What better way to kick-start this blog than by writing about my endeavours from tonight, which were all in the name of the things I adore the most: Stop Motion Animation and the work of my great idol, Tim Burton. I went to the cinema to watch the movie Frankenweenie (2012), a little late though, compared to most parts of the world, who watched it last Halloween, but, regrettably, the movie didn’t have its première in Denmark until January 2013.
I stuck it out, non the less, and it was worthwhile: This expanded version of Tim Burton’s early live-action short film Frankenweenie (1984) was very moving and entertaining. Each image of quirky animation oozed of a deep love for the art form and throughout there were great references, not only to Frankenstein’s Monster and all the other classic horror monsters, but also to the realm of Tim Burton’s own creations.
This is not a critical review, by the way. My opinion about the film is fairly straightforward: I liked it a lot. I thought I’d rather shine a light on some of the observations I made whilst watching the film, as a fan of Tim Burton, stop motion animation and the horror genre in general.
When I saw the first couple of posters from the film, I had no doubt in my mind that the character Weird Girl was somewhat derived from Staring Girl from Tim Burton’s book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories” (1997), but when I saw the design of her almost triangular dress and her odd, short bangs in the final film, it became all too clear:
Weird Girl (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Staring Girl (The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories, 1997)
The design for the Pet Cemetery held many references to the original short film too:
Pet Cemetery (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Pet Cemetery (Frankenweenie, 1984)
The sign of the town’s name, New Holland, reminded me a lot of the Hollywood sign from Tim Burton’s earlier film Ed Wood (1994):
New Holland sign (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Hollywood sign (Ed Wood, 1994)
Lastly, I think Victor Frankenstein’s namesake from Corpse Bride (2005), Victor van Dort, holds many similarities in his character design:
Victor Frankenstein (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Victor van Dort (Corpse Bride, 2005),
Notably, Rick Heinrichs, who produced the original short film, was credited as the production designer in this version of the story. He has followed Tim Burton since his very first short film, Vincent (1982), partaking many different creative roles on several of his films – animator, production designer, art director and many more – and has also, without a doubt, played a great role in the execution of making these films look and feel like the Tim Burton films that we know.
In fact, many of the cast members have also collaborated with Tim Burton before and it is very obvious that this is a film made by a family people who all love the style deeply and wanted to make the best movie possible.
In the role of Mrs. Frankenstein, Weird Girl and the school’s gym teacher, we have Catherine O’Hara who played Winona Ryder’s horrible stepmother, Delia Deetz, in Tim Burton’s early film Beetlejuice (1988). She also did the iconic voice-acting of Sally the “rag doll” and the trick-or-treating menace, Shock, in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993 – directed by Henry Selick from the story by Tim Burton).
Martin Short, who plays Mr. Frankenstein, the town’s mayor Mr. Burgemeister and Victor’s classmate Nassor (who draws clear inspirations from look of The Monster in the earlier film adaptations of Frankenstein’s Monster), collaborated with Tim Burton on Mars Attacks! (1996) in the role of press secretary Jerry Ross.
Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Martin Landau voices Mr. Rzykruski, Victor’s Eastern European science teacher in the film. The first time Mr. Landau collaborated with Tim Burton was on Ed Wood (1994) and tonight I heard many similarities with his Hungarian accent from when he portrayed Bela Lugosi in the film. Later he also played the short role of Peter Van Garrett who gets his head chopped off in the first scene of Sleepy Hollow (1999).
Speaking of Mr. Rzykruski, I have a feeling that his character design is based on the horror icon Vincent Price, who played The Inventor in Edward Scissorhands (1990) and narrated Tim Burton’s early short film, Vincent (1982):
Mr. Rzykruski (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Winona Ryder plays Elsa Van Helsing (of course derived from Abraham Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula), worked together with Tim Burton in the roles of goth-chic Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice (1988) and Johnny Depp‘s love interest, Kim, in Edward Scissorhands (1990).
Elsa Van Helsing (Frankenweenie, 2012)
A recommendable watch is this interview with the cast and crew of Frankenweenie in which I think the interviewer asks some very smart questions:
Danny Elfman, who has scored almost every single one of Tim Burton’s films, composed the music for Frankenweenie too, of course. While watching the film, I was so captivated by the story that I only noticed the actual music a few times, but it was definitely flawless and followed the tone of the film perfectly. In my opinion, Tim Burton’s films, although visually stunning and beautifully told, are incomplete without the music. Howard Shore did a perfect job on Ed Wood (1994), but at the same time I kind of consider it as the “art film” of Tim Burton’s career and as one standing out from the rest in many ways. Not including Tim Burton’s musical Sweeney Todd (2007), Danny Elfman has created the musical landscape on every other of his feature films, - and beautifully so. Today, I can simply listen to the soundtracks and still get a proper “fix” in the shape of the emotional tone that I so love from Tim Burton’s films. I look forward to acquiring the soundtrack from this film and to dwell in its mood, time and time again.
The film isn’t very long, at a running time of only 87 minutes. Here it is important though to remember how elaborate it is to make a feature-length stop motion film and so it is all too fair that the film isn’t several hours long. The script was precise and to the point and a very good movie came out of it. It was written by John August, yet another common collaborator of Tim Burton’s. He also wrote the scripts for Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Corpse Bride (2005) and developed the story for Dark Shadows (2012) - all great films, in my opinion.
There might be other crew members in the credits that have collaborated with Tim Burton before that I don’t know of, but lastly I want to mention the Dane, Jørgen Klubien, who illustrated and storyboarded on the film. Klubien is known in Denmark from the 80′s pop group, Danseorkestret, but has also had a long career in animation, working in all the big studios on some of all the great productions (such as Toy Story 2 (1999), A Bug’s Life (1998) and The Little Mermaid (1989), to name a few). Of Tim Burton’s films he has worked on Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and now Frankenweenie (2012). I am not nationalistic in any way, but it does make me proud to know that a Dane made it big in Hollywood and got to work on such fantastic projects. His first job in America as an animator was in fact alongside Tim Burton and John Lasseter (who later founded Pixar) on the film The Fox and the Hound (1981) and, like them, he found the production to be very dreadful. He left Disney immediately afterwards.
If you understand Danish and know of the famous Danish TV show, “Troldspejlet”, you will enjoy this clip:
- if not, you will probably appreciate the beginning of the clip anyway, in which John Lasseter shows off his toys at the Pixar animation studios.
Comparisons between characters from Frankenweenie and their famous look-a-likes:
Nassor (Frankenweenie, 2012)
The Monster (Frankenstein, 1931)
Edgar (Frankenweenie, 2012)
Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931)
Karl (The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935)
Ygor (Son of Frankenstein, 1939)
Igor (Young Frankenstein, 1974)
Igor (The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993)
Igor (Igor, 2008)
Persephone (Frankenweenie, 2012)
The Monster’s Bride (The Bride of Frankenstein 1935)
- Not wanting to spoil the whole film, I have decided against comparing the film’s repertoire of monster pets to their classic monster counterparts. If you want to read more facts about the film, though, check out this awesome Frankenweenie Wiki site.
I can highly recommend Frankenweenie to anyone who either loves stop motion animation, the films of Tim Burton or a good, heart-warming, horror-inspired story.
P. S. I can’t wait for Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion to get released!