Monday, October 15, 2012

Disney's Frankenweenie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Australia:  25th October, 2012; USA 5th October, 2012; UK17th October 2012
Other Countries: Release Dates


Just when you thought you had seen everything fantastical at the cinema, Tim Burton takes us to another level of superb in Disney's 'Frankenweenie'.  This film is so beautifully crafted I will be seeing it again as I missed so much due to the constant superlatives that spun in my head during my first viewing.
Why is it so good?  It’s foremost an engaging story (screenplay by John August), with incredible stop-motion 3D animation visuals that will have you truly wondering ‘How?’, and the music by Academy Award®–nominated Danny Elfman that is almost a character in itself.  Despite the technology, it still feels like you are watching one of those gorgeous old favourites that had you covering your eyes as the monster lurched after its victims. 
Tim Burton, arguably one of the most creative and eccentric Directors sometimes misses the mark, thanks to his penchant for extreme.  But in 'Frankenweenie' he has not just nailed it (excuse the pun) he has quite possibly created a classic as unique as the original ‘Frankenstein’.
Due to budget constraints the film began its life in 1984 as a live-action short for Disney.    The drawings Burton used in imagining his original characters have been used for this feature-length film alongside new characters.  Film buffs will recognize classic characters as many of the film’s leads are modelled on the look and traits of the memorable 1930 horror characters.  
'Frankenweenie' is the moving tale of a young science prodigy, Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his beloved dog Sparky.  Victor attends New Holland Elementary School where he is mentored by the misunderstood Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau) who teaches him that “science can do both good and bad things and that if a scientist does not put his heart into his experiment, there could be disastrous consequences.” The first sign of trouble is heralded by the class ‘Weird Girl’ (Catherine O'Hara) when she delivers to Victor a prediction that something ‘big’ will happen to him because Mr Whiskers, her cat, has dreamt about him.  How does she know what the cat dreams?  Well, it’s quite imaginative and amusing.  The signs come from the kitty litter.
‘Big’ happens when Sparky is hit by a car and dies.  An inconsolable Victor hatches a plan to patch Sparky together and he then successfully brings him back to life, hiding him away in his attic.  Sparky’s resurrection does not stay a secret for long though and once the school creepy guy Edgar “E” Gore (Atticus Shaffer) discovers the truth, it isn’t long before word spreads amongst the other kids with monstrous results.  Along the way you will be captivated by the myriad of quirky characters voiced by other major talents like Martin Short, Robert Capron, Christopher Lee and Conchata Ferrell.
It took two years and 33 animators to film the stop-animation for ‘Frankenweenie’.  There are 24 frames per second in the stop motion for the film.  An animator, working usually alone, must stop and reposition the puppet 24 times to get one second of filmed action.  At its 82 minutes that’s 295,200 seconds and 7,084,800 movements.  That’s a study in patience right there.
The typical week for a stop-motion animator begins with being assigned a shot. He is then responsible for all the characters in that shot.  An animator must spend hours working with the puppets, tightening screws in their limbs and then placing them to get all of the movement that is required.  On average, one animator can only produce 5 seconds of animation per week.  So when you pay your theatre entrance you are certainly getting your money’s worth.
'Frankenweenie' is filmed in black and white and that choice only adds to the experience.  Parents may have to convince their retina-enhanced iPad children that watching a black and white animated film will be fun. However, from the opening sequence all complaints will be silenced as Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’ takes parents on a trip down memory lane and introduces the young ones to what we mean when we say, ‘there was something special about those old black ‘n whites’. Just like Mr Rzykruski’s science, it’s not the special effects but the heart that’s put into it that makes all the difference.
See this one at the Cinema in 3D or you are really missing out on something special.