Longtime Tim Burton collaborator- writer John August- has enjoyed a rather remarkable career in a considerably short amount of time. Read on for his thoughts on everything from Frankenweenie to the much talked about adaptation of Preacher.
He hit the ground running when he saw his very first script out of college- the now modern cult classic Go- being helmed by director Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) and just a year later found himself working on the feature film update of Charlie’s Angels with McG. It was in 2003 when August found something of a kindred creative spirit in Burton when the pair worked on Big Fish and eventually four other feature film projects including the iconic filmmaker’s latest- the Disney stop-motion animated flick Frankenweenie which hits theaters everywhere this Friday.
Tasked with fleshing out the story that Burton first brought the story of Victor and Sparky to life in his award-winning stop-motion short film back in 1984, Dread Central recently caught up with August on the phone to talk about his experiences working on Frankenweenie, discussed his approach in creating a kids story that adults could love too and gave us an updated on the long-rumored about Preacher feature film adaptation of the comic series.
Check out the highlihgts of our exclusive interview with August below and look for more on Frankenweenie coming soon!
Dread Central: So what kind of notes did Tim give you before you started working on the script for Frankenweenie?
John August: Tim knew that the most important aspect of the feature film was that we had to stay true to the short. He also had a list of monsters and he had sort of an idea of the other kids in this universe but that was about it really; it all happened very quick. All he really said was ‘Give me the story that ties this all together and makes it a movie.’ So that’s what I did; I made this world a much broader canvas than the short had and really developed the other characters beyond Victor and Sparky.
Of course Victor and Sparky are the heart and soul of this story but I really felt like they deserved to exist in a world with other lively characters so that’s why you have all these quirky kids and teachers, a town that has very unique issues with lightning and nightly storms and then we decided to explore the idea of the good and bad side to science. That was a lot to work in but I think we found a successful balance and made a movie that hopefully reaches people on an emotional level but also entertains them too.
Dread Central: I found so much of the humor in the movie really delightful; was it a challenge for you at all making a kid-centric story that adults can appreciate as well?
John August: I always kept that in mind when writing Frankenweenie; the important thing to remember was that this story is from their perspective- from Victor’s perspective- so we always treated the events in this movie that maybe seem trivial to us as adults like they were the most important things happening in the world. Maybe we don’t worry about our science projects but kids do so we really kept our focus on telling this story from a child’s POV. It was all about being honest with these characters and this world.
What’s great though is that the overall themes in the movie are really things we can all relate to, no matter what our age- we’ve all experienced loss, we’ve all felt like an outsider at one time or another- those are all universal ideas whether you’re 6 or 60.
Dread Central: You’ve been a longtime collaborator of Tim’s- any future plans for working together yet?
John August: There’s nothing on the horizon just yet; it’s really just a matter of seeing what Tim’s next project is and whether or not he wants me to be the one writing it. But I love writing movies that he can make; he’s so incredibly supportive of my work all the time and I really love his vision and the way he tells stories. It’s almost magical.
Dread Central: One project I know that has been through the rumor mill over the last few years was Preacher- is that a project that’s pretty much done with now?
John August: This is what I can say about Preacher- it’s a project I would love to see happen; it is something that could be greenlit at some time but honestly, it won’t be any time soon. There’s no one in the world that wants to see this movie happen more than me because I’m such a huge fan of this character and this world.
The Frankenweenie voice cast includes four actors who worked with Burton on previous films: Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands), Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), Martin Short (Mars Attacks!), and Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), along with Charlie Tahan and Atticus Shaffer.
A heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
A stop-motion animated film, ‘Frankenweenie’ will be filmed in black and white and rendered in 3D, which will elevate the classic style to a whole new experience.
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