This week Disney will release Frankenweenie, Tim Burton‘s third stop-motion animated directed film. The feature is based on a short that he created back in the late 80s, so to say that this is a dream come true for the director would be an understatement. Frankenweenie is full of childish fun, thrills, and fond memories of a Burbank that Burton remembers. In the film, after harnessing the powers of electricity to bring his beloved dog, Sparky, back to life, Victor must accept the consequences of his actions after his classmates want to use the same powers to not only revive their pets, but also win a science award.
Burton recently sat down with us to talk about some of the differences between the original short and the one scripted by his writing partner John August. He also talked about what it was like to work with people like Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Winona Rider again. He also addressed the on going cinematic war between 2D and 3D. Check out our interview below.
So was this the original scope that you had envisioned?
No, no, the original was it. I think it was only after many years, because it was such a memory piece to begin with, I began to think about other aspects, like other kids I remember at school, other teachers, and when they did that moment shot and looking at some of the drawings I did originally, and loving stop motion, ait kind of built up in the sense that to do it in black and white stop-motion, which can go back to one of the original drawings of these other kinds of kids and actually going more to the architecture of Burbank. So it became a real weird fun thing, which I wouldn’t do with any other project, really thinking of actual kids and teachers, park, and the place, the classroom, and really going to personalizing everything. So all those elements really needed to feel like a whole different thing. It was kind of going from the Frankenstein structure to the House of Frankenstein where there are more monsters that kind of weird mash up that Universal did. Those kinds of things made it feel different for me.
You are a huge proponent of 3D, second to James Cameron who directed Avatar, what do you think has become of the technology now?
There was this celebrity death match scenario, 3D vs. 2D. They are trying to turn this into all or nothing. I still feel like it is valid in some films, not all films. Not every film should be in 3D. But if you want to see it in 3D, then you should see it in 3D, if you want to see it in 2D, then you can see it in 2D. I feel like if there is always more choice the better. That’s how I feel about all of that. But for me, I was very excited for two reasons: one black and white in 3D, because of the depth, the kind of clarity, the shadows, you can get with the black and white, I thought the 3D element would really be fun to see. There was that aspect of it, but also the stop motion end of it, which is there something about that process where you got puppets and you got real sets, and you can see the real texture the artists have put into the models, and everything. With the 3D and black & white, it felt like it shows the artist’s work and you feel like what its like to be on a stop-motion set and be in that kind of space and that kind of depth. All of those things added up to making it an exciting.
Did you ever consider doing it in color?
No I wouldn’t have. In fact if the studio had said it has to be in color, I wouldn’t have done it, because it was that important to me that it be like this. But they were fine, they were cool, about it so it was a surprise, but I am grateful to that because they understood that it was a hard thing to describe but for me making it in black & white gives it an extra slight weird emotional depth that would have been different in color.
Can you talk about the voice casting in this film, because based on the supporting cast, it looks like you are getting the band back together?
I love all those people, and I haven’t worked with them in a while. For me, it being this project, I felt like for me, since I was trying to make a lot of emotional connections to it was fun. Again, I didn’t work with them because I’ve worked with them in the past, you pick people that are right for something, and so, the case with Winona (Rider), I haven’t worked with her in so long, in the case of that character, what Charlie brought to Victor, it was more trying to keep it real and simple. I didn’t give Charlie the task of watching all these horror movies, for them it was sort of being pure and simple and it didn’t feel like so much like an animated movie. And in the case of Catherine (O’Hara) and Martin Short, they are so great that they are so good at doing (voicing) three characters, that for me, I sort of missed working with them, their improv. Martin Landau has been an inspiration to me and he was right for the teacher. Again, you try to cast the right people that are right, but in this particular case its great to work with the people you love.
Was there a line, which you wouldn’t cross to add any changes to turn Franekenweenie from a short to a full-length film?
I just didn’t want to take the short and padded it out. Where I felt comfortable was at the time of thinking of the other kids and the other monsters and the sort of House of Frankenstein structure of it. The heart of then is the heart of it now, I just wanted it to feel as natural, and not make it a padding out kind of a thing. So yeah I thought quite a lot about it. Growing up on those types of movies, so once all the other characters came into place into that House of Frankenstein structure, it felt like it could be a complete thing.
We want to thank Disney for allowing us to have the opportunity to interview Tim Burton for such a great film. Be sure to check back in at MovieViral, for our review of Frankenweenie, which opens in theaters on October 5.