After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life – with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation – but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town learn that getting a new ‘leash on life’ can be monstrous.
Boasting an electrifying variety of bonus materials on Blu-ray and DVD, the stop-motion animated masterpiece is filled with quirky characters and unexpected twists. The madcap movie features an all-star cast including the voices of Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell and Winona Ryder.
We catch up with the film’s director, Tim Burton, to find out more…
How would you describe the story of Frankenweenie?
To me, it’s a simple, classic story about a boy and his dog. It’s a simple wishful story based on real emotion, with a Frankenstein-style twist. It’s about special memories, special times and special people. It’s about kids, it’s about school and it’s about Burbank, which is where I grew up.
Did you base the teachers in the movie on any of your old teachers at school?
I think Frankenweenie uses a combination of a few old teachers of mine that were both slightly scary and abstract, as well as inspiring at the same time. There are always a few teachers in your life where you think, ‘Wow, who’s that? What’s that all about?’ They certainly have a lot of impact on you.
Frankenweenie is about a boy named Victor who uses the power of science to bring his dog back to life. Did you have a special dog in your life as a kid?
I had a dog that was named Pepe when I was a kid. He was a mutt and he had a disease that meant he wasn’t supposed to live very long, but he lived longer than expected. He was a great dog.
What do you like about pets?
When you’re young, a pet is the first pure relationship that you have. If you’re lucky enough to have a pet that you love, it connects right to your heart. I was lucky enough to have a special pet that I had that kind of relationship with: Pepe.
Do you like the unconditional love of dogs?
I do. Dogs are great. You walk outside and you realize you’ve forgotten your keys, so you head back inside two seconds later and it’s like you’ve been gone for three years. You go out again, come back three seconds later and – oh my God – it’s been another three years! People don’t do that. People don’t react that way. Dogs do.
What movies inspired you as a child?
I responded to all kinds of horror movies. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature From The Black Lagoon. I could go on mentioning movies for hours…
Did you find horror movies scary when you were younger?
No, I didn’t. I didn’t find monsters frightening because real people are much more scary. Who hasn’t had an aunt or uncle lean down to kiss you that made you feel like a monster was attacking you? That’s pretty common. Everybody’s experienced that.
Do you have any other scary memories from real life?
When I was young, I had this dentist. All I can remember is that he had nostrils that were so big you could see every hair in his nose. I remember that clearly. It’ll be the last thing I remember; my dying image. I’ll see one final hair in his nostril; blowing in the breeze like a little field of wheat!
If you were fine with horror movies, what did give you nightmares as a child?
I didn’t have nightmares. My parents said that was a very strange thing, but I never had them. I watched horror movies religiously as a kid, but they never scared me.
Did you play any sports growing up?
A little bit. My dad was a baseball player. He was a professional athlete, so I did play sports and I liked it – but I guess I was more interested in movies and animation.
Was it always your dream to be a filmmaker?
I don’t think I had a specific dream. I made little stop-motion films like a lot of other kids and at one point I thought I’d try to become an animator. I liked to draw and they were starting Cal Arts nearby, so I thought I might as well try it out – but that was about as clear as it was.
What advice would you give to children who want to make it in the filmmaking industry?
I get asked this question a lot, but my problem is there’s no logical answer. I’ve been very lucky. The only thing I can suggest is to do what you like to do – whether it’s drawing or music or writing – and then hope for the best. I got lucky, but it took a while. I don’t think there are any shortcuts.
Where do you keep all of your ideas?
I keep them in drawers at home, although I’m not too organized. I have a bunch of sketchbooks all over the place, so it’s quite chaotic.
Is it true that you always carry a pocket-sized sketchbook around with you wherever you go?
I usually carry a little notebook with me and I’ll write down ideas when they come into my mind, or I’ll sketch things out.
Do you get up in the middle of the night and reach for your notebook with new ideas?
Sometimes, but not every night. Usually, you wake up the next morning and read your ideas back, but they aren’t the best ideas in the world. You think to yourself, ‘What kind of nonsense is that?’
Frankenweenie is your first stop-motion movie since Corpse Bride, which was released in 2005. How much has the technology changed since then?
It hasn’t changed at all. It’s still the same. It’s a technique that still involves an animator moving a puppet at 24 frames per second – but that’s why I love it. That’s why everyone loves it. There’s something thrilling about going back to the simplicity of stop-motion puppets and seeing a story come to life. It’s very magical.
Was it difficult to persuade Disney to make a black and white movie?
Strangely enough, it wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve had trouble getting black and white films made in the past, but I think Disney immediately understood what I wanted to do with Frankenweenie. The stop-motion technique in black and white makes it much more special and it fits the story better. It’s more emotional that way, so I’m very grateful that it wasn’t a big deal.
Frankenweenie is out on Blu-Ray, DVD and 3D Blu-Ray on February 27th, 2013.