I was surprised, in the course of casual conversation, how many people I know didn't know that Tim Burton's new stop motion feature Frankenweenie is based on 30 minute live-action short he directed some 30 years ago, which was released in cinemas by Buena Vista (Disney). Here it is: Tim Burton's 1984 FRANKENWEENIE short film 
Although everything old is new again and retro is so in it's almost out the other side, Frankenweenie takes things even further back. It's not just in black and white. It isn't a mere shout-out to old Universal horror and atomic age sci-fi. It's not simply 3D like the gimmick of the golden days. Nope, it's also stop-motion. Stop motion animation is the oldest form of the medium and is so incredibly painstaking that it takes 24 still-shot frames to get one second of moving picture.
While the story is quite tame in the scheme of things (the 6 o'clock news is much scarier), the concepts might be just a tad creepy for really young children. Like Frankenstein (minus the monster) meets Pet Sematary (minus the murders), Frankenweenie tells the tale of a boy and his dog. Everything is going pretty well until young Victor's pet is run over by a car. Although Sparky is dead, he's far from buried as his afterlife adventures accelerate in New Holland, U.S.A. A well-placed charge diring a lightning storm, and presto! the pup's up and at'em.
It's a comedy of terrors as Victor struggles to keep the resurrection of his pulverized pooch a secret, but you can't keep a good mutt down and before long one thing leads to another and the whole town is toxic with power. There's a science fair coming up, and this contest of leads to all kinds of kooky experimentation as Victor’s competitive classmates start trying to replicate his results. My personal favorite is the transformation of Fluffy, a clairvoyant cat who transforms into a soaring bat, much to the dismay of her blank-eyed young mistress.
I hopped off the Tim Burton Cliché Express some time ago, and I must admit I was somewhat reluctant to see Frankenweenie. Hate to say it, but I have had my fill of the soulless parade of self-parody that's been the hallmark of Burton's last several films; I kept on hoping and hoping, and there were a few things to like here and there from this and that, but nothing really grabbed me.
Now, finally, it's safe to say that Burton has made a film that's wholly enjoyable from beginning to end. It's definitely not fresh or new, and every single thing you'll see is something Burton's shown you before, but there is something about how the ingredients all come together that make it worth the while. There's a sincerity to Frankenweenie that's been lacking for years. Perfectly poised for a Halloween release, I daresay it's an instant classic.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Be sure and check out all our interviews from the Frankenweenie Press Junket held at Disneyland, last week —
* Interview with Tim Burton 
* Interview with Winona Ryder & Martin Landau 
* Interview with Catherine O'Hara & Martin Short 
* Interview with Charlie Tahan & Atticus Shaffer 
* Interview with Allison Abate & Trey Thomas 
* Interview with John August & John Hahn