Disney gave Tim Burton a chance to not only redo, but expand his 1984 short film Frankenweenie into a 3D, stop-action animated fest. It’s a cute and clever homage to daring teachers and classic monsters like Dracula, Godzilla, The Mummy and Igor. Frankenweenie isn’t Burton’s best, but fans of his old work might end up pleasantly surprised.
- Director: Tim Burton
- Screenwriters: John August (screenplay), Tim Burton (characters and story), Leonard Ripps (story)
- Cast: Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau, Atticus Shaffer
- Cinematography: Peter Sorg
- Score: Danny Elfman
After the death of his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor (voiced by Tahan) uses science to bring him back to life. Victor tries to hide his creation from everyone, including his parents, Mr. and Ms. Frankenstein (voiced by Short and O’Hara). But when Sparky escapes, he unintentionally causes chaos in the town of New Holland.
- The Characters: Tim Burton sprinkled this feature with odd and socially awkward characters. Some are an homage to classic villains, others are references to his own work. Though we don’t spend a lot of time with any one character – except for Victor and Sparky – they all get their 15 minutes. These are strange creatures that don’t exist in the real world. They are terrifying individuals with intimidating personalities, but Burton crafted them in a way that makes them interesting and fun.
- The Visuals: This is a film that took years of work, and it’s noticeable. Each frame possesses a great deal of detail, from the puppets to the tiny sets. The black-and-white amplifies the ghoulish characters and setting, making it that much more horrifying and visually stunning.
- The Story: Frankenweenie is about a lonely boy dealing with the loss of his best and only friend. But there’s a better story being told about a brave teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by Landau), who makes a difference in his pupils’ lives. There’s a fantastic moment when Mr. Rzykruski goes in front of the townspeople, in what looks like a PTA meeting filled with angry parents, and shames them for being close-minded. His speech is wickedly witty and a great piece of modern-day irony.
- The 3D: It’s not often you see a stop-action animated movie that’s also in black and white. See Frankenweenie in 2D. The monochrome effect loses some of its value with the 3D, like most films do.
- The Ending (SPOILER): Disney isn’t unwilling to tell a morose story. We’ve all seen The Lion King and Bambi right? That’s why the ending of Frankenweenie is confusing. Burton said he chose to have a happy ending, but having Sparky come back to life defeats the purpose of the movie. Maybe we shouldn’t take the message too seriously then? Perhaps we should just hope kids realize they can’t actually bring back the dead.
Frankenweenie is a piece of art. The story might be flawed, but one has to acknowledge the years of work that were put into this. Visually, the film is stunning, but it’s Burton’s unique characters that provide the most fun.
The Rating: 7/10
Frankenweenie opens everywhere October 5th.
Will you be seeing Frankenweenie this weekend?