I remember being 9 years old and rushing out to see what was on TV. My mom would be watching HBO or something. I’d ask to watch my shows (Disney!) and she would always say no. Sometimes I would stick around to see what she was watching…and one of those times, the movie just happened to be Beetlejuice. It was then, that I became enthralled with the dark world of Tim Burton.
Tim Burton, the man behind films like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, has resurrected a project he created almost 30 yrs ago, and brought to life a new set of misunderstood characters in Frankenweenie. But, the way Frankenweenie differs is that Frankenweenie comes from not only the mind of Tim Burton, but from his own childhood.
“This is a memory piece,” said Burton last week at a press junket held at Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, Ca, “so there are lots of feelings I had at the time… I try to personalize everything, even down to the settings- it was much more Burbank. Everything was much more sort of personalized, I guess.”
Frankenweenie is the story of a boy and his dog. A misunderstood, loner named Victor who prefers to do science projects and hang with his faithful, furry pet. When Sparky dies, Victor resurrects him a la Frankenstein, and soon, his classmates are on missions of their own to resurrect their pets…to disastrous consequences. But beyond the surface, Frankenweenie is a passion project of Tim’s.
“When I did the original short, it was based on real feelings as a kid with the dog and all of the Frankenstein movies and mixing that up, ” said Burton, “but as the years went on and I looked at the original drawings, and after working with stop motion quiet a bit, I went back to other memories of that time and remembering other kids at school and the weirdness of the way kids are and the teachers and other monster movies.”
For his cast, working with Tim on Frankenweenie was wonderful and no different than doing live action films. Martin Landau, who is the voice of reason in the movie- Mr. Ryzkruski, compared Burton’s style to that of Alfred Hitchcock and Woody Allen, “Good directors create a playground for the actors… they don’t direct a whole lot. They cast carefully and they let you loose. And stuff that happens- happens. All an audience wants to believe is what’s going on up there is happening for the first time ever. Tim understands that.”
“The experience very similar (to live action direction from Tim),” said Martin Short, who plays Mr. Frankenstein, the dad of Victor, “he’s excited to be there, he’s very joyful guy- its a very happy upset. He’s focused and very much wants to hear what you have to say and how you see it. He’s done the hiring, so it’s still coming from him. So as you go along, he narrows and refines and, ultimately achieves what he hopes to achieve.”
Winona Ryder, reuniting with Tim as the voice of Elsa Van Helsing, agreed and added “The experience is the reward…it’s the moment that you’re there and it’s being yanked into a present moment where you’re reacting and listening. Tim is so visually stunning, and creative and unique… but there is so much heart in it…it reminds me a lot of Tim cause for all the darkness that’s associated, there is such a purity there.”
“He inspires you. He gets excited,” says Catherine O’ Hara, who plays Victor’s Mom in the film, “it’s challenging and kinda thrilling and inspiring to work with him.”
For Frankenweenie, Tim brought back many of the talent he has worked with in numerous films before and added a few new names in child actors Charlie Tahan, who plays Victor and Atticus Shaffer, who plays Edgar “E” Gore. Both actors were excited to work with the legendary film maker, even if their time was limited. “I worked like 10-12 days total” said Charlie, “but it was spread out over 2-3 years.” Atticus touched on the subject over if kids would want to watch a Black and White film by saying, “Yes, shooting in Black and White was a risk, but that’s why Tim Burton did it cause only he can. Now kids can be introduced to the classics and want to watch all those great, old Black and White movies again.”
Frankenweenie is the first stop-time, black and white, 3D animation movie, which is both a break through and a risk. But Martin Landau feels that Burton “doesn’t use 3D to throw you off. He does it in a way to have you enter the movie. It adds an element that kinda welcomes you.”
However, there was no question ever in Burton’s mind about it being either Black and White or 3D, “it had to be stop motion and it had to be black and white, just because,” he stated, “the whole black and white issue is just part of it. It’s hard to put into words, for me, it just makes it more emotional, it makes it what it is. I felt so strongly about it if the studio said we’ll do the movie but it has to be in color, I just wouldn’t have done it.”
Disney, actually, originally fired him for creating the original Frankenweenie short back in 1984. “Now I’m back and now I’m out for revenge,” Burton added jokingly as the interview came to a close, ” well, talk to me (about how I feel) in a couple weeks.”
Frankenweenie opens today in theaters everywhere and is rated PG.
Disclosure: I attended a press event for the film as a media. No compensation was received. All opinions and thoughts are 100% my own.