Frankenweenie is a 2012 3D stop motion sci-fi family film directed by Tim Burton. It is a remake of Burton's 1984 short film of the same name and is a parody of and a homage to the 1931 film, Frankenstein based on Mary Shelley's book of the same name.
Like both those films, Frankenweenie is in black and white. It is also the fourth stop-motion film produced by Burton and the first of those four that isn't a musical. In the film, a boy named Victor loses his dog, named Sparky, and uses the power of science to resurrect him.
Frankenweenie, the first black-and-white feature film and the first stop-motion film to be released in IMAX 3D, was released by Walt Disney Pictures on October 5, 2012 and met with positive reviews and moderate box office sales. The film won a Saturn Award for Best Animated Film is nominated for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Academy Award for Best Film in each respective animated category.
Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is an 11-year old elementary school-aged boy living in quaint, suburban "New Holland." His simple family consists of himself, his father Ben Frankenstein (Martin Short), his mother Susan Frankenstein (Catherine O'Hara), and the loyal family dog Sparky. Victor has produced a new '50s style monster movie, starring Sparky as the monster that flattens Victor's handmade, cardboard town, populated with his toys and action figures. Ben and Susan applaud as the movie comes to an end, but Ben tells Susan he wishes Victor would be more like a normal kid, and spend less time making monster movies.
The following morning Victor packs up for school, puts the excitable Sparky in the backyard, and waves to his next-door neighbor and classmate Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder). Elsa's overbearing and obese uncle, Mr. Burgermeister (also Martin Short), the mayor of New Holland, chides Elsa, and reminds her to better hold herself, because she will be the star of "Dutch Day"—New Holland's new annual carnival, which was Mr. Burgermeister's idea. The depressed Elsa agrees to not embarrass him too much. At school, Victor and his classmates are surprised to have a new substitute science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), who is replacing their former teacher who is still recovering from a near-fatal lightning strike. "The Weird Girl" (Catherine O'Hara) in Victor's class points out that lightning strikes, while rare in most of the world, are especially common in New Holland, and infers that it might have something to do with the town's centerpiece: a ghostly windmill that sits on a hill in the center of town. Mr. Rzykruski is an especially eccentric western-European immigrant, with a stark, demented affection for science. His passion for science is electric, and his students feel it too. All the students eagerly dream of ideas for their upcoming science fair projects. They all want to win.
The school bell rings, and Victor walks to his bike, and finds "The Weird Girl" waiting for him, cradling her creepy-eyed, Persian Cat, Mr. Whiskers. She tells him that her cat Whiskers has a special power: he can predict the future through his excrement. She unveils a dry cat-turd, which she had been carrying, which forms the letter "V." She explains that when classmate Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao) pitched a no-hitter in baseball, the night before Whiskers pooped-out a "T." When obese classmate Bob (Robert Capron) injured himself by falling into an open manhole, Whiskers pooped a "B." When spooky classmate Nassor got knocked-out cold by a fastball while playing catcher, Whiskers pooped out an "N." Victor refuses to accept the "V" from the Weird Girl, and bicycles home. When he arrives he finds hunchbacked classmate Edgar "E" Gore (Atticus Shaffer) waiting for him. Edgar begs Victor to be his science project partner. Victor declines the offer, saying that he likes to work by himself. Edgar is annoyed, and leaves. At dinner, Victor asks his parents to sign his permission slip for the science fair. Edward agrees to sign the form only if Victor also signs up for baseball, and gets out of the house once in a while. Edgar agrees, and the form is signed.
The following day Victor, Sparky, and the Frankensteins go to Victor's first baseball game. Toshiaki is pitching, and Victor is at-bat. Toshiaki rockets the first two pitches past Victor, but Victor smacks the stuffing out of the third. The ball soars out of the park, and Sparky runs after it. The ball rolls across the street and comes to rest in the gutter. Victor runs after Sparky, but as Sparky is about to return to the field, he's hit by a passing car. Now seeing Whiskers' omen for what it is, Victor cries as Sparky ends up dead in the road. Sparky is given a somber funeral at the New Holland Pet Cemetery. He is buried beneath a dog bone headstone in a wooden box.
The next few days are extra hard on Victor, who is still distracted by Sparky's demise. In science class, he mostly makes doodles of Sparky while ignoring Mr. Rzykruski's lesson. Mr. Rzykruski explains that almost all creatures' bodies run on electric impulses, even after they die. To demonstrate, Mr. Rzykruski produces a dead, pinned-down frog. He attaches a pair of wired clamps to each of the frog's legs and flicks a switch. White-hot electricity jumps from the frog's body, and its legs leap up and down. Victor looks on in awe and immediately draws crude lightning bolts around the doodle of Sparky.
Victor sneaks into the New Holland Pet Cemetery and digs up Sparky's remains. He sneaks home, past his parents, and up to his room. He collects various bits of electrical equipment from around the house and assembles a crude laboratory in the attic. He places Sparky on a platter and raises him up through the attic skylight. Next door, Mr. Burgemeister watches in disgusted curiosity as Victor lets fly a trio of kites into the storm. Victor returns to the attic and watches as lightning strikes near Sparky's body. A bolt strikes Sparky, and bright electrical sparks flow through the attic. As the effects of the strike dissipate, Victor reels in Sparky's body and checks for signs of life. He finds none. Saddened, Victor hugs Sparky's remains and feels his tail move. Sparky, though scarred from the accident, and stapled all over, is alive. He wags his tail with glee until it falls off.
Over the next few days, Victor keeps Sparky's reanimation a secret from his family and classmates. He pleads with Sparky to stay in the attic while he's at school. The Weird Girl's cat, Whiskers, appears in the attic skylight and calls to Sparky. Sparky chases Whiskers out through the skylight, and into the neighbor's yard where Bob's mother (Conchata Ferrell) is hanging bed sheets. She catches sight of the decomposing Sparky and retreats into her house. Sparky spends the rest of the day outside. He flirts with Elsa's poodle Persephone, and by touching noses, gives it a shocking Bride of Frankenstein-like white streak in her hair. He manages to go mostly unnoticed, with the exception of Edgar, who spots him on the way home from school. Victor returns home, charged up Sparky and finds Edgar waiting for him. Edgar blackmails Victor, and threatens to tell the whole town about Sparky, unless Victor gives him what he wants—a science fair project. Edgar visits the local pet shop, and buys the only dead goldfish in the store. He makes Victor reproduce the experiment which reanimated Sparky. A storm gathers, the kites are sent up into the sky, and a single lightning bolt electrifies the fishbowl with the floating, dead fish. They lower the bowl into the attic, but it's empty. Edgar runs his fingers through the water and infers that the fish has to be in there, because he can feel it. The two shine a light into the bowl, and barely see a nearly invisible living skeleton swimming in the water. Their experiment somehow turned the fish invisible. Victor is confused by the results, but Edgar is pleased. An invisible fish will surely win him first place at the science fair. Edgar returns home with the fish, only after promising Victor that he won't tell the class how the fish turned invisible. Victor notices that Sparky is less animated than before, and his eyes are no longer glowing with electricity, as he is run down. He clamps Sparky's bolts to a pair of jumper cables, and plugs him into a wall socket. This immediately returns life to Sparky. Despite his secret, Victor is about to change Sparky from a once lifeless canine corpse to a cultured sophisticated dog.
At school, Edgar has broken his promise and tells everybody about his reanimated, invisible fish. Bob and Toshiaki are most annoyed by this news because their own science fair project (an off-the-shelf experiment) can't compete with an invisible fish. They vow to come up with something mind-blowing. Later that day, Nassor (Martin Short) asks Edgar to show him the fish. He runs his fingers through the water, and feeling nothing, infers that Edgar's invisible fish is fake and teases him for wasting his time. Bob and Toshiaki, intent upon winning first prize at the science fair, have begun a new experiment involving a carbonated water jet pack worn by Bob. The pair stand on Bob's roof, and Toshiaki pulls the ripcord. The jet pack sends Bob slowly rolling across the roof, briefly gives him the power of flight, and then drops him like a sack of potatoes. With his arm broken, Bob's mother phones the hospital and the school.
Mr. Rzykruski is in trouble for encouraging children to engage in dangerous science experiments. Nearly all of the kid's parents support Mr. Rzykruski's firing, except for the Frankensteins, and Mayor Burgemeister fires Mr. Rzykruski in an instant. Victor watches as Mr. Rzykruski takes a cardboard box full of his possessions out to his car, and stops him before he leaves. Victor apologizes for his firing and asks if an identical experiment can produce two different results. Mr. Rzykruski implies that Victor's experiments had different intents and different variables, which affected the outcome. He tells him that science doesn't just take place in one's head, but in one's heart, too. Mr. Rzykruski drives off.
By now, Victor is having a hard time keeping Sparky's reanimation a secret from anyone. Edward and Susan find out and are immediately upset with Victor. During the fight, Sparky escapes the attic and flees the house. The family sets out after him. With the house empty, Edgar, Nassor, Bob, Toshiaki, and the Weird Girl (along with Whiskers) sneak in and take note of Victor's makeshift laboratory. They observe the details and head their separate ways. Edgar breaks into the school's science room, and reproduces Victor's lab with makeshift equipment. He seeks to reanimate a dead rat he found in the school. Nassor and Toshiaki head to the pet cemetery. Toshiaki digs up his recently deceased pet turtle Shelly and returns home with the body. Nassor enters an elaborate crypt, and comes to a massive coffin at its center, with a plaque for Colossus. Bob returns home and empties dozens of bags of Sea Monkeys into his swimming pool. The Weird Girl, with Whiskers, procures a dead bat. The children individually produce their own makeshift Jacob's Ladders and point them into the sky. Lightning strikes them all. Edgar's rat is seemingly pulverized, and Edgar flees the school when he hears the gym teacher walking through the hallway. Toshiaki's turtle, Shelly, had been shocked along with a bottle of Miracle Grow and disappeared after the strike. Nassor waits at the entrance to the crypt, while a huge, hulking shadow makes its way up the stairs. Whiskers, halfway through the strike, started playing with the dead bat, and the pair were electrocuted together. The gym teacher, at the school, is suddenly attacked by a five-foot tall, bipedal, ferocious rat (the result of Edgar's experiment). It chases the gym teacher outside and runs away. "Shelly" has grown to massive, Godzilla-like proportions, and nearly flattens Toshiaki as it stomps through the neighborhood. Bob's swimming pool glows blue with electricity, and dozens of three-feet tall, Gremlin-like Sea Monkeys emerge from the water and terrorize the neighborhood. Nassor's "Colossus" is a tiny, slow-moving hamster. Whiskers has somehow fused with the bat—the cat's appendages grow long, and disgusting black wings unfurl from its back. It takes off into the night, shrieking awfully.
Victor arrives at the cemetery, where he finds Sparky nestling his grave. Victor carefully approaches him, and the pair make up. Victor sees recently dug-up graves for Shelly and Colossus and soon hears panicked screams from the town's Dutch Fair. At the fair, Mayor Burgemeister is forcing Elsa Van Helsing to sing a drab song about Dutch Day while wearing a crown of burning candles on her head. The carnival's opening ceremony is upset by the appearance of Shelly, the Sea Monkeys, Edgar's Wererat, and to a lesser degree, Colossus. Victor and co. arrive and are first able to subdue the Sea Monkeys by giving them salty popcorn, which causes them to explode, covering Bob in green goop. The Wererat tries attacking Sparky, bites down on his electric neck bolts, and electrocutes himself back to death. Toshiaki and Nassor, still bitter classroom competitors, pose their monsters against one another. Colossus is easily squished by Shelly's massive foot. Toshiaki films the anticlimactic battle from the carnival's Ferris Wheel but is soon threatened by Shelly. Shelly stands in a puddle of spilled beer and is electrocuted by a nearby spark. She dies and returns to her original size. The townspeople, intent upon destroying all the monsters, see Sparky and chase him from the fairgrounds. Vampire Cat Whiskers arrives, grabs Persephone, Elsa chases after them, and escapes to the windmill at the center of town. Victor chases after them.
Vampire Cat Whiskers holds Elsa and Persephone hostage at the top of the windmill, and Victor arrives to save them. Outside, the townspeople have arrived after chasing Sparky and are waving flaming torches. Mayor Burgermeister threatens Sparky to give up Elsa before accidentally setting the windmill on fire. Victor, Elsa, Persephone, and Sparky battle Vampire Cat Whiskers on the face of the burning windmill. All but Sparky and Vampire Cat Whiskers manage to escape to safety. Inside the burning building, Sparky defends himself from the vastly stronger Vampire Cat Whiskers. A piece of flaming debris falls from high and manages to skewer Vampire Cat Whiskers down the middle, killing it. Sparky is buried by the collapsing windmill. Victor cries for Sparky. As the flames settle, Sparky's body is rescued from the debris and brought out to Victor. The townspeople collectively join jumper cables in the parking lot and hook them up to Sparky's body. They rev their engines all at once and send fresh electricity into Sparky's body. He continues to lay there, motionless. Victor, willing to accept Sparky's fate, bids him farewell and returns to his parents. Sparky slowly comes to, alive, and barks excitedly. Victor is thrilled, and Persephone and Sparky share a brief romantic spark.
- Charlie Tahan as Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who brings his dog (and best friend) Sparky back to life.
- Catherine O'Hara as Susan Frankenstein, Victor's Mother / Gym Teacher / Weird Girl, an eccentric girl who is one of Victor's classmates and obsessed with the psychic predictions of her cat, Mr. Whiskers.
- Martin Short as Ben Frankenstein, Victor's father / Nassor, Toshiaki's partner and Victor's other rival-like former enemy, who has a flat head inspired by Frankenstein's monster and whose voice and face resemble that of Boris Karloff / Mr. Burgermeister, the grumpy Mayor of New Holland, the Frankensteins' next-door neighbor and Elsa's uncle; a homage to the villainous Burgermeister Meisterburger from the Rankin/Bass film Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.
- Martin Landau as Mr. Rzykruski, the eccentric but wise science teacher at Victor's school who speaks in a thick Eastern European accent. His teachings inspire Victor's effort to resurrect Sparky, and he acts as a mentor to Victor. The character was inspired by Burton's childhood icon, Vincent Price.
- Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing, Victor's crush, kind next-door neighbor, and one of his classmates.
- Atticus Shaffer as Edgar "E" Gore, a hunch-backed child (inspired by Igor) and one of Victor's classmates. He's the first to know of Victor's success in bringing Sparky back to life.
- Robert Capron as Bob, an obese boy who is one of Victor's classmates.
- Christopher Lee as Dracula (in stock footage from Horror of Dracula).
- Conchata Ferrell as Bob's mother, an obese and stereotypical suburban housewife who dotes upon her son. She believes in the status quo, and that her misguided actions are in Bob's best interest.
- James Hiroyuki Liao as Toshiaki, Victor's rival-like former enemy and one of his classmates.
- Tom Kenny as Fire Chief / Soldier / Townsfolk.
- Frank Welker provides vocal effects for Sparky.
Although Tim Burton signed with Disney to direct two films in Disney Digital 3D, including Alice in Wonderland and his remake of Frankenweenie, development for its full-length stop motion version dates as far back as November 2005, when scripts had been written by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott. John August was approached for a rewrite in 2006, but was not hired until January 2009. Like the original, the feature version is shot in black and white. Many of the animation artists and crew from Corpse Bride are involved. In addition to remaking his earlier project, Burton is also borrowing heavily from his design from the titular character of Family Dog for Sparky.
Filming began at Three Mills Studios in July 2010. The crew created three giant sound stages, including Victor's cluttered family attic, a cemetery exterior, and a high school interior. The sound stages were then divided into 30 separate areas to deal with the handcrafted, frame-by-frame style of film-making. Compared to other stop-motion animation sets, Frankenweenie's set is much larger. As IGN notes, the main character Sparky had to be "'dog-sized compared to the other human characters, but also large enough to house all the elements of the mechanical skeleton secreted within his various foam and silicon-based incarnation".
On the other hand, the mechanics are small and delicate, and in some instances, they had to have Swiss watchmakers create the tiny nuts and bolts. Around 200 separate puppets were used, with roughly 18 different versions of Victor. The puppets also have human hair, with 40–45 joints for the human characters and about 300 parts for Sparky.
- Main article: Frankenweenie (soundtrack)
In early 2011 it was announced that Danny Elfman would score Frankenweenie, with work already started on pre-production music.
Prior to the film's release, an "inspired by" soundtrack album, Frankenweenie: Unleashed!, as well as Danny Elfman's Frankenweenie: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, was released by Walt Disney Records on September 25, 2012.
The film was initially set for release in November 2011, before Disney moved it to March 9, 2012. In January 2011, Box Office Mojo announced the film's new release date for October 5, 2012 with John Carter replacing the film for the once planned March 9, 2012 release. The film premiered on September 20, 2012, on the opening night of Fantastic Fest, an annual film festival in Austin, Texas. The film opened the London Film Festival on October 10 in the UK.
In the lead up to the film's release in October, there was a travelling art exhibition detailing the work that has gone into creating the film. During the exhibition it was possible to see sets and characters that were used for the stop motion feature film.
From September 14 to November 5, Disney California Adventure offered exclusive scenes from the film during Muppet*Vision 3D's nighttime operating hours. At Disneyland, Sparky's tombstone has been added to the pet cemetery outside of the Haunted Mansion Holiday event that features characters from Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Frankenweenie on DVD and Blu-ray, on January 8, 2013.
The film has received mostly positive reviews from critics. Based on 179 reviews, the film currently holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 88% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Frankenweenie is an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 75 based on 35 reviews.
Justin Chang of Variety reacted positively to the film, saying that it "evinces a level of discipline and artistic coherence missing from the director's recent live-action efforts." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a mediocre review by explaining that while the various creative elements of the film "pay homage to a beloved old filmmaking style", the film mostly feels "like second-generation photocopies of things Burton has done before." Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars while regarding the film as not "one of Burton's best, but it has zealous energy" and that "the charm of a boy and his dog retains its appeal".
During its opening weekend, Frankenweenie placed fifth among other films grossing $11.5 million. As of January 10, 2013, the film has grossed $66,767,590 worldwide, with $34,967,590 from the US, $31,800,000 in other countries.
|85th Academy Awards||Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (Tim Burton)||Nominated|
|American Cinema Editors||Best Edited Animated Feature Film (Chris Lebenzon, A.C.E. & Mark Solomon)||Nominated|
|Annie Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Production Design in an Animated Feature Production (Rick Heintzich)||Nominated|
|Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production (Atticus Shaffer)||Nominated|
|Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production (Catherine O'Hara)||Nominated|
|Writing in an Animated Feature Production (John August)||Nominated|
|BAFTA Awards||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Boston Society of Film Critics||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Critics Choice Awards||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Cinema Audio Society||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures Animated||(pending)|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics Circle||Best Animated||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Animated Feature Film||Nominated|
|Houston Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association||Best Animation||Won|
|Nevada Film Critics Society||Best Animated Movie||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle||Best Animated Film||Won|
|Online Film Critics Society||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Producers Guild of America||Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures (Allison Abbate, Tim Burton)||(pending)|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||Nominated|
|Southeastern Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Toronto Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Washington DC Area Film Critics Association||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
- Some of the characters represent famous monsters/people:
- Victor Frankenstein: Dr. Frankenstein
- Elsa Van Helsing: Her first name is an homage to Elsa Lanchester, the titular character in Bride of Frankenstein. The "Van Helsing" part is a reference to Professor Abraham Van Helsing, a vampire hunter who is Count Dracula's nemesis.
- Mr. Rzykruski: Burton's childhood icon, Vincent Price.
- Edgar "E" Gore: Igor
- Sparky & Nassor: Frankenstein's Monster
- Mr. Whiskers: A vampire (possibly Dracula)
- Nassor's hamster: The Mummy
- E Gore's fish and rat: Fish - The Invisible Man; Rat - A werewolf (possibly the Wolfman)
- Elsa van Helsing's poodle Persephone: The Bride of Frankenstein.
- Toshiaki's turtle: Giant Japanese monsters (most likely Godzilla)
- Bob's Sea Monkeys: Gremlins from the movie and sequel with the same name.
- This is the first stop motion animated feature to be converted to 3D.
- This is so far the most recent black and white feature, unless there would be more.