February 9, 2013


It seems like over the past decade or so people have given up on Tim Burton.  After a string of successful films filled with his trademark stylistic flourishes and quirk, the auteur seemed like he stopped caring.  With his Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Corpse Bride it felt like Burton lost an emotional stake in his work.  And even though 2010’s Alice in Wonderland was his biggest commercial hit ever (a god damn billion dollars?!), it still seemed like he was phoning it in.  In 2012 (maybe in order to jump start his creative libido again) he returned to material that got him fired up.  One was his interpretation of a gothic ’60s soap opera and the other was Frankenweenie – the 3D stop motion animation based on his 1984 short.  Find out how the Disney Blu-ray fares after the jump.

frankenweenie-poster-sparkyThe subtlety named Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a loner whose best friend is his dog, Sparky.  He spends his spare time doing science experiments and making films in his attic makeshift studio.  Victor isn’t a loner because he’s socially awkward or picked on at school – he’s just more focused on his hobbies.  His parents (Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short) support his passions, though they quietly wish he had more friends besides the dog.

Father Frankenstein convinces Victor to give baseball a shot.  I won’t go into the horrific details, but Victor playing baseball leads to Sparky dying.  That’s what happens when you leave the house – your dog dies.  Why can’t people just sit inside and watch television?  Sparky would still be alive.  Anyways, Victor’s all messed up from Sparky’s death and the only thing that snaps him out of his funk is a science lesson about electricity animating flesh.  You see where this is going.

As a dog lover, I have to mention that there are some nice touches in Victor and Sparky’s friendship that dog owners will recognize.  Like when Sparky does his little shuffle as Victor pulls up on his bike.  I’m a sucker for dogs movies, so it’s nice to see a believable dog/owner relationship (even if it is animated).

The film pays heavy homage to the classic horror films Burton grew up obsessing over.  There’s nothing subtle here.  There’s the obvious Frankenstein plot, as well as a science teacher who looks like Vincent Price and the neighbors named van Helsing.  Burton doesn’t just let the homages do the talking for the film though, he energizes them.  The entire film has an excited energy that’s been absent from his work for about a decades and it makes all the difference.  The film feels a little hollow in the middle and there are subplots that go nowhere, but overall it’s a great return to form for Burton.

frankenweenie-imageFrankenweenie is presented in 1080p for both 2D and 3D presentations and they both look stunning.  Everything looks crisp and clean as hell.  The gray gradient and deep blacks give the film a wealth of depth and contrast.  It’s one of the better 3D presentations I’ve seen recently and it gives the film a genuinely immersive look.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track sounds terrific and sucks you in nicely.  For A/V, the Blu-ray is as good as it gets.  Bravo, Disney.

The original, live-action Frankenweenie Burton shot in 1984 is included.  The film, starring Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern, and Barret Oliver (The NeverEnding Story), has been converted to HD.

“Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life” (24:00) is a thorough behind the scenes look at the film.  It features Burton, animation director Trey Thomas, and the producers.  They rap about a lot of stuff, the most interesting being all of the models, set, and puppets.

Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit” (5:00) is a look at the art show put on by the filmmakers that showcased everything that went into the film.

“Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers” (2:00) is a “bonus” animated short film that’s supposed to be a film Victor made with Sparky in the attic. It’s cute stuff.

There’s also a music video of those pretty boys the Plain White T’s performing their terrible cover of “Pet Sematary” and some trailers for other Disney flicks.


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