In 1984, a young Disney animator named Tim Burton made a live action short film named Frankenweenie, and now almost 30 years later – during which time he’s directed such classic movies as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice – Burton has returned to his original idea, this time making a black-and-white, stop-motion animated full length movie about a boy who loves his dog so much he wants to bring him back to life after he’s hit by a car.
The boy in question is named Victor Frankenstein (Tahan), and he is a wannabe scientist with his own attic to experiment in – a perfect place to re-animate poor Sparky the dog. Unfortunately, some of the local nasty kids get wind of Victor’s experiment and decide that they’ll try his experiment too – no matter what it unleashes.
While Burton’s movie is animated, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s for very young viewers. With nods to classic horror characters little kids won’t know about (for example, Victor’s neighbour is Elsa Van Helsing (Ryder), named after the original Bride Of Frankenstein Elsa Lanchester, and Dracula’s nemesis Van Helsing) and scenes that will remind you of everything from Jurassic Park to Burton’s own Edward Scissorhands, it’s more of a treat for movie buff grown-ups and older kids who have been allowed access to their parents’ DVD collection. Younger ones might find the lovely black-and-white animation too stark and creepy, while scenes involving a few scary creatures (and school bullies), a visit to a dark graveyard and the demise and reanimation of poor Sparky may all be a bit too much for pre-tween eyes.
That said, there is a lot here that older children (and adults) will love. The movie has a surprisingly warm heart – it may be have a horror theme but there are some lovely comic moments, from the cute scenes as Victor uses Sparky as an actor in his home-made movies to the manner in which Elsa’s poodle obtains a Bride Of Frankenstein addition to her hairdo. And deep down Frankenweenie isn’t a horror at all but a love story between a boy and his dog – and Burton’s most touching film since Edward Scissorhands.
Is Frankenweenie suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Children under the age of 9 may find this movie too scary.
The death of Sparky is upsetting, as is his reanimation.
The frog dissection at school may upset young viewers.
The later scenes featuring monsters on the loose – especially a transformed cat – are scary.
The angry mob may also frighten the under-8s.