That most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us. A time of giving and sharing, scaring and caring. It’s Halloween, of course! So to celebrate this most awesome of holidays, let’s have a look at Tim Burton’s stop motion homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
In 1984, a young animator working for Disney had grown tired of drawing cute children and anthromorphasized animals. He longed to create more gothic and darker animation. He made a short live-action film based on Frankenstein that squeaky clean Disney deemed to dark for audiences and fired him. That young animator was non-other than Tim Burton. Almost 30 years after his dismissal, Disney have allowed the director to recreate his short into a full length feature animation, Frankenweenie.
A stop-motion film of length will take on average three years to complete but you see the work in every movement of its characters. The form of stop-motion has always been associated with horror and the more eerie of tales. Drawn animation is an artistic impression of events, CGI is a computer generated impression where as stop-motion is objects moving by themselves. Combined with the decision to make the film in black and white, Frankenweenie has a rare charm to it.
Burton’s innocent take on Mary Shelly’s classic is genuinely heartwarming. Opposed to the original Shelly character harnessing life for curiosities sake, Victor manipulates lightning because he misses his best friend. When his school peers try their own experiments and unleash a gruesome crew of creatures on the town, the original message that life should never be tampered with is still present. The entire film is a homage to not just Frankenstein but the classics of the horror. The references come fast and thick showing Burton's love of the genre. From characters names, (Frankenstein/Van Helsing/Persephone/Egore) to a Werewolf and Mummy cameo.
Fans of Burton will do the inevitable comparison to The Nightmare Before Christmas but this is a brilliant stand alone film and a welcomed breath of fresh air from the fiasco that was Dark Shadows. You feel a lot of young Victor is actually based on Burton himself giving the character real depth. The film is a simple boy and his dog tale with a slightly darker edge. Expect tears and laughter at its conclusion; it will certainly leave Burton fans thirsty for his next stop-motion film.
But the big question is; where does Sparky rank in Burton's trio of undead dogs, Zero from Nightmare and Scraps from Corpse Bride?
Well, Zero was the original and Scraps can roll over without moving his head.
But, Sparky really is a boys best friend.