Saturday, 27 October 2012

Monsters, Pets and Classic Movie Elements

I could have called this post, 'I really want a dog like Sparky' but I thought better of it.

Frankenweenie, the latest offering from the master of weird and wonderfull, is the first black and white animated feature to be made. It is also the second film with the same subject made by Burton. He made a live action short in 1984 which was meant to be shown with another disney film but was cut because the tone didn't fit with the feature.

The other day I saw Frankenweenie and absolutely fell in love with it, and Sparky. Tim Burton's latest animated tale is, obviously, inspired by and in some ways follows the story of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. But simply its about Victor Frankenstein, a boy who loves making home movies and experimenting in his attic. He also loves his dog Sparky. After a tragic accident he decides to bring him back from the dead after being inspired by his teacher. The experiment is a success and they are reunited again. But with every tale like this, someone finds out, Edgar the class hunchback creep who blackmails Victor into telling him how he did it. From there all hell, in a way, breaks lose. Other children start experimenting with lost pets and things they find on the street. There is a riot, a fire in a Windmill and further strange occurrences.

This, like Nightmare before Christmas and Corpse Bride, is typical Tim Burton. Apart from the animation style and the way characters look, this film feels more like his live action films. There are plenty of hints and nods to classic monster and horror films but there are also hints to Tim Burton's own films. The houses look like the ones in Edward Scissor Hands, the windmill that features quite prominently reminds of the one from Sleepy Hollow. Victor's talents in amateur film making is a hint to Ed Wood. The entire black and white tone of the film makes the film feel like a 50's horror B movie. These hints to the classics will be lost on children, like the moment when the poodle next door gets an electric shock and ends up with a familiar streak in her poodle hair do, resembling Frankenstein's bride. Little moments like that make the film a work of genius.

There is one downside to this amazing film, the fact it will become a cult film in the wrong way. Just like Nightmare before Christmas became an iconic film for emo kids, turning Jack Skeleton into a tacky mascot. I saw that film for the first time, the whole way through last year and its a brilliant film that was ruined by this emo-ness. Corpse Bride went the same way for a while but then disappeared. I can enjoy this film for a while before its over blown and hopefully safe from the emo kids or whatever is left over.

The amount of work that went into making each puppet always amazed me. There were 12 puppets for Sparky made and 17 Victors, over 200 puppets were made altogether. Another interesting fact, Crew members with pets that had passed away were invited to submit their names to the production design team. Many of the tombstones in the pet cemetery actually bear the names of real pets.

It was hilarious and really sad but can enjoyed by all, Frankenweenie is definitively on its way to being a classic animated  black and white film.

Below are some alternative posters for the outcome of the dead pet experiments.


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