And so back in 1984, while working as an animator at Disney, Burton made a 20-minute short called "Frankenweenie," a black-and-white tale about a boy who revives his dead dog. It was so imaginative and peculiar that Disney fired the young animator and postponed their release of the movie so it wouldn't unduly horrify their youthful audience.
Things change, especially when the young lad who wanted to make movies ended up making movies that brought in a billion dollars or so. And now Disney has re-engaged the services of the still-morbid Mr. Burton for a remake of "Frankenweenie," this time as a feature-length animated film in 3-D.
It's in black-and-white, of course -- this is Tim Burton we're talking about. And the transition works pretty well, considering the need to pad out a 20-minute idea into a feature. We are still concerned with the heartbreak of Victor, a science-minded boy whose talent with electricity leads him to bring back Sparky, his beloved pet.
Maybe we didn't mention that Victor's last name is Frankenstein, which might account for the scientific tendencies.
The success of the experiment is alarming, at first. Grown-ups such as Victor's parents (voiced by Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short) are perplexed, but gloomy schoolmate Elsa (Winona Ryder) and some of Victor's other weird classmates are intrigued.
These school chums represent the biggest opening-out of the short film. They're a fun, kooky bunch, and their bear a sneaking resemblance to old-school horror icons such as the Frankenstein monster and the hunchbacked assistant Igor (although that character's name is actually Edgar Gore, to be precise).
Which means this is the second week in a row, after "Hotel Transylvania," a younger audience will be confronted with ancient movie monsters outside their demographic.
In the course of experimenting, other kids' pets are altered, and a big monster apocalypse descends on Victor's home town. A satisfying conclusion, in other words.
I enjoyed "Frankenweenie," although a couple of points need to be made. One is that while I love black-and-white movies like nobody's business, I have to say that watching a 3-D animated picture in B&W got a little monotonous after a while.
Another is to note that this movie is going to freak out quite a few tykes. From the death of Sparky to the rampaging of the Vampire Cat and the Mummy Hamster, there's enough trauma here to remind you of why Disney looked askance at Burton's 1984 offering. Monster-minded kids, including Creature Feature-nurtured baby boomers like Tim Burton, should be fine with it.
"Frankenweenie" (3 stars)
An animated expansion of Tim Burton's 1984 short film, about a boy who raises his dog from the dead, Frankenstein-style. The movie will freak out younger viewers for sure, but it does offer a good deal of morbid fun, in Burton's usual mode (in 3-D in some theaters).
Rated: PG for subject matter, violence.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Dtanwood, Meridian, Thornton Place, Varisty, Woodinville, Cascade, Oak Harbor.
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