REVIEW: TIM BURTON’S LOST VEGAS at The Neon Museum brings the world of the director to life in a unique immersive experience

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It goes without saying that Tim Burton is one of my all-time favorite film directors. The man’s work has transcended genre to become a genre in and of itself to the point where seeing the phrase, “A Tim Burton Film,” a certain mental image is conjured. An America that both was and never was, where 1950’s post-war suburban Americana created the ideal Disney America but outcasts on the fringes were tolerated and encouraged to become their truest selves under the veneer of a Technicolor landscape. Films like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks, and Edward Scissorhands give you this view of a fictional mod America surrounded by cul de sacs with tall green hedges, neon diners, and a retro “googie” future promising opportunity in the unlikeliest of places. So when Burton decided to team with the Neon Museum in Las Vegas for an in-house installation called Lost Vegas combining his youthful remembrances of Vegas with original art and characters and a licensed exhibition incorporating elements from the Warner Brothers film, Mars Attacks!, and Beetlejuice, I was excited to check it out.

Held at the former site of the La Concha Hotel and incorporating its Jetsons-like retro-future Googie lobby in the exhibit, Burton’s Lost Vegas incorporates his feelings and memories of visiting Vegas as a child, as well as his incorporation of the destruction of the legendary Landmark Hotel in Mars Attacks! – which he calls one of the most powerful moments in his life inspired this tribute to the city that never sleeps.

In this gallery below, you can see some of Burton’s concept drawings for the exhibit, as well as his models for The Landmark, which was used in the film Mars Attacks! as a scale model of the Galaxy Hotel.

We scheduled our tour at dusk, we highly recommend doing likewise, since you get the view of the signs and installations in daylight, but also get to see the signs lit up and signature lighting for the installation. For example, here’s the lighting during the day for the Mars Attacks! installation.

Here is a walkthrough of the larger section of the exhibit, The Boneyard, featuring installations hidden throughout the signs, as well as many recognizable signs from Vegas’ past that are now a part of the collection at The Neon Museum.

Here is the rear view of the Mars Attacks exhibit as the sun began to set. We start to see some added dimension with the lighting activating the statues and some of the neon signs.

Here’s a video of one of those Boneyard Burton Neon installations:

Here is the Mars Attacks exhibit and many of the Boneyard’s signs lit up at night, as well as a dedicated Burton exhibit area inside of a tin foil-like giant igloo in the previous gallery.

Here is some video of one of the Burton installations inside this enclosed Igloo Gallery. My personal favorite is the lovelorn one-armed bandit gambler falling in love with Lady Luck.

An optional added focus is the Brilliant exhibit, where the Neon Museum uses digitally mapped laser projection to “resurrect” signs that have no lighting. There is an additional Mars Attacks Easter Egg in the tail end of this 30-minute show. But, in and of, itself, this effect is amazing and legitimately made me tear up. It revives signage to its glory days and the projection makes them look real and active.

Overall, the Burton exhibit is a definite must-see if you are in Vegas. Originally marked to run through to February 15th, it has been extended through to April 12, 2020. You can get tickets to the exhibit at NeonMuseum.org

All photos are 2020 Victor Moreno. Commercial use is prohibited. Non-profit use with attribution via a link back is allowed.