Like most of Tim Burton’s films these days, I need to watch it twice before I can figure out if I like it or not. On the first pass, there’s always something that disagrees with me and leaves a sour taste in my mouth and that’s mostly because I’m comparing his new stuff with his old stuff. Which in my opinion; just ain’t right. A piece of art is a piece of art and should be judged purely on its own merits and not what has come before.
Speaking of which, Frankenweenie is the second full length stop-motion film actually directed by Tim (I’ll call him that because I feel we should be on first name terms by now), the first of them being Corpse Bride. Now the thing that made me go, “no fucking way” about Corpse Bride was its incredibly detailed facial expressions that they managed to get in there thanks to highly articulated puppets (you can look the process up yourself). And then with Coraline (another stop-motion film directed by Henry Selick who directed Nightmare Before Christmas), the facial expressions were amped up again with the assistance of prototype digital printing.
With Frankenweenie, Tim went to a different studio for the animation. Now, I’m not saying that it’s worse but it’s definitely different. Frankenweenie feels far more organic than Corpse Bride because it is (and the difference in the animation shows). So, bearing in mind that I had the high water mark from Corpse Bride (and Coraline) in mind when I saw this, the first time around I kept saying to myself, this looks a bit cheap.
But the fact is, it’s not. It’s quite beautifully animated and the lack of polish suits the story and subject matter. The story is taken from one of Tim’s early shorts of the same name (if you’ve got a DVD copy of Nightmare Before Christmas you’ll find it in the extras). The short is a live action ten (or so) minute piece which may or may not have got him fired from Disney all those years ago.
How times have changed. Anyhow, I had my doubts as to how they were going to stretch that simple story into film length but I think he did okay. The original is basically a Frankenstein pastiche of a boy wanting to bring the family pet back to life. That angle is kept but the way it’s been expanded to bring other characters and events into the fold and more interesting moments is really quite cool. It also gets a little bit meta which always brings me enjoyment when done right.
There are a handful of hit-and-miss throwaway gags (that are common in many a Burton film) but overall, it’s a lot of fun with some great voice acting and wonderful visual moments too.
Enjoy this with your kids.