Frankenweenie is a beautiful black and white, stop-motion animated film by Tim Burton. It revolves around a boy named Victor Frankenstein, who’s only friend is his dog Sparky. After Sparky is killed in a tragic accident, Victor is inspired by his new science teacher to bring his best friend back to life using the lightning storms which occur nightly in this town. After an awesome “Frankenstein” inspired sequence and some appropriate emotional tension Sparky is brought back. Victor spends the next few days hiding Sparky in his attic while he’s at school, while Sparky escapes out the window to interact with the places, people, and animals that he remembers. It’s abundantly clear that Victor won’t be able to keep his secret for too long, and with the school science fair approaching, Victor’s classmates are hungry for ideas to win the big prize.
Frankweenie was a huge relief for someone like me who is such a huge fan of what Tim Burton can do when he is passionate about his work, and felt like he’s stumbled in some of his more recent efforts. This film feels much more in the vein of Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands than Dark Shadows. As anyone who knows about Tim Burton’s earlier years knows, Frankenweenie is inspired by a short film that was made by Tim Burton when he was employed at Disney (which, rumor has it, it got him fired). It’s so clear when watching this film that this was the realization of a long-time passion project for Burton. The models that are used for the animation are simple, but completely embody the style of what people would expect from a Tim Burton film. I loved that the models all felt slightly old and worn almost like antique dolls which helped add to the nostalgic 50’s horror movie aesthetic that suits the films so well. The story obviously borrows elements from classic black and white horror films, including inspirations for many of the characters that make-up the towns-people. While the story is inspired by others that came before it, it still manages to be original and unique, and I felt only mis-stepped slightly for about 10 minutes or so near the end, but regains it’s legs before the climax. The themes is Frankenweenie are very apparent, and while I feel Tim Burton’s work might be still too dark for some younger children, it is nice to see family films that value artistic integrity and strong thematic elements over marketability. If you are like me and have faith in Tim Burton’s ability to create beautiful and vivid films despite some of his more recent efforts, I highly recommend Frankenweenie.