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Winona Ryder
Catherine O'Hara
Martin Landau
Martin Short
Charlie Tahan
Atticus Shaffer
Robert Capron.
Tim Burton.
John August.
Running Time
86 minutes

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Tim Burton’s Pet (Sematary) Project

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When lonely young Victor Frankenstein’s (Tahan) beloved dog Sparky is killed, the budding scientist is inspired to re-animate his pet’s corpse by harnessing lightning in his makeshift attic laboratory. Once the frisky, badly sewn-back-together secret is discovered, Victor’s classmates also try dabbling with life, death and electricity, creating havoc and terror.

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How sweetly ironic it is. In 1984, anxious minds at Disney decided to dispense with the services of 26 year-old animator Timothy Walter Burton on the grounds that his live-action short, Frankenweenie, was too scary for children and thus a waste of studio resources. His sensibilities, not to mention his drawings and storyboards, were too dark, too macabre for a home in the Magic Kingdom. Now, 28 years later, so keen are Disney to be in partnership with their one-time weirdo apprentice that the familiar Sleeping Beauty’s castle logo intro to Disney productions gets a dark and stormy re-tool to herald his feature-length, stop-motion-animated, black-and-white, 3D film Frankenweenie, Burton’s first full-length directorial outing for Walt’s mouse factory.

For those familiar with the original half-hour short (which starred The NeverEnding Story’s Barret Oliver as Vincent, Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern as his parents, with a very young Sofia Coppola), available as an extra on some editions of The Nightmare Before Christmas, the plot is basically identical and a joyous lift from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but expanded with another good hour’s worth of incident, drama and delightful detail. Burton went back to his original drawings but worked to a new, witty but emotionally resonant screenplay by John August (whose work with Burton includes Big Fish and Corpse Bride). It is, indeed, potentially upsetting for small children, what with the horribly dead pet, the schoolroom frog dissection, creepy characters, scary monsters and an enraged, torch-wielding mob chasing the corpsified creature to kill him and all.

Unfortunately, the fact that it might be distressing is particularly so because the host of classic horror films referenced, paid homage to and lovingly pastiched in the monster mash-up that is Frankenweenie are no longer a staple of Saturday afternoon television. Some immortal dialogue (“It’s A-LIVE!”) and the joys of characters who are modelled on Universal and Hammer icons (like Igor, every mad scientist’s favourite hunch-backed laboratory assistant) or the oeuvres of Peter Lorre, Christopher Lee (here seen in live-action Dracula clips on the Frankensteins’ telly) and the priceless Vincent Price sadly will go right over a lot of oblivious heads these days. The terrified guy unwisely seeking refuge from a stomping, chomping thingie in a temporary loo à la Jurassic Park may ring a bell.

But for horror buffs this is constant fun in a string of inspired chuckles. The Igor, by the way, is a slobbering Lorre-lookalike kid called Edgar ‘E.’ Gore (Edgar for Poe, geddit?) voiced by Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick in sitcom The Middle and does a disturbingly good performance as a mini-maniac. The numerous nods to the Frankenstein franchise itself include the girl next door named Elsa van Helsing (Winona Ryder, one of several Burton alumnae in the voice cast, returning to the fold for her third film with him) for Elsa Lanchester, the original Bride Of Frankenstein, except it’s little Elsa’s poodle whose poof acquires the white lightning streak.

At its heart, though, you don’t have to have ever seen a horror film to see that this is firmly a boy and his dog tale, in which a lonely, misunderstood child’s loss of his only friend, faithful companion and cutely comical star of his home movies is sufficiently heart-rending to prompt everything that follows. The boy’s clumsy needlework, tacking together parts of his dog after it has been run over (and buried) and the desperate insertion of the Boris Karloff neck bolts/spark plugs are more strangely touching than mad.

The design of the town evokes an Edward Scissorhands-like sunny suburbia that is more sitcom cosy than fright flick, making it all rather endearingly real, if oddball. Burton, August and the entire team who turned Burton’s drawings into three-dimensional silicone and latex sculptures, dinky puppets constructed over intricate metal skeletons and coiffed with real hair, and beautifully dressed sets — great in 3D — seem to have kept in mind that all the kooky consequences and frightful fairy-tale misadventures stemming from Victor’s “science project” are just part of the one big idea: creation, art, giving life to something lifeless, making something out of nothing, is a passionately personal expression of love.

Very sweet, very funny, really quite touching and exquisitely handmade, by a film lover with humour and a heart, for a like-minded audience.

Reviewed by Angie Errigo

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Frankenweenie
Empire Star Rating

not as good as ParaNorman

Henry Sellick has outdone Tim Burton with Paranorman-Frankenweenie only has a solid gold last half hour-the story to this point is pretty dull and the story only gets going when the other kids visit the graveyard-(Shelly-an especially nice touch!) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by themanfromunkle at 12:52, 22 February 2013 | Report This Post

DVD-BluRay star rating

Just read the Re-view section in the latest Empire issue, was surprised to see how the ratings of the FOUR animation movies out this month were changed from 2, 3, 4, 4 (cinema reviews) to... 3, 3, 3, 3 (dvd reviews). Why did you do that? There are huge and clear quality differences between these four movies. Putting "Hotel Transylvania" and "Frankenweenie" at the same level seems a little weird to me... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dseys at 22:16, 06 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie (2012) I'm not too sure what I think with this remake. On one hand Mr Burton is back on form with some classic Burton visuals and atmosphere yet on the other hand it feels like a rehash of all of his films quashed together. I do find myself thinking the same thing everytime I see a new Burton film. Now don't get me wrong I'm a ] Burton fan and have been since 'Beetlejuice', but I can't deny that Burton has lost his touch recently and his last few films have failed to ins... More

Posted by Phubbs at 02:55, 07 January 2013 | Report This Post


FRANKENWEENIE by Tim Burton (2012): A nostalgic ride to the old school horror films and yesteryear silver screen techniques. It is no Tim Burton Classic but a masterpiece resulted from deep his deep devotion and passion towards quirky themes. This stop motion, black and white animated film is definitely the most personal film of Burton since Edward Scissor-hands. 'Frankenwennie' is encircled with his soul. Something that must be missed by those Burton Fans :) ... More

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Posted by ajm1991 at 07:58, 06 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Frankenweenie

As an insult to the ticket-buying public, Frankenweenie has been made in black and white, of all things! If only someone had spent more money and gotten the likes of Adam Sandler and Kevin James on board; they could have injected to much needed humour into the proceedings. One thing's for sure: It's no Hotel Transylvania. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 19:45, 04 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie is Tim Burton’s latest love letter to the “horrors” of his childhood. He’s sentimental is old Tim. For a goth, like. A stop-motion animation remake of Burton’s quirky live action short of the same name about a boy and his dog. His, um, re-animated dead dog. Called Sparky. What else? Yup, this is a strange one even for Tim Burton. A kids’ film about death, loss and bereavement. No, wait. Come back! It gets better. In a bold, if not commercially suicidal move, Frankenween... More

Posted by chris kilby at 16:54, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Frankenweenie

Young filmmaker and scientist Victor Frankenstein lives with his parents and his dog Sparky quiet town of New Holland.Victor’s father is very concerned about his son’s isolation and encourages him to take up baseball and make achievements outside of science. At his first game, Victor hits a home run, and Sparky, pursuing the ball, is subsequently killed by a car. Inspired by a demonstration of the effect of electricity on dead frogs, a depressed Victor digs up Sparky’s corpse, creates a ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 23:09, 20 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Frankenweenie

Loved this film as anyone who's had a pet die when they were young would know it's one the most traumatic things next to a relative passing that can happen to you & the film just goes to show the love & bond between a child & his or her's pet & was done from what feels like a very personel point of view. And I also thought the Black & White with Gothic slightly Horror tones added to it nicely yet not so much as to frighten children too much. After a few average? last features it's nice to see... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 17:04, 19 October 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Frankenweenie

The origins of Tim Burton’s return to stop-motion, following his critical and commercial disappointment Dark Shadows earlier this year, goes back to 1984 when the auteur director worked for Walt Disney Pictures. Whilst Disney is one for the more cuddly works like The Fox and the Hound, Burton’s short parody/homage to James Whale’s Frankenstein was considered too scary for children, causing the studio to fire its helmer. Twenty-eight years later, Burton and Disney are work together on a feature-... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:58, 18 October 2012 | Report This Post


L: J_BUltimatum Have to strongly disagree with this review. Was very boring and had no "magic" which made me want to take interest in the story. Tim Burton's work has taken a serious nose dive since his Batman/ Beetlejuice days. Would definetly recommend catching any other film when this is released. Come on, the original Batman (unlike Batman Returns, which is v. Burton-y) hardly has much magic! Edward Scissorhands is surely Burton's best. I saw Frankenweenie today and I'd say it... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 23:56, 17 October 2012 | Report This Post

Best Burton Film TO Date

This has to be Tim Burton's best film for me, the animation was beautiful, the story was heartfelt and it all just came together to create a stop-motion masterpiece. I loved all the little classic horror references and the black and white kept in tone with the original film. Just wish so many more people would see it to understand its beauty ... More

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Posted by lilzz at 20:31, 17 October 2012 | Report This Post

Have to say my interest in this is severely dented by it looking identical to every non-live-action Burton movie, just as Dark Shadows looked just like Alice, Charlie, etc. I'm all for director's having a recognisable style, but I would really like to seem him try a different tone and set of themes (I think Big Fish was the last Burton movie I enjoyed because it was a bit of a departure, and didn't have Depp in it). ... More

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Posted by sinaplenty at 18:43, 15 October 2012 | Report This Post


Sorry to disagree but I am struggling to see how Ed Scissors, Sleepy Hollow, Alice, Corpse Bride, Charlie, Big Fish for fucks sake are a 'nosedive'. Yeah Sweeney and Dark Shadows were missteps and I'll give you Apes and Mars Attacks but come on!!! For good old fashioned storytelling only Del Toro comes close for me. Looking forward to Weenie, Burton very rarely disappoints in my opinion even if we have become a little too accustomed to what to expect, if it ain't broke... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Fozola at 13:26, 15 October 2012 | Report This Post


L: J_BUltimatum Have to strongly disagree with this review. Was very boring and had no "magic" which made me want to take interest in the story. Tim Burton's work has taken a serious nose dive since his Batman/ Beetlejuice days. Would definetly recommend catching any other film when this is released. nd I have to strongly disagree with you...saw this today and I was utterly blown away. Stunningly designed, beautifully shot and brilliantly written. A simple, old fashioned movie with h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ChudMonkey at 22:59, 14 October 2012 | Report This Post

Have to strongly disagree with this review. Was very boring and had no "magic" which made me want to take interest in the story. Tim Burton's work has taken a serious nose dive since his Batman/ Beetlejuice days. Would definetly recommend catching any other film when this is released. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by J_BUltimatum at 10:17, 25 September 2012 | Report This Post

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