Tim Burton’s latest film “Frankenweenie” didn’t pull the big box office numbers it should have, too often under-appreciated as nothing more than a return to the short film of the same name from earlier in his career. But this feature length stop motion film is a return to classic Burton storytelling, with a bit of heart and a whole lot of insanity. Add the director’s signature style onto a retelling of the classic “Frankenstein” story starring children and a dog in place of a wild scientist and a monster, present it all in stunning 3D, and “Frankenweenie” is a winner.
Those who called “Frankenweenie” predictable or unoriginal have missed the point. The film is meant as a tribute to a story and genre we already know. This is the film Burton always wanted to make in place of his original short film which came up, well, short of his vision. Its creature feature finale draws from sci-fi and horror styles across many decades of filmmaking. And it’s a film that fans of “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands” era Burton can truly get excited about.
On Blu-ray, “Frankenweenie” looks phenomenal, particularly in 3D. Stop motion is a unique art form, featuring hand sculpted, hand painted, hand animated – frame by frame – characters surrounded by elaborate sets and props, every one of which also needed to be made for the film. Not a single item seen on screen existed before the talented team of artists began crafting every element of this movie. And when viewed in 3D, their attention to detail shines and is staggering. The film never comes off as if watching 1-foot tall miniatures, instead drawing the audience into the world of New Holland and its many zany characters.
The soundtrack is enjoyable, equally immersive as the 3D visuals, though sadly Danny Elfman’s score isn’t quite as memorable or catchy as many of his previous collaborations with Burton.
Bonus features are plentiful on this release, the most impressive of which is the 23-minute making-of called “Miniatures in Motion,” hosted by “Frankenweenie” producer Allison Abbate, but featuring insight from director Tim Burton, executive producer Don Hahn, and plenty of artists and other crew members. It’s a fantastic behind the scenes look at every step of production, from drawing inspiration from the original live action short to creating puppets to painstakingly filming them 24 frames per second, one frame at a time.
“Captain Sparky vs. The Flying Saucers” is a fun revisit to a few of the characters from the film in a new short. Victor hasn’t lost his filmmaking interests and continues to enlist the help of Sparky as his star… with a few cameos. If anything, this short is too short at only 2 minutes long.
The release also takes viewers to San Diego Comic-Con 2012 for a 5-minute look at the “Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit,” talking to Hahn and Abbate once more. (On the very same day they shot this piece, I did the same at the convention, offering our own in-depth look at the exhibit, including an interview with Don Hahn.)
Of course, the 30-minute original live action “Frankenweenie” short film is also included, fun to watch after the animated release for comparison. It’s amusing to see how many original shots were almost identically recreated in miniature.
A music video by The Plain White T’s (“Pet Sematary”) and a smattering of trailers in both 2D and 3D round out the release.
“Frankenweenie” fans won’t be disappointed by this release, particular if viewed in 3D. The first-time combination of stop motion animation with a black-and-white presentation using modern 3D technologies is unlike anything else, working perfectly together to resurrect the look of classic monster movies but also retaining a modern feel.
“Frankenweenie” is available now on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD on Amazon and other major retailers.