Feed My Frankenweenie

Just in time for Halloween, Frankenweenie is hitting theaters today, giving viewers a chance to enjoy all the campiness of black-and-white classic horror films while still offering them something delightfully new and unique. In honor of the movie’s release, here are some things you should know about the development and creation of Tim Burton’s newest baby.

The Original

Even casual Tim Burton fans probably already know that the new movie is a remake of his 1984 short of the same name. But there are a lot of things you might not know about the original as well. For example, Tim always wanted the story to be a stop motion animation, he only settled for live action because the million dollar budget was simply too small to do a full stop motion project.

The original Frankenweenie also has two interesting distinctions in Disney history –first, it’s the last movie they ever released with the Buena Vista Distribution logo. More importantly, it’s the film that got Tim Burton fired from the company back when he was still working as a story board and concept artist. That’s because they considered the film to be an utter waste of money, as it was intended to be shown with the theatrical re-release of Pinocchio, but the film proved too scary for the children in their test audiences. Interestingly, while it was never released in American theaters, it was played in U.K. theaters before the movie Baby: Secret of Lost Legend.

Unsurprisingly, after Burton moved to Warner Bros. and released a string of successful titles including Beetlejuice, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Batman, as well as releasing Edward Scissorhands with 20th Century Fox, Disney reconsidered how they treated the young director and they gladly worked with him again to create The Nightmare Before Christmas. The original Frankenweenie finally reached a large audience when it was released as an extra on The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD and Blu-ray.

Of course, throughout this entire period, Burton continued to dream of finally shooting the story the way he had always dreamed –in stop motion.

Success At Long Last

Finally, after The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and The Corpse Bride were all made with stop motion and all did well, Burton was able to start working on his pet project again. A first-draft of the feature-length script was created in 2005 and the final rewrite was completed in 2009 when Tim signed a contract with Disney to shoot two films in their new Digital 3D technology –Alice in Wonderland and Frankenweenie.

Lest you think that the new version is merely a stretched out version of a story that was already well-told in only half an hour, you should know that plenty of new plot lines were added, so the film should hold up to the extended form pretty well. See, the original basically involved a young boy named Victor, who brings his dog, Sparky, back to life after it is hit by a car. When the family re-introduces the neighborhood to the once-dead dog, they are angry, disgusted and terrified. The mob chases Sparky and Victor to a miniature golf course. When the mob accidentally lights the windmill on fire and it falls on Victor, Sparky jumps into action to save his master. The crowd realizes they were wrong about the dog and everything ends on a happy note. –I’ve left a lot out so those of you who haven’t seen the original can still appreciate it, but there’s nothing all that shocking about the plot that should really make you concerned with spoilers.

In the new version, the story starts out the same, with young Victor bringing his dead pup back to life, but a lot more is added into the story to keep it interesting. Instead of revealing the dog to the neighbors, Victor tries to keep his existence a secret, but as the kids in the neighborhood get wind of the idea, they all decided to copy his idea for their school science fair project. Next thing you know, there are turtle monsters, mummy hamsters, vampire cats and more and it is up to Victor and Sparky to save the day.

Behind The Scenes

Image Via Gabbot [Flickr]

While the original film lacked a lot of star power, with the exception of Shelley Duvall, the new one features many actors Burton has worked with before. Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and Martin Short will ensure Tim’s fans instantly feel comfortable with these familiar voices.

As for the dog, it’s pretty obvious that his design was largely based on the live-action dog featured in the first movie, but he is also inspired by the adorable pup from the short-lived cartoon Family Dog. As for the puppet, that’s where Sparky’s design really shines. Because the dog has to do so many different actions in the movie, there are dozens of versions of the character, most of which contain up to 300 parts so he can truly “act.” The crew had to bring in Swiss watchmakers to create the tiny nuts and bolts necessary to get Sparky to come to life and even then, he ended up a lot bigger than most stop motion dogs would be, so in order to keep him properly proportioned to the humans and the sets, the work had to be done on a much larger scale than most stop motion films.

Of course, while the human puppets might not be quite as intricate as Sparky, they are still incredibly detailed. In fact, there were around 200 puppets used in the film and all the humans have real human hair in their heads. The film will not only be the first black-and-white feature to be released in IMAX 3D, but also the first stop-motion film to be released in that format, which means those incredible details will most likely really shine for those viewers who are willing to spend a few extra bucks to see the movie in its extra-large, 3D glory.

I’ll be honest, while I really love the classic Tim Burton films, a lot of his most recent projects just seemed lazy. That being said, I’m very excited to go see this one since it’s something he’s been planning and excited about for almost 30 years now. What do you guys think? Are you going to see Frankenweenie in theaters, when it comes out on video or not at all?

Sources: Collider, IGN, Wikipedia #1, #2 and #3

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Newest 4 Comments

I'm definitely taking my kiddos to see this! I'm so excited and there is a special place in my heart of childhood for this film in particular. Staying summers with my grandma in a small town we had a limited set of activities. Harassing the only gas station, driving to another town for swimming one day, roller skating another, and renting movies. This movie we rented over and over again. I think my grandma thought it was a waste since it was so short. But then one week my cousins convinced her to rent Porky's. After that we could rent Frankenweenie as many times as we wanted. Kudos for the refresher on this film! (We ate a lot of Kudos those summers too.)
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