Tim Burton has been a remake fiend with his versions of Dark Shadows, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Finally he’s remade one of his own early movies with Frankenweenie. The original was a 30 minute film, and it marked his transition from animator to live-action filmmaker at Disney.
Frankenweenie had been pegged to be released with a theatrical reissue of Pinocchio in 1984. Disney executives felt the short was too traumatic for young viewers. They yanked Frankenweenie from the double feature. Burton’s directing deal with the Mouse ended swiftly. Why did they think a movie about a boy resurrecting his dead dog would be G-rated friendly in the first place? Once Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice became hits, Disney felt less ashamed of the short. They had it play festivals and put it out on VHS. In a case of time and success heals all wounds, Disney offered Tim Burton a chance to transform Frankenweenie into a feature film.
Burton changed up a lot of things in the reimagining of his first major project. While the original was live action, Burton gave a cartoon feel in the production design. The new film relies on the stop motion techniques used in his The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. The action gets heightened thanks to the glory of 3-D. This isn’t your father’s Frankenweenie. He did keep it in black and white since it’s a homage to his favorite Universal Monster movies.
The story does begin the same with the tale of a loner boy who enjoys making monster movies with his pet dog as the star. Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is quite happy up in the attic making movies with Sparky. His father (Mars Attacks‘ Martin Short) and mother (Beetlejuice‘s Catherine O’Hara) want him to be more active and social. He accepts their desire which leads to a tragic consequence. Their next family activity is Sparky’s funeral at the pet cemetery. During science class, Mr. Rzykruski (Ed Wood‘s Martin Landau) demonstrates how electricity can reanimate a dead frog. The young Frankenstein takes the experiment to the next level to put a spark in Sparky. Things go wrong when his classmates revive their dead pets. It’s up to Victor and Sparky to prevent the town from being destroyed by an undead giant turtle that isn’t Gamera.
This is my favorite Tim Burton remake. He touches base with so much of his career. The suburban neighborhood looks like a black and white version of where Edward Scissorhands) took place. He brings back many of his rep company actors including Winona Ryder (Edward Scissorhands). Christopher Lee somewhat makes a cameo when Victor’s parents watch a Hammer Horror on the TV. The big shocker is a lack of Johnny Depp. After their work on Dark Shadows, this is a good thing. Burton doesn’t need his proxy on the set when he can shape the stop motion figure of Victor to be his emotional doppelgänger. This film has a bit more emotional connection than Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows. Frankenweenie has revived Tim Burton.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfers brings out a richness to the black and white photography. The tribute to Frankenstein’s lab snaps on the screen. The audio is 7.1 DTS HDMA. It really does wrap around your ears to go along with the 3-D image. There’s also an Dolby 2.0 mix, French 7.1 dub and Spanish 5.1 dub. The subtitles are in English, Spanish and French.
Captain Sparky vs. The Flying Saucers (2:26) sends the dog into outer space to battle Martians and cats. Hard to tell if it’s a true short or a deleted scene that works on its own.
Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life (23:06) exposes the fact that Tim Burton lives most of his time in England. It discusses how the original short melded his love of animation with live action. They explain stop motion animation.
Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit (4:36) appears to be an exhibit shown at a comic book convention. Fans get to see how big the stars really are.
Original Live-Action Frankenweenie Short (30:03) gives us the movie Tim Burton remade. Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Shelley Duvall (The Shining) are the parents of the boy and his reborn dog. The short was previously part of The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray.
Plain White T’s Pet Sematary Music Video (3:54) has their cover of the Ramones title song to Pet Sematary. Not nearly as good as the Ramones. Features a lot of clips from the film to break up the lackluster miming.
Blu-ray 3-D, DVD and Digital Copy means you’ll never have to be without Frankenweenie.
Frankenweenie finally lets Tim Burton expand upon his early short film. Even with an extra hour of running time, the movie maintains a quick pace. This is the best Tim Burton’s been in quite a while. The inclusion of the original Frankenweenie will let you enjoy both the live action and the 3-D stop motion animation version of the story. The story reminds us that there’s no limit to the love between a boy and dog with enough electrical current.
Disney presents Frankenweenie. Directed by: Tim Burton. Screenplay by: John August. Starring: Martin Short, Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hare and Winona Ryder. Running Time: 87 minutes. Rated: PG. Released: January 8, 2013. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Batman, dark shadows, Ed Wood, Frankenweenie, Gamera, tim burton, Winona Ryder