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Fantastic Fest: Frankenweenie

Updated: Saturday, September 29 2012, 10:22 PM CDT
This film is almost 30 years in the making.  Based on Tim Burton’s short film from 1984, Frankenweenie premiered at Fantastic Fest’s opening night with a slew of the celebrities in person for the event, who lent their voices to the film, which I might add is a darn good one.  Director Tim Burton, Charlie Tahan that plays the young boy, Victor, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Mission Impossible), and producer Allison Abbate walked the red carpet and participated in a Q&A after the film that screened in 4 different theaters with one dedicated to the dogs.  Seriously! Forty people won tickets for 2 to the screenings with their dog.  The dogs had to be 20 pounds or less and the dogs and their owners had to wear eveningwear so that they could walk the red carpet in style also.

Frankenweenie is just what you think it is.  It takes the concept of Frankenstein and adds in a weenie dog.  When Victor’s dachshund, Sparky, is hit by a car, he conducts an experiment to bring him back to life.  The problem is Sparky causes some terror in the neighborhood and the townsfolk chase after him (just like they did in Edward Scissorhands).

Tim Burton plays close attention to detail.  First of all, it’s the only black and white 3D animated films that I can recall, which gives the overall feel of the film a sinister tone.  Sparky even visits his own grave and lies on it as if his master was buried there. Even at a certain point, you see a theater marquee which says “Bambi” on it.  At first, you think why would he put a gentle movie on the marquee, but then you remember, even that beloved Disney film was dark.  The stars here though are the pets.  The black poodle that touches noses with Sparky only to turn into the Bride of Frankenweenie and the neighbor’s cat, Mr. Wiskers, really makes this film something to remember.     

In the Q&A, Tim Burton admits he tried to put anything personal of any memory that he ever had of anybody into Frankenweenie.  He noted that Victor is based on him as a kid.  “The thing with Victor which I was trying to put into it was that most kids feel alone and separate and that’s how I felt.  You kind of feel like you are separate, but you also feel quite normal, so it’s a weird mixture of things,” he says.

Burton also based the kids’ teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by Martin Landau) on a teacher he knew.  Burton added, “We’ve all had teachers that we didn’t understand and that freaked us out.”

When Martin Landau was asked about Frankenweenie, he said he grew up with films like the House of Wax where “with the 3D, everything fell in your lap in those days.  I like that this one puts you in the film without attacking you.”

By Ken The CriticFantastic Fest: Frankenweenie


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