The Falcon   |   Volume 83, Issue 53

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Frankenweenie returns Tim Burton to his roots

New stop-motion film is the first of its kind to appear in IMAX

By , Features Editor

Published: October 10 2012

This is a story about a boy and his dog. Well, at least with that classic Tim Burton spin on it.

Frankenweenie hit theaters just last Friday, marking Tim Burton’s third feature film as both writer and director.

It tells the tale of Vincent, a lonely boy whose only interests are science, movies and his dog Sparky. After Sparky’s tragic death, Vincent, armed with the know-how and encouragement of his science teacher (Martin Laundau), seeks to bring him back to life. The film pays homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, complete with character names and a climax at a hilltop windmill.

Like many of Burton’s films, it is a balancing act between being dark yet kid-friendly. Despite Frankenweenie’s somewhat morbid subject matter, he still keeps it fitting for the families.

Penning the film’s music is Burton’s longtime collaborator Danny Elfman, whose touching score hinted at the one he composed some 22 years ago for Edward Scissorhands.

Over the last few decades, Burton has produced and directed many films that, while bearing his visual M.O. and familiar chosen cast, were based on material not his own.

Frankenweenie not only returned Burton to writing, but it also brought him back to the stop-motion style most of us (assuming you were born in or prior to the ‘90s) associate with The Nightmare Before Christmas.

His style is all there: the creepy expressionist take on suburbia, populated with pale-skinned, black hair and wide-eyed quirky characters.

What viewers may not be aware of is that Frankenweenie is a remake of a short film Burton originally did under Disney’s logo, Buena Vista (the last to bear its Buena Vista name). It was a short film released in 1984 that starred Shelley Duvall (The Shining) and Daniel Stern (Home Alone).

Twenty-eight years later, it returned in full force, making it the very first black and white, stop-motion film to be released in IMAX 3D according to

While the film not only retraces Burton’s steps stylistically, it also brought him back to his own personal roots. Much like the film’s hero, Burton grew up fond of making short films in his backyard, painting and drawing.

Born and raised in the suburbs of Burbank, Calfornia, (for a visual representation, watch any episode of The Wonder Years) he later attended California Institute of The Arts where he studied animation.

While making his own short films that would define his quirky and dark style, Burton worked as an animator for Disney on films including The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, and Tron.

Decades later, Burton still continues to make movies instilled with his dark undertones that bring audiences to laughter and tears before the reel is up.

Frankenweenie is proof that his style isn’t stale as he continues to refine it with future works.

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