Frankenweenie – 2012, Dir. Tim Burton, Disney.
Tim Burton returns to stop motion animation with Frankenweenie, the ghoulish story of a young boy who brings his dog Sparky back to life after he is hit by a car. The animation is flawless in its execution, and the movements and styling of the models is smooth and beautiful to watch. It is the small details that add up to make it a feast for the eyes. The movement of the characters’ hair, for example, is extremely well done and looks realistic, as opposed to clunky, which is often a problem when trying to move light things in stop motion. The amount of background movement in many of the scenes (particularly in the scene where Victor is reviving Sparky) is phenomenal, and would have added many weeks to production in order to create. Scenes between Victor and Sparky also capture that impossibly strong bond between a boy and his dog, portraying the emotion with skill through the models – particularly true when we see the use of tears in Victor’s face, something else that is difficult to achieve in this animation style. Burton’s use of black and white film also adds to the sense that he was trying to use the details of the film to make up for the lack of colour, and it enhances his excellent use of light and shadow, especially on the faces of characters. Attention to detail was obviously a key part of the art direction of this film, and it is wonderfully accomplished and enchanting to watch.
Charlie Tahan (Victor Frankenstein) gives a surprisingly emotional performance, communicating the sadness of a boy without his dog, and then later his confusion and struggles as his inventions are misused and people turn on Sparky. It would have been easy for Tahan to overplay the emotional scenes, but fortunately he holds back, giving Victor a more subtle touch, and it allows the audience to deal with the more mature themes of the film. His relationship with Sparky also provides the key centre of humour for the film, and it works well on screen, despite the fact that it is a voice performance. Catherina O’Hara also does an excellent job as Victor’s mother, playing the role of concerned parent and caring mother with a careful balance.
Frankenweenie is a film of odd, spooky charm. Children will love it for its humour and scares, while older audiences will appreciate the animation and more serious themes of the film, such as the idea of acceptance of others. Burton proves once again that stop motion animation is still a valid form of film making with his latest creation, and that it will continue to enchant and capture audiences for years to come. Frankenweenie is a film that blends the line between films for children and adults with a masterful hand, providing a timeless piece for generations to come.