Way back in 1984, director Tim Burton released the cult classic Frankenweenie. The live-action short film, featuring Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern, was a tribute to Frankenstein, both the Mary Shelley novel and the 1931 Universal Pictures film adaptation. The difference is, instead of resurrecting a human being, young Victor Frankenstein reanimates his pet dog, Sparky.
Though the live-action short film was well liked by many, Burton’s original plan was to make a feature-length, stop-motion animated film.
|Director Tim Burton in the character shop|
Twenty-eight years later, that original concept is finally being fulfilled with the October 5, 2012 release of Walt Disney Pictures’ Frankenweenie. The story is the same – and in a brave, uncompromising movie, Burton’s film will be released in black and white. That’s always a commercially risky move, but entirely appropriate for a Frankenstein pastiche.
Frankenweenie has a built-in audience, given Burton’s previous stop-motion classics, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. I’ll freely admit, even the theatrical trailer caused me to tear up – I think this story hits a real emotional chord with pet owners who have experienced the loss the agony of losing their furry friend.
According to the press notes, all of the characters in Frankenweenie where based on Tim Burton’s own drawings – some of which date back to the ’84 short film, while other were newly drafted for the 2012 feature.
The level of detail that went into the creation of the characters, based on those drawings, is incredible. Quoting from the press notes, the team of artists “sculpted them into three-dimensional sculptures, which are then cast in a combination of silicone and latex. Their costumes are all sewn with miniature stitches to keep in scale. Wigs are made for them from real human hair and then applied strand by strand so that the puppets have a more realistic hairline. Inside each puppet there is a metal armature, which acts like a skeleton and gives the animator the ability to move the puppets.”
When the film hits IMAX 3D in October, it will mark two notable acheivements for that format: first black and white IMAX 3D release, and first stop-motion feature in IMAX 3D (of course, the film will also be released in 2D). Among the voice talents are Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, and Martin Landau. Longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman scored the film, while John August (screenwriter of Burton’s Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Corpse Bride) scripted.