Once upon a time in 1984 Tim Burton left Disney after making a short called Frankenweenie, in which a grieving boy brought his beloved dog back to life, a tale that Disney test audiences found too dark and inappropriate for children.
Flash forward to 2012 and Burton’s Frankenweenie is just right for the contemporary Disney audiences that embraced Paranorman, especially since Frankenweenie combines the wonders of laborious stop-motion animation (five seconds of end product equals a week’s work of 33 animators) with 3D (a must-have for a kid audience) and black-and-white (a trip to the past for the kids) – an interesting combination indeed.
In terms of plot Frankenweenie is a lovely story of lonely boy Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan), who likes cinema and science, connecting emotionally only to his hyperactive, love-bursting dog Sparky, who stars in his movies and also ends up being his biggest science experiment. Victor’s parents (voiced by Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short), who seem to be lifted off the Wimpy Kid franchise, wish their kid would be more ‘normal’ and spend time outdoors occupying himself sports and other conventional ‘boy’ activities. No comment.
Sports prove to be deadly for Sparky, and he dies under the wheels of a car – a moment poignant and painful, which Burton shot with so much tact and understanding that it deserves a standing ovation (sometimes less is really more, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see the director make this creative choice when others go for the drama queen emotional porn without thinking twice).
After Sparky passes away, Victor is heart-broken and lost, but one day weird science teacher (voiced by Martin Landau) who looks like Vincent Price and has a strong Slavic accent shows the kids scientific evidence of life after death, with a little help from electricity. Victor springs into action and thanks to the thunderstorm above his attic laboratory. Sparky comes back to life, patched here and there, smelly, leaking liquids and losing body parts but still as loving and hyper as before. The only difference is that now he has to be charged from time to time.