The Hound and used his time at the studio to create some of his own shorts, he ultimately disliked the experience and found it lacklustre. Despite being fired from Disney for creating films too dark and scary for children, there is an undeniable Disney influence in many of Burton’s films. The early Disney films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is not dissimilar to Burtons film A Nightmare Before Christmas, in that both are fantasy films geared towards children though respect and acknowledge adult audiences. Both Burton and Disney aimed for broad audiences to tell their stories to. There are also parallels between Burton and Disney in that there are dark undertones in regards to the themes. Pinocchio and Fantasia particularly, are more sinister than Disney’s usual cheerful and magical pictures. Disney also often deals with death, as seen most prominently in Bambi and The Lion King, which is a theme often seen in Burton films. (i.e The Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands).
Notice the more sinister music, accompanied by darker tones in terms of lighting. Mufasa's death is particularly notable amongst childrens films.
There is an even more noticable use of dark lighting in this scene. There is more focus on black and grey colours, and once more a quickened pace in the music. The scene also uses dead trees and snow as a symbol of death through the idea of the cold.
Despite a lack of obvious or recurring influence on Tim Burton by Roald Dahl in his films, Dahl has clearly had an impact on Burton as some point in his life. This is most evident through the Burton adaptation of Dahls book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Burton and Dahl share a similar ability to create imaginative and surreal worlds, indefinite utopias for children. They also shared the same dislike of the previous “Charlie” adaptation by Mel Stuart “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. They both believed that the film neglected the original tone and narrative content of the novel. Burton set out to return to Dahls book and pay tribute to the significant text by “reclaim[ing] a childrens classic.” Burton injected his remake with youthful enthusiasm, retaining Dahls original spirit while also using characteristically Burton-esque techniques. Burton reverts back to the narrative structure, though creates depth by expanding more of the fantastical elements of the story like the factory and the oompa loompas which proved to be visually stunning in the film.
Roald Dahl
Dr Seuss
Throughout his childhood, Burton was interested in the work of Dr Seuss, a famous American writer/poet who wrote many well-known and celebrated children’s books. Various Seuss books were adapted into popular films, for example “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “The Cat in the Hat”. What is notable is that many of Seuss’ books featured an oddball or misfit character, like the Grinch or the unnamed character pestered by Sam-I-Am in “Green Eggs and Ham.” Additionally, many of Seuss’ books were poetic in form and style. This is evident in Burtons works as Burton has used the poetic style throughout his works. His short film Vincent was formatted as a poem. More so, Burton published a series of short stories titled “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy” which feature poetic techniques like rhyme. Burton also uses a similar artistic style as Seuss in that stripes and extremely skinny or fat limbs are regularly featured.
Pictured are examples of the stripes and skinny limbs charecteristic as used by both Seuss and Burton.
Vincent Van Gough
Van Goghs influence on Tim Burton extends only as far as the visual aspect of Burtons films. There is a clear connection between Van Gogh and Burton that is found in the imagery of Burtons films. Most evident is in the distinct similarity between Van Goghs
Starry Night
and Burtons
Nightmare Before Christmas
. The swirl pattern in the landscapes of Burtons film is clearly influenced by the artwork of Van Gogh. There is also a likeness in the dark shades used.
Also notice the perspective in that Starry Night is almost from a First Person view, looking down on a city. Jack Skellington in the Nightmare Before Christmas image (though not shown in the image) stands on the hill and looks down upon his town. This is also seen in Edward Scissorhands, whose mansion is on a mountain above the suburban town.
"There's a naughtiness in Tim that's similar to Roald Dahl. A little bit of wickedness, a little bit of teasing, a subversiveness. Both of them never lost the gift of knowing what it's like to be a child - a very rare gift..." - Felicity Dahl
"The auteur theory is the ideology that a director can earn a higher status than others, by having a consistent unique style that is instantly recognizable to the audience, as to who directed. The auteur theory is debated by many whom claim that it’s an artificial means by which some directors can attain higher status than others. Andrew Sarris not only believes that conventions and style determine an auteur, but also poses the idea that an auteur can reflect their own personality and life into the film itself, whereas ‘ordinary’ directors, would reflect the lives and personalities of others in their productions." This sentence can be directly applied to Tim Burton, not only through his easily identifiable Burton-esque film style, but through the reflection of his childhood and life in his films. Burton is an anomaly in Hollywood. He is a personal film maker who makes dark, gothic films as a sort of therapy though manages to be incredibly successful. Burton is noted for his surreal and eccentric films, and his unique ability to successfully produce dark animated films just as well as cheerfully coloured adaptations of famous literary works. His work contains combinations of sinister themes and whimsical visuals that contrast to invite in a wider spectrum of audiences. His popularity in contemporary society is almost completely contradictory as many of his films satire the modern community and challenge popular culture. Burton often uses extreme stereotyping in his films and generalizes dominant cultures groups to create social commentary. He criticizes the falsity of society, particularly Hollywood. Most, if not, all, of his films favour the misfits, and present the idea that the monsters neglected by society can be the actual heroes who are most deserving of public recognition. He focuses on the outcast, frequently physically confronting through disfigurements or dark clothing, and suggests that there is a purity and innocence in these characters that are never truly seen as a result of constant oppression. Burton's films also usually contain binary opposites, whether through contrasting colours or even body type, though most prominently a battle between good and evil. Burton maintains the idea that high authoritative people who have attained success and acceptance in society can be corrupt. These people, while worshiped by the public, are the villains in Burton's films. These ideas are direct reflections of Burton's isolated childhood, and are confronting to an audience. Especially on a local (national) scale as Burton's films are usually set in America. Burton rejects the idea of utopian society and makes this known in his films, he roots for the anti hero. He challenges the value of appearances in society and criticizes the judgemental. Many of Tim Burton’s movies have symmetrical characteristics and techniques throughout most or all of his productions. "Over time he has developed a lot of films that are individual and unique to his own personal style, with many of his films being recognisable as his work.. This influences the ideology that Tim Burton is an auteur as people can instantly recognise his work, many features such as characterisation and the general dark gothic theme encourage the idea."

The above ideas are most evident in Butons film Edward Scissorhands. The film is a satire of modern suburban society, as illustrated through the bright pastel colour palette allocated to the town. The women are stereotyped as gossips through their dimwitted nature and limited interests that pertain to cosmetics and men. Edward is constructed as the outcast, clothed in black and with visible scarring on his face, though is revealed to be the most wholesome and innocent character with the purest intentions. Edward is perceived as a danger and a threat, and would usually be the villain in Hollywood films. Burton stereotypes the accepted 'Jocks' and 'Cheerleaders' as the corrupt. The clip on the right provides insight into the construction of the women through bright colours and sexual prowess. It also shows Edwards naivety and innocence, severely contrasting the towns perception of him
Tim Burton was raised in a conservative suburban neighbourhood, in which the popular religion was Protestant. Hollywood, where he was raised, expected conformity and outcast those who rejected the norm. Burton rejected this value of conventionalism, and his parents’ insincerity in their Christianity only added to his distaste of his childhood home. This pushed Burton further from his roots and what was expected of him, as evident in his life today through the lack of political or religious mention. Burton, similar to many others involved in the ‘industry’ in Hollywood support the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. As aforementioned, Burton does not focus or talk about his political views; though it can be said he is dissatisfied with the Republican Party through his continuous rejection of the frequently repeated Republican phrase “traditional family values.”
I remember being forced to go to Sunday school for a number of years, even though my parents were not religious. No one was really religious; it was just the framework. There was no passion for it. No passion for anything. Just a quiet, kind of floaty, kind of semi oppressive, blank palette that you’re living in.
Controls and Constraints
- Burton often manipulates light, using shadows and darkness. This is not only reflective of his german expressionist influences but also the gothic cinema style he creates.
- Burton often uses camera angles to effect, specifically high and low camera angles, in order to construct characters.
- Make Up: Burton is known for using pale make up, often paired with dark eyes. This is used to create features that conform to the gothic style Burton adopts.
- The Dutch angle is a code often used by Burton, who uses it more often than more conventional film makers. It is used to create a skewed sense of tension.
- Color is a large part of Burton's film style. He shoots subjects in oversaturated and undersaturated color, often in order to use the color of the scene to help add to the Gothic mystery or surreal and dreamlike states that his stories frequently find themselves in. Although digital color grading assists in the process of achieving vibrant and specific coloring in his pictures, Burton is still known for using the camera to capture color unlike that which most other directors put on the screen.
- Burton is guilty of using the same actors repeatedly in his films. Particularly Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp.
- Tim Burtons films have also previously used autobiographical elements. For example, Burton likes stripes and in many films stripes are clearly used.
- Burton often uses Binary Opposites in his film to create contrast and also provide social commentary. He usually focues on the battle between Good and Evil.
- Burton in many of his films portrays the monster character as the hero.
- Burton is known for using CGI in his films to create magical atmospheres. He started out his career using stop motion animation though slowly transitioned into CGI upon its advent.
Burton rejects the satisfactory Hollywood ending and creates endings are not always predictable or satisfactory to the audience. This is most noticeable in Sweeney Todd in which the conclusion of the film is full of blood and macabre, and most notably the death of all the main characters. Also seen in Vincent, that despite following 3 act narrative structure, does not end in a point of neat resolution. It was a very typical “Tim Burton Ending” as it was suggestive and open to audience interpretation. Many of Burtons films follow a traditional 3 act structure of: Routine Life, Problem Solving and Problem Resolved. This is seen in Burtons Alice in Wonderland, as the film provides a glimpse of Alices ordinary life, her struggle in Wonderland and finally her departure as she discovers how to return home. This 3 act structure is also evident in Burtons short Vincent, most probably as influenced by Disney whom Burton was working for at the time. Edward Scissorhands also follows a 3 act structure as driven by plot points, and even resolves in a happy and conclusive ending.
Burton is interested in poetic techniques in term of narrative structure. Vincent was written originally as a childrens book in rhyming couplets. Many of Burtons films conform the Levi-Strausse Narrative Theory of Binary Opposites. His Films contain large diverse varieties of contrasting opposites, specifically through hero vs villain though also seen visually like light vs dark, colour vs black and white. This is demonstrated through the contrast between the dark and gothic mansion in Edward Scissorhands compared to the pastel coloured, vibrant town. Also in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which the joy and happiness associated to the fantastical chocolate factory, contrasted to the lackluster lives of the Bucket family and their pauper lifestyle. Lastly, Burton experiments with narrative strucute in his films. For example, in Vincent, unusually all 3 acts are nearly exactly the same length. An uncommonly long amount of time is used to introduce the character. No main plot line either, the film focuses on the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist.

Vincent Price
Tim Burton had a particular affinity for Vincent Price. Vincent Price was a famous horror actor most prominent in the 1940s and 50s. The playfully creepy characters Vincent Price breathed life into were fascinating for Burton. Burtons interest in Price was out of a common trait they both shared, being misunderstood. Burtons respect for Price was so great, that Burtons first short film pays homage to the actor. The short entitled “Vincent” is the story of a little boy who is obsessed with the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and dreams of being just like Vincent Price – a story not unlike Burtons own adolescence. The stop motion animated film is also narrated by Price, and Price further went on to star in Burtons “Edward Scissorhands” which became his last film role. Burton has clearly been inspired by Vincent Price throughout his films.
[T]he films of Vincent Price. . .spoke to me specifically for some reason. Growing up in suburbia, in an atmosphere that was perceived as nice and normal (but which I had other feelings about), those movies were a way to certain feelings, and I related them to the place I was growing up in.
Vincent Price was somebody I could identify with. When you're younger things look bigger, you find your own mythology, you find what psychologically connects to you. And those movies, just the poetry of them, and this larger-than-life character who goes through a lot of torment--mostly imagined--just spoke to me in the way Gary Cooper or John Wayne might have to somebody else.
There are clear similarities in the appearances of Vincent and Vincent. This is seen through the likeness of the dark features and long faces.
Illustrated in the rightmost image, is the friendship that bloomed between Price and Burton.
Ray Harryhausen
Ray Harryhausen was an innovator in the filmmaking industry, known for his achievements in stop motion animation special effects. Despite never directing a full length feature film , his bold imagination and significant impact on animation has influenced many auteurs, particularly Tim Burton. Harryhausen pioneered the stop motion animation technique and “kept it alive for three solid decades before the advent of computer camera motion control and CGI.”
Harryhausen has had an influence on Burton most evidently through Burtons numerous animated films. Burton uses stop motion animation in his films in a more abstract style, though maintain some of the same ideas used by Harryhausen, in that animation is able to be used as a bridge between the real world and that of the imagination.

Beetlejuice most clearly displays the use of stop motion animation to morph between realism and fantasy. In the film, sets transform themselves into nightmarish caverns, worms pursue human beings, and ghosts mold their faces into monstrous alter egos. This is shown in the clip on the left.
Burtons Corpse Bride pays tribute to Harryhausen, particularly in a scene where character Victor Van Dort is playing the piano in the Everglott's home. The brand of the piano being played is a "Harryhausen".
This image shows the use of the Dutch Angle in Burtons Corpse Bride.
This image of Willy Wonka demostrates how Burton uses camera angles to construct characters. The High Camera ngle on Wonka makes him look more vulnerable and innocent, and therefore more trustworthy to the children.
Examples of Burton using dark eye make up and pale face make up to create ghost like and gothic appearances. From L to R Dark Shadows, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd.

Terrence Fisher
Terrence Fisher was one of the most notable and prominent horror directors of the 20th century. He is known for being the first director to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, and his use of colour of horror themes was unprecedented in his time period. His first major gothic film was The Curse of Frankenstein. Fisher worked for Hammer films, a British studio best known for its horror output. He challenged the critics and censors and was very much an influence on Tim Burton. Fisher also made use of reversed roles in which the outcast characters were good. Fisher also had a distinct narrative style and pacing, that is evident in Burtons work, specifically Edward Scissorhands.
Similarities between the appearances of Edward Scissorhands and Fishers Frankenstein, both characters constructed as the misunderstood monsters.
Tim Burtons first ever constraint in his career came whilst working at Disney animation studios. Burton was restricted in his creative freedom, when he was criticized by Disney for creating films too dark and sinister for children. Burton was adament to use his personal style and so was let go by Disney for creative differences.
Burton has also experiences budget constraints during his 30 year career. The most significant results of limited budgets are evident in the projects "Burtons Lost in Oz" and "Superman Lives" in which Burton was set to direct. Both of these projects were canceled as a result of budget constraints.
Burton has been subject to much criticism throughout his career. The most common complaint is that while his films are directed at children, the themes and issues Burton presents are much too disturbing and shocking for a younger audience. Burton received criticism for this for his films Batman Returns and The Corpse Bride.
Burtons Audience
As influenced by his time working at Disney, in which films were targeted to both child and adult audiences through the colourful whimsical visuals that masked darker themes, Burton aims for the same broad audiences in most of his films. Burton blends the more gothic and sinister themes of his film with cheerful colourful shots so that he has the ability to tell his stories to a wider audience. Burton respects both the adult and child audience that view his pictures, and so tells stories that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
The above ideas are evident through Disneys Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, in which darker themes are contrasted by vivid colour and imagery. This is seen in Burtons work in such films as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland.
While Burton is mostly praised for his innovation in film through his unique film style and ability to tell stories, there are some audiences that resist the ideologies Burton presents. Burton is no stranger to backlash and criticism, though it is more uncommon in modern times as there is a wide acceptance of Burton as an auteur. Criticism came from the public particularly regarding his film A Corpse Bride:

""[The movie has a] very strong, mixed pagan worldview with strong occult content where dead beings walk the earth, and spells are conducted, and . . . earthly life is better than eternal life, as well as very strong anti-biblical message with a mean priest.""
In a contemporary society where there is a value of individuality, Burtons adolescent audiences are supportive of his misfit characters. The modern value of entertainment influences audience readings of Burtons films, as many audiences neglect the themes of his films and focus on the vivid colours and images.
These images are of Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie in the Chocolate factory and are examples of Burtons extensive use of colour.
Burtons tweedle dum and tweedle dee are an example of his CGI use.
Burton has been most significantly impacted upon historically by German Expressionism. German Expressionism was an artistic movement centered in Germany following World War 1. It embodied the disillusionment and mental and physical wounds inflicted after the lost war. Burton identified with the themes of German Expressionism. The key words of this movement are "expression" and "emotion" which is something Burton was able to relate to. Burton has proved himself to be a film maker that produces work as a reflection of himself. He put personal contexts into his films. When German Expressionism began to transition into the United States of America, it was thought that German Expressionist directors would best be suited to the horror genre, which is a genre that Burton is known for using elements of.

German Expressionism has a clear impact on Burtons work. Many of the famed and significant characteristics of German Expressionism have clearly been adopted Burton who uses them to full effect. German Expressionism used the premise constructing characters through extreme low or high camera angles. This is seen in Burton Edward Scissorhands, who lives atop a mountain in a mansion, looking down on the town. This is representative of Edwards isolation and vulnerability as an outcast. German Exprssionists also used a technique that is almost now completely attributed to Burton of stark, exaggerated make up configurations of dark lips and pale, chalk white faces. Another characteristic of German expressionism adopted by Burton is the use of peculiar or unusual settings to create nightmarish circumstances. This is achieved mainly through setting, in which buildings are misshapen or have odd angles. The most obvious connection between German Expressionism and Burtons work is found in the parallels between Edward Scissorhands and Nosferatu. A significant similarity is found in the shadows created Edward and Nosferatu, that stereotype the characters as evil, shadows being a particularly German Expressionist technique. Burton also uses these shadows in his short, Vincent.
The stereotyped characters in Charlie and the Chocolate factory as constructed through costuming. For example, the video game obsessed boy is dressed a in baggy black and red shirt with a skull on it, reflective of the perception of video games in that they promote violence. (Red is symbolic for blood, the skull symbolizes death). Charlie Bucket, the left most child, is a fro a poor family, unable to afford basic needs. His socio-economic status is reflected through his clothing as it is too small, and looks well worn. An audience can assume he is wearing hand-me-downs.
The type of alienated relationship Burton had with his parents is reflected in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, in which Willie Wonka was neglected by his controlling and selfish father. Wonka is obviously upset and scarred by this throughout the film and this could be contextual to Burton’s childhood and relationship with his father. Burtons isolation in society and struggle to create friendships is also reflected in his film Edward Scissorhands, as Edward longs for intimacy. Burtons shy nature is represented to an extreme as Edward is unable to make any physical contact with anybody due to his sharp scissor hands. This separation and desire to be accepted in society is similar to Burtons context. Also the idea of the misunderstood character interrogated by the utopian suburban society is not unlike Burtons childhood, in which he was an outcast living in Burbank, California, a conventional, vibrant town that he did not fit in.
Robert Wiene
Burtons non interest in political or religious affairs is noticeable in his films. There is often a lack of specific political or religious mention or allocation to characters, though he acknowledges the democratic system of his country as many of his films adopt a ‘neutral’ democratic system, as demonstrated through the roles of the Judge in Sweeney Todd and the Mayor in Batman Returns. Burton also frequently uses and promotes supernatural elements and themes in his films, contradictory of his contextual Christian upbringing. This is evident in the use of vampires in Dark Shadows, the monster that is Edward Scissorhands, the cognitive animals in Alice in Wonderland. Probably most significant though, with its themes of death and resurrection is A Corpse Bride, which received criticism from conservative Christian communities who accused the film of having a “very strong, mixed pagan worldview with a strong occult content where dead beings walk the Earth and spells are conducted.” His use of paranormal themes was not received well by conservative audiences.
similar shadows that are initially suggestive of evil
The mansion in Edward Scissorhands (left) is similar to the positioning of the building in Nosferatu in that the slightly low angles portray the buildings as dominant and evil. Especially with the town and the public depicted in both images, providing an inferior and more vulnerable counterpart.
"I think it probably has more to do with being inspired by Dr. Seuss. . . The rhythm of his stuff spoke to me very clearly. Dr. Seuss's books were perfect: right number of words, the right rhythm, great subversive stories." BURTON on his short film VINCENT
Robert Wiene was a significant director of the German Expressionist period and is known for his famous film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, a classic German Expressionist film that has even been labeled by some as the most important film ever made. There is a prominent likeness between German Expressionist Robert Wiene film The Cabinet of Dr Calagari and the Burton film Edward Scissorhands. Edward Scissorhands is a character that is very influenced by Cesare. They share a similar nature in that they are rather awkward and are manipulated by stronger characters; Edward by society, Cesare by an evil hypnotist. Tim Burton again had massive success with his Batman Returns. In this film, the character of the Penguin was clearly influenced by the character of Dr Calagari, as a dark, mentally unstable and homicidal character. (Despite the original comic book renditions of the Penguin that portray him as an intelligent and calculating character. Wienes recurring extensive use of skewed angles and geometric set design has also no doubt inspired some of the scenography in Burton films, like The Nightmare before Christmas and Beetlejuice.
Pay attention to the industrial, gothic looking opening credits. This could have been inspired by Wienes use of geometric shapes to create sinister horror themes.
Fritz Lang
"It was the strength and simplicity that I really loved about the expressionists' work. That and the fairy-tale element."
Tim Burton
Fritz Lang a German-Austrian filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor known for his German Expressionist film Metropolis. Burton has been heavily influenced by this movement and so it is only obvious that he would be inspired by such a significant expressionist film. There are clear connections between the film Metropolis and Burtons Batman Returns. The first similarity is in the skyline and city landscaping of Batmans Gotham City, and its undoubtable likeness to that of Metropolis. Both feature angular, shadowed tall dominating buildings. Both cities don a futuristic look and smoky, dark atmosphere. In Burtons Batman, there is a shot of Shreck’s toy store almost identical to that of Metropolis where a low camera angle focuses on the Tower of Babel. Both films end in a cathedral. This is particularly evident that Burton is paying homage to Lang, as it is known Burton has no particular religious affiliations so there would be no specific contextual intent to film in a religious structure. Links that mirror that of Metropolis feature repeatedly throughout Burtons work with the futuristic assembly line machinery seen in Edward Scissorhands and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim Burton is just one of the countless film-makers who has seen the beauty of mise-en-scene in German expressionism and felt an obligation to try to replicate this beauty in their own works.
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