FRANKENWEENIE (2012) is a big-screen remake of his own 1984 short film of the
same name and utilizes the Frankenstein monster tale by Mary Shelley to tell a
clever story about a young boy, Victor Frankenstein, and how he copes with the
loss of his dog.
Victor loves making 16mm
movies with his dog, Sparky, in his hometown of New Holland, which looks like
Everytown, USA. Sparky stars as the
Sparkysaurus, because what young boy doesn't love dinosaurs? Mixing footage of Sparky with self-made
animation, Victor's movie shows off an imagination no doubt inspired by
"The Twilight Zone" and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953). Victor, obviously and alter-ego for director
Burton, is an awkward child, and keeps a low profile from his classmates and
his neighbor Mr. Burgermeister, an overweight man who brandishes a
hedgeclipper. During a baseball game,
Victor manages to hit a home run, but unfortunately his dog chases the ball
into the street and is killed by a car.
Devastated, Victor mopes through school until his science teacher, Mr.
Rzykruski, shows the class how to use electricity to move a dead frog's
legs. Experiencing a eureka moment,
Victor is filled with a new sense of purpose, and converts his parents' attic
into a makeshift laboratory. Following
his teacher's instructions, he reanimates Sparky with the help of lightning.
Victor does his best to
keep Sparky's existence a secret, and a creepy kid from the neighborhood,
Edgar, wants to know how Victor did it.
Word gets out about Sparky, and other kids vying for a science project
attempt similar experiements until things get out of control. A rat becomes a crazed monster; a turtle is
made enormous and stomps among a town square carnival like a mixture of Godzilla and Gamera; and
sea monkeys run amok through the streets.
A cute, next-door poodle who fancies Sparky is made to resemble Elsa
Lanchaster; the name "Shelley" appears on a tombstone; and BAMBI is
displayed on a local theatre marquee.
The film's ending is a loving homage to James Whale's 1931 classic that
started it all and fueled nightmare for years to come.
FRANKENWEENIE shares many similarities to Henry Selick's 1993 film THE
NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (produced by Tim Burton) in that a protagonist
compelled to do a good deed ends up making a mess of things. The film can been seen in 2D and 3D, though
the latter is preferable as it bolsters the onscreen antics. A black cat sticks its head into the audience
and hisses in one of the more memorable sequences.
Filmed on Canon EOS 5D
Mark II single lens reflux cameras and printed in black and white,
FRANKENWEENIE looks lovely. It would be
nice to see black and white return to the screen as an artform.
Danny Elfman provides
another memorable score to this amazingly-animated stop-motion film. Highly recommended in 3D, and finally someone
got the right idea to release it in time for Halloween.
Take a look at the MAD MONSTER PARTY, a film that inspired director Burton
to pursue this method of filmmaking.