Monday, November 5, 2012

The Dream Factory: Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie directed by Tim Burton
Walt Disney Pictures 2012
Rated PG
Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Nominee 2013
BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film Nominee 2013
Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film Nominee 2013
Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Nominee 2013

I can clearly remember being seven and first seeing advertisements for The Nightmare Before Christmas in my Disney Adventures magazine.  Mr. Burton's ghoulish ink illustrations, used as promotional art, captured my imagination and I began to entreat my parents to take me to the film, though no one else in the family was particularly interested in going to see it.  The film, my first experience with stop motion animation, ignited a lifelong love for the art form, as well as for the story's writer, Mr. Burton.

Since 1993, Mr. Burton has both inspired me and disappointed me, but as I sat in the cinema waiting for his latest creation to begin, I had high hopes that Frankenweenie would belong to the former group and I was not disappointed.

The film follows the same storyline as that of the 1984 short (which I have fond childhood memories of watching every Halloween on the Disney Channel).  When Victor Frankenstein's dog is hit by a car, he attempts to resurrect him with electricity on a stormy night and succeeds.  The film, needing to flesh out the plot, introduces a science fair at Victor's school, and discovering Victor's project, the other students (all of them parodies of some horror figure or other), resurrect their own pets.  But, their motivations being quite different than Victor's, the pets rampage through the town and Victor must devise a way to stop them.

I wasn't expecting this film to be a comedy, but I found myself laughing aloud quite frequently at the numerous horror references sprinkled throughout the film.  Most of these jokes went over the heads of the children in attendance, and I think my husband and I were the only ones laughing most of the time due to the demographics of our particular screening.  But the relationship between Victor and Sparky, his dog, are something all people with pets can relate to, so the references shouldn't prevent non-horror fans from enjoying the film.

Aside from what felt, to me, like a mixed message about science and the failure to teach younger viewers a valuable lesson about letting go, the film hit all the right notes.  This is Mr. Burton as himself, filled with whimsical nostalgia and none of the soulless commercialism of his last few films.

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