director Tim Burton
viewed: 11/03/2012 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA
Frankenweenie (2012) is Tim Burton’s black-and-white stop-motion animation re-make of his own live-action short film, Frankenweenie (1984). It’s the first animated feature that Burton has directed since Corpse Bride (2005).
This Frankenweenie takes place in a town of New Holland, a quintessential Tim Burton world, a suburbia right out of Edward Scissorshands (1990) (albeit in black-and-white), a version of a 1950’s Southern California as Anytown, USA. But this town is populated with oddballs galore, kids all odder and creepier than our hero, Victor Frankenstein, a boy excited by science who resurrects his pet pooch when it gets hit by a car.
The characters are classic Burton, with their wide eyes, ghostly pallor, skinny legs and arch quirkiness. I’ve liked Burton’s aesthetics since I first knew who he was after seeing Beetlejuice (1988). I remember seeing his illustration designs for that film and thinking how cool it all was.
But in 2012, Burton has become less and less interesting and the world only more and more proliferated with quirky Goth cartoon imagery. Frankenweenie opened a week after ParaNorman (2012) from Laika Studios in Portland, OR. They were also the creative team behind Henry Selick’s wonderful Coraline (2009). The world of ParaNorman, also obsessed with zombies, B-movie horror, and oddball protagonists isn’t all that different in many ways to the stop-motion character designs of Burton’s. And while neither film was great, ParaNorman is superior to Frankenweenie.
It’s caused me much pause to think what motivates Burton these days. His original ideas have been few and far between and his re-boot philosophy of moviemaking has come to not just reanimate any number of “classic” film, television, or other concepts, but now to even cannibalize his own original creation.
None of that would matter if the films were good. Frankenweenie is cute, certainly has some lovely animation, designs, some funny moments. But it’s also just oddly a bit more inanimate and uninspired. And Felix and Clara felt similarly, preferring ParaNorman and Wreck-It Ralph (2012) of our more recent outings to the cinema.