You can't keep a good dog down. In Tim Burton's macabre but kid-friendly Frankenweenie, spunky pup Sparky gets a new "leash on life" even after he's fatally struck by a car. Bereft about Sparky's death, 10-year-old Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) reanimates his decomposing pet in an attic laboratory that would make James Whale proud.
For his latest goth-pop experiment, director Burton grave-robs from cinema's horror legends but also adds his own trademark touches. How does he stitch together all the parts to build a monstrously entertaining movie?
Read on...if you dare!
1. He Digs Up a Project That Could've Killed His Career: Burton has resurrected and expanded upon his 1984 live-action short, also titled Frankenweenie, which he made while working at Walt Disney Pictures. The Mouse House fired Burton after they deemed the 30-minute film too scary for young audiences. Ah, but success is the best revenge. Nearly three decades and a bazillion box-office dollars later, Burton has reteamed with Disney to produce this animated, full-length remake.
2. He Goes Old School, With a Classic Style and Look: Frankenweenie features stop-motion animation, one of the oldest animation styles. It's Burton's third film to use the time-intensive process, following his hits The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Filming took two years and required more than 200 puppets, including 18 Victors and 15 Sparkys. As an homage to horror films of the 1930s (and as he did in Ed Wood), Burton photographed Frankenweenie in moody black-and-white, which involved more than, um, 50 shades of gray.
3. Shocker! Johnny Depp Is Nowhere in Sight (or Sound): Abandoning his usual muse, Burton has opted instead for a voice cast with four other past collaborators: Catherine O'Hara (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), Martin Short (Mars Attacks!), Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands) and Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow). Landau steals every scene here as the Vincent Price-inspired science teacher Mr. Rzykruski. Watch for his evil-genius lecture about lightning— bwa-ha-ha-ha!
4. He Does the Monster Mash-Up, and It's a Graveyard Smash: As a child, Burton loved watching classic horror movies, especially Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff as the flat-headed, bolt-necked creature. In addition to Karloff, Frankenweenie pays tribute to such screen gods and monsters as Peter Lorre, Elsa Lanchester (the Bride in The Bride of Frankenstein), Godzilla, the Werewolf, the Mummy, vampires—even Sea-Monkeys. Basically, Burton releases everything but the Kraken!
5. A Bunch of Burton-isms: Despite the many cinematic allusions, Frankenweenie is unmistakably a Burton creation—it's Burtonstein! From the offbeat suburban setting (think Edward Scissorhands) to the cemetery on the hill (see also The Nightmare Before Christmas) to the spindly-legged, wide-eyed characters (Jack Skellington, Victor Van Dort, et al.) to the loner, misunderstood protagonist (uh, all Burton movies), Frankenweenie bears the veteran director's stamp on every painstakingly animated frame.