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It’s Alive: Frankenweenie lives again with a laboratory’s worth of collectible parts! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 09:34

 

First done as a short animated film in 1984, director/producer/writer Tim Burton has re-animated this stop-motion treasure.
It’s often been observed that a dog is man’s best friend, and this Tim Burton movie explores the bonds between a boy (Victor) and his dog (Sparky)—and whether they can ever be severed.
Voiced by veteran actor Frank Welker, “Sparky” is returned to life by the Bridge Direct company in this “Afterlife Sparky” plush creation.
At the Disney Store, visitors can find this version of “Sparky,” held together by nuts and bolts. The plush pet is being discounted for after-Halloween selling.
Elsa Lanchester has nothing on this canine coquette. “Persephone” is a woofing riff on the famous “Bride of Frankenstein” conical hairstyle. (This doggie diva is found at the Disney Store.)
From the Bridge Direct, collectors can amass their own cast of characters and special effects.
“Frankenweenie” shows how old Sparky opens up the floodgates for other pets being reanimated. The odd assortment of offbeat results is a zany collectible offering from the Bridge Direct.
Trading pins have remained a must-have staple at the Disney parks and at their stores. The “Frankenweenie” figures join the pin ranks.
First done as a short animated film in 1984, director/producer/writer Tim Burton has re-animated this stop-motion treasure.
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Many years ago, when I worked in children’s book publishing, we had a morning meeting where we were talking about trends. The movie “Ed Wood” had just opened, and I was smitten by it. When I brought up how enthusiastic I was about the black-and-white cinematography, the campy re-enactments of ultra bad movies, the charming performance of Johnny Depp, and the ragtag camaraderie of the characters and how it was infectious, my publisher looked at me like I was insane. (It wasn’t the first time I received such a bewildered death stare.) “That movie stinks,” he declared. “It’ll never go anywhere. It’s junk.”


Well, at that moment, the other editors, production people, fact checkers, and design team members all banded together and spoke up. Like the torch-wielding villagers in a “Frankenstein” flick, they came to storm the castle. As one voice, they stood up to the publisher. “You’re wrong,” they declared. “It’s a great film, and Tim Burton will be celebrated for it.”


Seeing such a show of camaraderie from his staff—not ragtag, but power-suited and office casual—our publisher did a rare thing: he said he’d give it a second look!


I’m reminded of that day this Halloween season because Tim Burton is everywhere. Since his helming of “Ed Wood,” Burton has had a checkered career: with many box office misses and critical hits, and vice versa. He often seems to be a director and producer who can score lots of cash at the ticket office while alienating critics, or can attract valentines from reviewers and have a ghost town at the movie theater.


With his new Disney release, “Frankenweenie,” he is managing to meld good reviews and a healthy box office pace (as of this blog, it’s already grossing over $45 million worldwide). Going back to his early short-film days, Burton has resurrected his tale of “Frankenweenie,” expanding it now to a full-length stop-action delight.


And the notion of “resurrection” is key to this moody, black-and-white animated flick that pays homage to the Universal Monster movies of the past, and the perennial, enduring love between a boy and his dog. In fact, the connection between pup and pal is so strong that even death can’t serve as a deterrent. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1yR-gEldC4)


“Frankenweenie,” obviously a pun on “Frankenstein,” is very forthright in its salute to Mary Shelley (the tale’s original author), as well as the classic James Whale version from 1931, starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive. There is also a connection to its 1935 sequel, “Bride of Frankenstein,” which introduced the iconic Elsa Lanchester image, a monstrous maiden sporting a mountain of hair streaked with lightning bolts on the side.


What’s so fascinating about this new translation of the age-old tale of man playing god is that it focuses on an elementary-school student (Victor) who takes the notion of a science-fair project one step too far. The passed-away pet Sparky is the subject of the reanimation experiment; and like in its past counterparts, the action ends up producing widespread panic, dire consequences, copycat failures (one of which results in a vampire cat), and lessons learned by all of the townsfolk and their children.


It’s a fun flick, and perfect for this time of the year. What’s also ideal is that the movie was made with puppets, which were painstakingly moved to approximate walking, running, bending, and conversing. There were 200 puppets utilized for the cast, and most of the human figures had 40 to 45 joints to allow for their expressive performances. Sparky, who holds the whole film together on his stitched shoulders, had 300 joints. Imagine the meticulous manufacturing of these faux thespians!


Being able to have a memento from “Frankenweenie” will appeal to kids and collectors alike. The Bridge Direct company (http://thebridgedirect.com/) has a wide array of plush, dolls, figurines, and other Burton-inspired playthings/ornaments.

 

The Disney Store, likewise, has plush pals, dolls, pin sets, coffee mugs, Christmas tree ornaments, and other accessories that celebrate this entertaining outing.


If you’re like me, and you’re going to be taking little ones out for Halloween candy scouting, and then heading home to hand out sweets to neighbor children, you know how exhausting the 31st can become. (Last year, I swear, we logged more than 5 miles in our door-to-door confectionary canvassing.) So why not treat yourself to a movie that will make you laugh and make you think—“Frankenweenie” does just that. It’s a stop-motion flick that makes you stop and think about your pets, your friends, your family, and how far should anyone go to achieve a questionable end. A pretty impressive trick for a little Halloween film!