Frankenweenie is a story about the love between a boy and his dog – and just in time for Halloween, in typical Tim Burton fashion, it’s a somewhat dark story.
Victor is a solitary boy, friendless and fixated on the monster movies he makes in his backyard. His constant companion is Sparky, a loyal dog whose life revolves around Victor and fetch.
When an attempt to fetch a ball goes awry, Victor is left without his beloved Sparky. But thanks to his mysterious new science teacher, Victor comes up with a theory for bringing his dog back to life. Though his plan works, he cannot predict the complications that spring from having his dog back. His town suddenly becomes the scene of a real-life monster movie and it's up to Victor to save them.
Director Tim Burton based this film on the love he had for his childhood dog and how difficult it is for a child to come to terms with a pet’s loss. He first told this story as a live-action short in 1984 before turning it into a feature film almost 30 years later.
For Burton, telling this story in parallel to the classic Frankenstein tale through his signature stop-motion animation made perfect sense. “It was just something about the power of creating something out of nothing,” he says. “There’s a beauty to stop motion, and there is something in it that mirrors the Frankenstein story of where you’re taking an inanimate object and bringing it to life. There’s an energy to that, that you can’t quite get in any other form.”
Set in an unspecified, nostalgic time, the movie has the feel of a 1940s monster movie. It’s the first animated feature film ever filmed in black and white. To Burton, that choice is like another character in the movie. “Seeing this kind of animation that way, there’s a certain depth and a certain way people and objects go in and out of shadows that’s quite interesting, and again very much a part of the story.” It looks incredible in 3D, which makes the intricate details of the puppets and set really capture the eye.
This is Burton’s first animated movie with Disney, who keeps it family-friendly with jokes suitable for kids and grown-ups alike. Kids can relate to the uncertainty of having a new teacher, the feeling of being the odd one out, and the determination to hide something from parents. There are a few suspenseful scenes that will make young children gasp, but nothing is terrifying or gruesome. The oddball characters, from Edgar "E" Gore to Weird Girl, will entertain both kids and adults.
I highly recommend this film. Funny, sweet, and visually stunning, it’s well worth 90 minutes of your time. If you’re a sucker for dog stories like I am, you may even need a tissue.
Check out the trailer, then find it in a theater near you.
Frankenweenie comes out Friday, October 5. Rated PG. Starring Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, and Winona Ryder.
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