Roundtable Interview: Tim Burton Reflects on Almost 30 Years of Frankenweenie and More
This Friday, October 5th, Disney releases Tim Burton's Frankenweenie in glorious 3D stop-motion animation, and we caught up with the man behind the tale to hear more about the iconic filmmaker's almost 30-year long journey to get the feature film version made.
During the recent press day for Frankenweenie (review here), the story of a boy named Victor and his reanimated dog Sparky, Dread Central joined several other journalists for a roundtable interview with Burton. Check out his thoughts on paying homage to his childhood and his love of monster movies, reuniting with several past collaborators, and much more below; and look for more from the cast and crew of Frankenweenie coming later this week!
Question: Is there a mourning feeling when there's a project that you've worked on for as long as you have on Frankenweenie when you finally see it come out and become part of the universe? (laughs)
Tim Burton: Well, it hasn't quite come out yet so I'm getting ready for that (laughs). But no, I think because this has been such a long process, especially for the animators because they're the ones that were suffering for years in dark rooms bringing this story to life. For something like Frankenweenie, where so many people have put so much work into it and I feel really good about how it turned out, I'm pretty ready for it to be out there in theaters.
Question: How important was it to you to keep the spirit of the original Frankenweenie short film intact for the feature film version?
Tim Burton: That was always the original idea, to make this an animated movie, and being an animator back then, I just loved the idea of live-action because it was fun and different. The original Frankenweenie is a special film for me because it was the first live-action film that I made, and I think your first experience doing something like that is always special to you.
Plus, Frankenweenie is such a memory piece to me; when we started working on it again, I began remembering all the weird kids at my school and the teachers and all of that kind of stuff- even down to the architecture of Burbank, too. The idea for the feature film was to take all of those original ideas and drawings that I first made and then expand upon them. Then we decided to do the film in 3D so when you expand the story and use 3D, that made the project feel new to me in some ways because it wasn't the same approach I used for the short film. The root of it stayed the same though.
Question: Just how personal is Victor's story then to you? The movie feels like it's exploring everything that you grew up loving about the horror genre.
Tim Burton: See, that was the thing for Frankenweenie- there are a lot of references that mean a lot to me in this movie, but I also wanted to keep in mind that there are so many people out there who may not get the truly inside references so we worked really hard to make this a story that wasn't reference-dependent. It had to work for kids and for audiences who aren't necessarily lovers of old horror movies, too, and not be successful only because our homages worked. That's not good storytelling at all.
Question: With Frankenweenie being such a personal movie to you, I can imagine the film's protagonist, Victor, shares some similarities to you. Would that be correct?
Tim Burton: Yeah, I mean, I use my own experience of not being a very good communicator or very verbal - kind of having a much more internal life than external life - and that’s like Victor. But Victor, he’s a very serious, very internal boy; he’s very emotional, very quiet, thoughtful. And he has a bit of a mad scientist quality to him – which is always good (laughs).
The story is based on my relationship I had when I was a child, my dog – which is probably your first big relationship in your life. And even though it’s revisiting something that I did a long time ago, this feels new and special. Frankenweenie is a project that always meant something to me. And the opportunity to do it in stop-motion, in black and white, 3D, and expand on it with other kids and other monsters and other characters, it just seemed like the right medium for the project.
Question: How was it collaborating with so many familiar faces again on Frankenweenie?
Tim Burton: Frankenweenie is such a personal project so it was nice to work with some people that I’d worked with before – and that I hadn’t worked with in a while either. It was great to have Winona back doing a kid's voice because she still sounds like a kid, and then there are people like Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara, who are so great at improve, and then Martin Landau, who I've always loved even before we worked together on Ed Wood. I had a lot of people that are special to me - people that you can see every day or see every five years and nothing is different - and then some new kids and other really talented people I haven’t worked with before so the entire cast for Frankenweenie was just an interesting blend of old and new worlds for me.
Question: Had you always known when you were coming back to tell this story that the feature film version of Frankenweenie had to be stop-motion animation?
Tim Burton: Yes, of course; it was the purest way to tell this story. Because Frankenweenie is about bringing something inanimate to life, the art of stop-motion animation is pretty much the very same idea. Plus there’s a beauty to stop-motion; I can spend hours walking around the set looking at the props and the little details that people put into it, and every single time I see something different, you know? Just a crack in a sidewalk with a blade of grass coming out it, which is such a tiny detail in comparison to the rest of the world. Or even the working Venetian blinds that are so small. There’s just an amazing artistry that goes into that. Just to be able to touch and feel the puppets and move them, there’s something magical about it.
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