- Released internationally on 05/11/12
- Released in Malta by KRS on 07/11/12
Frankenweenie is a rather odd little gem. As a very personal project by the very unique Tim Burton, it’s his characteristic vision in all its gothic, macabre and irreverent glory. But it remains a fairytale at heart, and features a very lovable dog, albeit recently deceased, at its core.
Burton first made Frankenweenie as a 30-minute short back in 1984, when he was still in his pre-Beetlejuice and Batman obscurity. You can watch it on YouTube if you don’t mind spoiling the surprise. It was a live action short in black and white, and due to its unusual length and debatable child-friendliness, it ended up as a mere extra on the DVDs for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
This full-blown, full-length adaptation is done with the same stop-motion animation that made Nightmare so special, and has thankfully been left in monochrome which adds so much to the atmosphere and lends a nod to the Frankenstein films of old. As soon as the playful Disney logo turns grey and dark, and Danny Elfman’s score turns foreboding, children and adults alike should know that they’re in for something rather different.
In a nutshell, the story is about a young, smart and inventive boy, who is a bit of an outcast and prefers to pass the time alone in his attic, inventing. When his beloved dog Sparky dies suddenly, he finds a way to harness lightning and bring him back to life. But inevitably word gets around, and his jealous classmates use the invention on other creatures, with less romantic effects. The story also portrays the fight between progress and tradition, with the Salvador Dali-esque (and Vincent Price-inspired) science teacher (voiced marvellously by Martin Landau), facing resistance from the town locals when he tries to challenge the minds of his pupils.
Nods to other Burton films abound, with the suburban setting being practically identical to that of Edward Scissorhands, and the resurrected Sparky looking uncannily like the Penguin from Batman Returns. And I think I even detected a nod to the old Rankin/Bass stop-motion classic Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, whose evil Burgermeister is reborn as this town’s mayor.
If you enjoy Tim Burton films, you’ll love this. If you enjoy films that champion the oddballs and the quiet types, you’ll love this. If you want to show your kids something less fluffy and sparkly than usual, here’s a chance to take them on a PG tour of the dark side.