Frankenweenie (original short)

A year before he made his directoral debut with "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," Tim Burton directed a half-hour black and white film called "Frankenweenie" that ended up being a regular Disney Channel Halloween special for a while throughout the late 80s and early 90s.

In it, a young boy (the kid from Neverending Story) enjoys making monster movies starring his dog. One day, he rolls a ball into the street for the dog to chase. In the street, the dog is killed by a passing car. The kid gets the idea to bring the dog back to life after doing experiment with electricity on dead frogs in science class.

This is unmistakably a Tim Burton film - the cars look like Tim Burton cars, the gravestones in the opening look like Tim Burton gravestones. And Tim Burton probably understands what makes Halloween Halloween better than any other director. The plot here isn't all that exciting, and it's not very funny or scary, but the visuals are so wonderful that I don't care in the slightest. Watch it and you can clearly see that the director is the kind of guy who could go on to make the best-looking version of Sleepy Hollow in history.

I remember watching this, and kind of enjoying it, when I was a kid and the Disney Channel aired it. I don't remember being knocked out by the kooky visuals at the time - it's not the kind of thing your average kid notices. Maybe the whole world seemed like this to me back then, so the show didn't seem that remarkable. I don't know.

But the stunning sets, costumes, and visuals made this an expensive film to produce - the black and white short cost a million bucks to make, and Disney, feeling that it was too scary for young viewers (which didn't stop 'em from airing it) fired Burton for wasting their money. Burton is now said to be working on a full-length stop-motion version. Disney might not have made money on this, but just LOOK at it! They could afford the money it cost. If you've got money like Disney has money, you might as well pour it into high quality products like this without worrying so much about profitability. That's my stance on the issue, and I'm sticking to it. Quality is more important that profitability in the long run. People still watch this one because it's still good. They only watch crappy-looking specials like "The Great Bear Scare" if they're completists or something, though I imagine that "The Great Bear Scare" made more money when it was first released (the same year as this one). This one certainly has a big following on youtube. The Great Bear Scare does not.

Here's the whole thing in youtube, PLUS "Vincent," the stop motion short that Burton made at Disney (with the voice of Vincent Price)

And a trailer for the feature version:


C-Man said...

RIP Mary Shelley

Anonymous said...

This one is available as a special feature on Disney's Nightmare Before Christmas.


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