- Vintage Feel
- Stop Motion Animation
- Tim Burton Features
Writers: John August (Screenplay), Tim Burton (Story), Leonard Ripps (story)
Producers: Tim Burton, Allison Abbate, Derek Frey, Don Hahn, Connie Nartonis Thompson, Simon Quinn
Cinematographer: Peter Song Editors: Chris Lebenzon, Mark Solomon
Music: Danny Elfman
Cast: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Christopher Lee, Conchata Ferrell, James Hiroyuki Liao, Tom Kenny
If the idea were proposed to make a film regarding the grim and grotesque, many people would have no idea where to begin. Exactly how do you make what is highly unattractive so beautiful and accepted? The answer to this is quite simple. Be Timothy Burton.
The man has single handedly made a name for himself through the dark horrors and misunderstood that are usually coined as outcast by society. For many, including myself, Tim Burton is a giant in the realms of inspiration. He made it okay to be weird and socially awkward. The beautifully grim can be accepted and they will be.
As the sketches resonating from Burton’s mind continue to come to life, he never fails to put them on display for audiences worldwide. Although I personally enjoy some of his earlier work better than his more recent works, I’m still a fan of it all. One film that recently has been given life from Burton’s mind is the brilliant Frankenweenie. Released on Friday, October 5th of this year, Frankenweenie shows how masterfully unique and creative Timothy Burton really is.
As the trials of adolescence are tough on most, young Victor is shown to be as no exception. His best friend is not one that sits next to him in class or in the synchronized seating at the lunch table. In fact, he cannot even speak with his best friend for it cannot speak words. This character is Victor’s dog, Sparky, taking the saying “Man’s best friend” literally.
One day an unfortunate situation unfolds that leaves Sparky lifeless from the fender of a driving car. Left with no real friend and a strong loss of hope, Victor comes up with the idea of trying to revive Sparky from the dead. As the young boy is a prodigy in the world of science he uses electricity to rejuvenate the dog’s muscles and ultimately his life.
Victor’s mad scientist-like ways bring Sparky back from the dead; however, this marvelous act comes with repercussions. Of course his secret cannot be hidden forever, and a few school friends decide to conduct the experiments for themselves on their own dead pets. Unfortunately, these experiments do not end as ideally as Victor’s, and instead cause a world of chaos and destruction for their town. It’s now up to Victor to figure out a solution to his biggest dilemma yet.
In the aspects of animation there are certain rules or guidelines that help connect the characters to the viewers, such as the emotions of facial features, expressions, body movements, etc. One of the best individuals to understand this concept and take it to perfection is Mr. Burton. As his characters are always featured through their grim and horrifying features he has to humanize them in a stronger manner than a cute adorable character in order for the audience to connect with him or her.
Burton usually does this well, but in Frankenweenie he did this with astronomical success. Every character had a unique personality trait that allowed the viewer to easily connect with any one of them. From the main characters to the minors, all were memorable in their own way. It was clear how much thought and detail was put into creating these characters and bringing them to life.
The cast matched their characters’ visual appearances superbly. Victor, voiced by the young Charlie Tahan, was excellent. He did not overact and surely did not underact. He was perfect for the atmosphere brought out by the visual expectance of his character. There was not a single point in the film where I did not fully believe in him.
Catherine O’Hara did a wonderful job as the voice of the trio Mrs. Frankenstein, Weird Girl, and the Gym Teacher. All three of these characters were completely different in almost every way possible. I could not even tell that she voiced all three roles. The weird girl is by far my favorite of the three as her character is one of the most memorable in the film.
Martin Short also did wonders as he voiced the three roles of Mr. Frankenstein, Mr. Burgemeister, and Nassor. Although not as enjoyable as O’Hara’s set of three, he still did an excellent job with the variety of personalities and characteristics. Both did a great job playing multiple roles, and I think it was a great idea to cast two actors for six characters rather than casting six individual actors.
I also enjoyed the character Edgar ‘E’ Gore. Voiced by the incredibly young Atticus Shaffer, Edgar is one of the more detailed characters in the attributes of weirdness. Every time he appeared on-screen I would laugh in enjoyment. Although his purpose was not to steal the show, I thoroughly enjoyed his character and thought Atticus did an excellent job in replicating life into the animation. All in all, the cast was fairly short as Burton relied on multiple actors to play numerous characters. They all did an excellent job.
The Stop-Motion Animation
When viewing films that utilize the classical animation technique of stop-motion, I instantly become filled with nostalgia. As the technology revolving around the animation industry has experienced exponential growth, more directors and production houses are opting out of a complete computer generated film and choosing the traditional ways of stop-motion.
Earlier in the year, LAKIA studios released a similar feature, ParaNorman, which used highly advanced techniques for creating the stop-motion. In my opinion they did it brilliantly; however, after seeing Frankenweenie I was just as impressed, if not more impressed. The artists working with Burton to create the models for this film were perfect. It blows my mind what these masters of their craft can achieve. They have the ability to make Burton’s unique ideas come to life in a manner of ingeniousness. So much thought and detail went into everything from the scenery to the attire and physical features that gave them life. Even the animals that were both alive and dead had so much personality.
The movements with characters like Edgar were excellent. His fingers looked and moved like spider legs as he connived his way through the film. Sparky and the rest of the animals were all animated brilliantly as well. Sparky moved and acted like a real dog, yet the artists juxtaposed a bit of awkwardness and weirdness into his character that completely deemed him a Burton creation. There is something about stop-motion that cannot be achieved with any other medium, and, for myself, I absolutely love it.
The Vintage Feel
Old school is new school. The vintage feel is coming back like never before. Feature films are straying from the normal ideals of Hollywood and heading back to the traditional aspects of Classical Hollywood. The Artist, which was released in 2011 and won five Oscars, is completely black-and-white with a silent film atmosphere revolving around the strips. Creating a film for today’s audiences that used early cinematic aspects was a daring move on director Michel Hazanavicus’ part. Similarly, Burton decided to continue his visions of Frankenweenie to establish a vintage feel.
The lack of color showcases what brilliance the affect can achieve. The entire film feels like a tribute to earlier cinema from when Burton was a child. It was a great decision that worked out for the absolute best. I fell in love with the lack of color as I enjoy the black and whites of earlier Hollywood. It was refreshing to actually see people enjoy the vintage feel and embrace it openly. The film wouldn’t be the same if it were in color.
The Musical Score
As Tim Burton can definitely be considered an auteur director, he has many features and styles that clearly label a film as a “Tim Burton film.” Along with his trademark grim characteristics, he also uses actors repetitively and stays true to his musical department.
Danny Elfman has composed the musical scores for Burton since Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985. He consistently proves his brilliance in the musical department as he’s been nominated for four Oscars. Although I thought the musical score for Frankenweenie was great, as usual, it was a bit underminded. I would have enjoyed the music to be a little more prominent, but, in this case, the visual features over powered Elfman slightly.
Too Rushed At Times
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the film and the overall storyline there were a few moments that struggled. Near the end of the film, a few of the situations occurred a bit too quickly and just kind of fell open rather than unfolding smoothly. Everything from the moment the dead animals were being brought back to life to their terrorization of the town seemed a little rushed. It was nothing big, but I wish Burton would’ve made the film a little longer, which would then create smoother transition into the ending.
Overall Score: 4/5
I fell in love with Frankenweenie from the first moment the reel directed my attention to the screen. I am a huge fan of Tim Burton, and with that being said, this was definitely one of my favorite of his feature films. It was refreshing to see Burton return to what made his name in the first place. I loved that the vintage feel, made present through the atmosphere and the stop-motion, took us back in time. Frankenweenie was brilliant and everyone involved did a superb job — from the cast and crew bringing these characters to life to the musical score by Danny Elfman.