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Frankenweenie – Tim Burton on fulfilling his dream

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Frankenweenie - Director Tim Burton
Frankenweenie – Director Tim Burton ©2012 Disney Enterprises

In 1984, acclaimed filmmaker Tim Burton envisioned a full-length, stop-motion animated film called Frankenweenie, but because of budget constraints it turned into a live-action short for Disney.

Now, 28 years later, Tim is fulfilling his dream, once again for Disney, with the black-and-white, stop-motion movie in 3D.

Frankenweenie harkens back to the classic horror films of Tim’s youth, and tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, an industrious 10-year-old who brings his dog Sparky back to life after he is killed in a car accident, which end up causing havoc on his entire town.

Tim Burton spoke of his new film, which premieres on October 5, at the press day in Disneyland.

When did you first start thinking about making this feature?

Frankenweenie - Director Tim Burton
Director Tim Burton reviews the character maquettes in the Puppet Hospital with Producer Allison Abbate ©2012 Disney Enterprises

After doing a live-action short, which was great, I got to go on and do other things, and I didn’t really think about it for a while.

The moment they came to me and wanted to do [the movie] I started looking at the older drawings. And there was something about the drawings, the idea of doing black-and-white stop-motion in 3D [that I liked].

Why are you such a big fan of horror movies?

I don’t know. I think a lot of kids relate to Frankenstein. It was kind of easy to relate to a monster in the sense of he’s kind of alone, and growing up you could feel those feelings.

Frankenweenie - Tim Browning, Tim Burton and  Trey Thomas
Art Director Tim Browning, Director Tim Burton and Animation Supervisor Trey Thomas review gravestones in the Art Department at Three Mills Studios ©2012 Disney Enterprises

So it was easy to make connections that were slightly abstract, but the feelings were there in those films.

Why did you want to film it in black-and-white?

I just find the black-and-white very beautiful. I was very happy that the studio went along with it.  If it were in color I wouldn’t have done it, because the black-and-white is  part of the emotion of it.

Also I was quite excited about seeing black-and-white in 3D, because there’s a depth in the black-and-white and the clarity in the image, which I love.

Did we see Sparky in Corpse Bride?

Frankenweenie - Director Tim Burton
Different variations of Sparky in the Sculpting Department ©2012 Disney Enterprises

No, that was a skeleton dog. Unfortunately I have a very limited range, so my drawings end up looking like each other! But this one has skin, the other one didn’t. (he laughs)

Did you have to negotiate how dark it could be with Disney, or did they let you do anything you wanted?

I always felt quite confident that this was a traditional Disney movie like Bambi and The Lion King, which have dealt with issues that are similar in some ways.

Frankenweenie - Director Tim Burton
Director Tim Burton ©2012 Disney Enterprises

I would find that people forget, even people at Disney, that from the beginning with Snow White, there are Disney films with a certain element of danger and darkness in them. If all that stuff was out of every Disney movie, they wouldn’t have any power to them.

So I never felt like it was pushing the boundaries, and it’s got a happy ending.

Who do you admire the same way that people admire you?

I’ve been very lucky that I’ve met a lot of people that I grew up being inspired by and got to work with, like Vincent Price, or meeting Ray Harryhausen, and Christopher Lee.