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Two weeks ago, the nice folks at Disney treated the Mama (and other local media and special guests) here in our home town to a special early screening of FRANKENWEENIE! She’s been pretty much bursting at the seams every second of every day since to woof all about it. When it comes to Tim Burton, Stop Motion Animation, Classic horror films and Disney, the Mama is one of those uber-nerdy fan girls, so it’s safe to say that this one event was easily the highlight of her September. I don’t think I could keep her quiet on the topic for even one more single second.
(I’m lovin’ these old style movie posters!)
Can I just start this out by saying that I woofing love Tim Burton?
I am a HUGE fan of all his work, but nothing gets me as excited as his animated pictures. Nobody brings the art of puppets and stop-motion animation to life like he does. I can’t imagine the work that goes into it! There are 24 frames in every second of a stop motion film. 24 frames! Do you know what that means? The animator has to stop an repoition the puppet 24 times to get a single second of film. That’s absolutely insane and totally amazing. I would watch Frankenweenie again on mute just to marvel at the animation and how the characters move.
Frankenweenie Animator Matias Liebrecht animating Victor on the Attic set.
Ph. Leah Gallo (c) 2011 Disney Enterprises Inc.
The style is especially well fitted to Frankenweenie. The stops and small jumps in the filming add an unanticipated layer of authenticity to the story. Just like all the great horror classics, Frankenweenie is filmed entirely in black & white. I won’t lie, I was so concerned that the lack of colour would be boring, but the complexity of the lights vs the darks, the hues and saturation really bring the movie to life in an “old school” horror feel in a way that colour animation never could have captured.
Let’s get honest for a moment: I hate most 3-D movies. I find too many focus on those “gratuitous” 3D moments: the water drop, the flying insect, the sword across the screen. Those moment drive me insane, but I have to say Disney has a real knack for using just enough 3D to enhance the story and not enough to be really distracting. (On that note, the theater fell into a hushed, reverent silence as the trailers announced Monsters Inc in 3D. This December. I will see you there.)
OK, now that I’m done geeking out over the animation, let’s talk story.
In a town full of weird people and odd stories, Victor Frankenstein seems like a normal kid. Normal enough, that is, until he loses his dog Sparky in a tragic car accident then decides to bring him back from beyond the grave.
Now, if you’re a classic horror buff like me, you’ll notice that Burton has built in a ton of nods to the horror greats. It was so cool to see references to the Original Frankenstein, Vincent Price, Dracula, the Werewolf and more. (There’s a TON of references in there.)
What really made Frankenweenie fun was the characters.
They’ve captured Sparky’s “doggyness” to a T. Actually, they’ve captured Kolchak’s doggyness to a T! Sparky is so much like my Koly that I teared up when he got hit by a car. Dog lover’s will delight in the little touches that make Sparky a dog. The main human character might be his boy, Victor, but to me, the real star of the show was Sparky.
The background characters are weird, wild and creepy, a la classic Tim Burton. One character (and her cat) stole every single scene they were in with their giant, unblinking eyes, while the teacher character was laugh out loud funny and had the audience roaring. Each of Victor’s classmates had their own unique creepiness to them and a whole lot of laughs were had at their expense. An all-star cart of Martin Landau, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder brought Burton’s characters to life.
The only criticism? The characters didn’t seem fully developed to me. Almost like they were trapped in the role of the character that they were paying homage. I know that might seem like an odd criticism of a Disney movie, but I expect a lot from my cartoons! Movies these days cater to more than just the youth audience and I would have liked to see the characters learn some lessons, grow up a bit and maybe deal with the fact that sometimes, letting go of our pets is the right thing to do.
All in all, I give Frankenweenie four very enthusiastic paws up.
It’s creepy, a bit scary, features an adorable, endearing as woof dog and it’s the perfect way to get humans and tiny humans alike all revved up for the excitement of Halloween.
And it starts today, October 5th!
Grab your popcorn and gummy candy and head to your nearest theatre, then come back and woof with us! We’d love to hear what you thought of the movie!
Check out the Frankenweenie Facebook page for all sorts of movie fun including an app that let’s you Frankenweenie-fy your pet!
(Check back later today for some fan-franken-tastic adoptable Franken-Puggles!)