London Film Festival has opened its doors to screen members 24th of September 2012. Located in lots of different venues, the festival is hosting lots of known titles around the world. It was a great atmosphere carried by the host American Express in London with lots of people around the world. On Wednesday 10th October new animated feature film by Tim Burton “Frankenweenie” gave start to the 56th London Film Festival to the press members and festival attenders. On the comfortable leopard print seats in the Odeon Leicester Square Cinemas “Frankenweenie” met with it’s first audience.
“Frankenweenie” is a brilliant black-and-white stop motion animation from the very talented and imaginative director of the recent year Tim Burton. It is a heart-warming story about a boy and his dog. After Victor loses his dog Sparky, he uses the power of science to bring him back to life, which causes bigger problems in the town of New Holland, as his practice is used for bad by other kids in the school.
The Burtonesque mood starts from the very beginning of the film, maybe even before the film starts as the Disney logo turns black and white surrounded by lightings. “Frankenweenie” harkens back to the horror films of Tim Burton’s youth. Not just the black-and-white figure but also the simplicity and innocence of stop-motions serves to the aim of taking the audience back to America’s 70’s.
The screenplay is by John August whom Burton also worked with on “Dark Shadows”, “Corpse Bride”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Big Fish”. Allison Abbate and Don Hahn are the producers Burton worked on previous projects like “ Corpse Bride”.
“Frankenweenie” is Tim Burton’s third stop-motion animated feature, after the Best Animated Feature Oscar Nominee “Corpse Bride” and the Oscar Nominee for Best Visual Effects “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.
“It’s taking basically a lifeless puppet and making it come to life”- Tim Burton
THE SEEDS OF FRANKENWEENIE
The idea of the film “Frankenweenie” was visualized by Tim Burton as a full-length stop-motion animated film in 1984. However because of the budget constraints he directed it as a live-action short film for Disney. When Burton first sketched the characters in the film he made sure they resembled the characters of 1930’s classic horror films. Burton further explains that when he was a child, he loved watching the old classical horror films especially his favorite “Frankenstein” which explains the new animations name.
Burton quotes “The reason I originally wanted to make ‘Frankenweenie’ was based on growing up and loving horror movies. But it was also the relationship I had when I was a child with a certain dog that I had. It’s a special relationship that you have in your life and very emotional. Dogs obviously don’t usually live as long as people, so therefore you experience he end of that relationship. So that, in combination with the Frankenstein story, just seemed to be a very powerful thing to me- a very personal kind of remembrance. “
Burton treats each of his characters like the main character: unique, creatively designed and personalized. Audience doesn’t feel like the story is based on only one character. Each character is unique in their own way. They of course carry some Burtonesque features like having big eyes, and skinny long legs.
VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (voice by Charlie Tahan): A clever boy who is inspired by science. He enjoys making films and inventing in his attic workshop. When Sparky dies, he uses his scientific methods to bring him back to life. He looks almost identical with the Victor character in “Corpse Bride”, also shares the same name. Weird Girl also is almost same with Burton’s drawing of The Girl Who Stares, from his shorts The Stainboy. The reason for that would be Burton’s loyalty to his animated characters, just like to his actor and actresses (e.g. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter). Edgar E’ Gore is another character that carries Burtonesque feature with his black& White striped t-shirt.
SPARKY: Victor’s dog who is brought back to life. The stitches and screws he has on his body are similar to the Frankenstein character (Dir. James Whale, 1931). He is lively and very loyal to his owner, Victor. Sparky’s looks can be a bit gothic however once the film has seen, it is so easy to say that he is the most heart melting creature, not gothic or dark at all. Even though black&white one visualizes the colors of Sparky because of his charm.
MR. & MRS FRANKENSTEIN (Martin Short & Catherine O’Hara) : Victor’s parents, who are “average American parents”, that enjoy watching horror films and supportive of their kid.
Mayor Burgemeister (Martin Short), Edgar “E” Gore (Atticus Shaffer), Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder), Persephone, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), Nassor (Martin Short), Weird Girl (Catherine O’Hara), Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao), Bob (Robert Capron), Bob’s Mom (Conchata Ferrell).
When I saw the monsters scene, I immediately said to my self “ This is so Tim Burton” and there is a reason for me to say that. Burton has a wild imagination that is limitless and unstoppable when it comes to creating creatures. He tends to mix two different animals and makes it one scary monster! In his book The Art of Tim Burton it can be seen as well. In the film the monsters are The Turtle, Mummy Hamster, Were-Rat, Sea Creatures and the Vampire Cat (The Scariest in all of them).
STOP-MOTION ANIMATION AND 3D
There are 24 frames per second in the stop motion “Frankenweenie”. Which on average sums up to 5 seconds of film per week! The whole film was shot in 2 years. With that much effort I can easily call Frankenweenie a masterpiece with the collaboration of old fashioned stop-motion and new technology 3D. Hence why, the saying of “ Burton gives life to his characters” is a perfect example to Frankenweenie.
Burton explain the benefits and reasons of shooting stop-motion animation with “ In live action you have to make quick decisions all the time; in stop motion it may take a couple of days or couple of weeks to do a shot depending on its complexity”. Lots of preparation and research have been done for the dogs to look and act real by the animation director Trey Thomas. He furthers explains, “We were trying to make it as real as possible with this Tim Burton aesthetically designed Sparky version of a dog”.
He also states that Burton was going for a believable style and that he wanted the law of physics to be in play.
“The images are very crisp and clear in black and white, and then the 3D element gives it a certain kind of depth that is unusual and amazing, it’s a way for people to actually feel like they’re going on the set”.
The film is set in the imaginary town of New Holland, which the producer Don Hahn refers to as “ a mythical 1970’s suburban town- a ‘Transylvania meets Burbank’ kind of place”.
The town is very similar to the set of Edward Scissorhands , a classic American neighborhood. However “Frankenweenie” is a post-war 70’s design, which Tim Burton wanted.
USE OF BLACK AND WHITE
The use of black and white also helps maintain the mood of post war, gloomy and dark. The expressionistic stylization is a nod to classic horror films. Unlike the live action, stop motion requires a world created from scratch to set this mood.
“Frankenweenie” is the first black and white animated feature film, which carries a great importance. Burton explains “ There’s an emotional quality to black and white; it’s like another character. Seeing this kind of animation that way, there’s a certain depth and a certain way people and objects go in and out of shadow that’s quite interesting, and again very much part of the story”.
ON FURTHER NOTES
Burton puts a smile on audiences face when Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein are watching Vincent Price’s film on the TV and its sound score narrates Victor’s mission of sneaking in the dead body of Sparky in the house.
After the scene of the carnival I noticed that the attack of Shelley was foreshadowed in the beginning of the film when Victor shows his parents the film he shot: monsters attacking the town and Sparky fighting with the flying monster and saving the day. Personally I have great admiration to films that contain elements of cinema and film shooting in it’s plot.
Lastly in the scene when Victor is bringing Sparky back to life his costume is really similar to Burton’s first feature short “Vincent” which is enough to prove Burton being an auteur and showing his Burtonesque elements in each film.
It was a great experience to join the opening of LFF accompanied with one of the world’s best directors film.