Book Review "Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion"

Author: Mark Salisbury
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Disney Editions (February 5, 2013)

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When I first heard that Tim Burton was making a full-length stop-motion feature remake of his original 80’s short film of the same name. I think I did a back flip.  When I saw the film on the other hand I was a little bit disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong the film was visually amazing.  I am huge fan of the art of stop-motion and I feel that it doesn’t get enough attention that it deserves.  The film has grown on it quite a bit with repeat viewings. There is a lot to this film that can be missed with just one viewing.

Let me tell you after reading through “Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion”, I have more appreciation for the amount of work that was put into this film.  I will be scheduling a screening within the next week to revisit this film again just thanks to this book.  To start off there is a terrific foreword by the man himself Tim Burton.  This project has been a real labor of love for him and it really setup up the pace for this book.  Disney Editions has delivered a absolutely gorgeous hardcover book with some really amazing photos jam-packed throughout. I end up reviewing quite a bit of companion or art-of books for various films or video games and this one literally is one of the best I have seen since “The Art of Tron Legacy”.

When it comes to the author Mark Salisbury, if he is doing a companion or art-of book then I know that it is going to be amazing.  Just in 2012, he also authored “Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion” and “Prometheus: The Art of the Film”.  They were easily two of my favorite in 2012.  If you are looking for an in-depth look at the making of “Frankenweenie”, then you will not be left wanting more there.  There is everything from early sketches, puppets development and tons of amazing behind-the-scenes photography. The film is black and white but this book is packed with great color while still respecting and giving ode to the black and white charm the film carriers.

This book was originally scheduled to be released with the film’s theatrical launch but was pushed back to February, which I guess is time with the recent Blu-ray release.  I have to tell you that this is worth the wait for sure.  It is too bad that this film was not better received since like I said after reading this book, you really have to tip your hat to these talented people that are responsible for this film.  Lastly be sure to take a little peak behind the dust cover for a very nice surprise.  I look forward to future releases from Disney Editions, as they have literally never delivered nothing but perfection.

Blu-ray 3D Review "Frankenweenie"

Actors: Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Robert Capron
Directors: Tim Burton
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Run Time: 87 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I think about stop-motion animation, I immediately think about Tim Burton (sorry LAIKA). He is the creative genius behind one of my favorite films of all-time “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Well Tim Burton is back at it again with “Frankenweenie”, which is actually a remake of his 1984 short live-action film. It is a homage to the 1931 film “Frankenstein”, based on Mary Shelley’s book…but with a dog. The feature film remake expands quite a bit on the short and takes the story in a new and bigger direction. This film is presented in black and white (even though filmed in color and converted) and also in 3D, which both really add A LOT to this film. This is a might be a hard sell for kids but it is must for all fans of Burton!

I had originally seen this film in 2D and there is really a lot that you miss out, no so much in your face effects but added depth. The 3D has a few really great moments in-your-face and the rest just feels really perfect and adds wonderful depth with the format. Having seen this film three times now, it is one of those films that really grows on your and gets better with repeat viewings. There are tons of odes and tributes to the classic horror genre. I found myself catching different things with each viewing, so that is definitely a big plus for Burton and horror fans.

Burton reunites with many of his usuals on “Frankenweenie” including Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and Winona Ryder. Tony Award winner Martin Short also voices Mr. Frankenstein and many other characters, though my favorite is Mr. Bergermeister – the Mayor of New Holland. This character is a purposeful homage to Burgermeister Meisterburger from the classic Rankin/Bass film “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”. As I also expected the most annoying voice role in the film goes to Atticus Shaffer aka the weird kid from “The Middle”. He voices Edgar “E” Gore, who is inspired by Igor. I could have done with less of him personally.

Official Synopsis: From Disney and creative genius Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”) comes the hilarious and offbeat “Frankenweenie,” 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 learn that getting a new ‘leash on life’ can be monstrous.

Let’s get to Disney’s beautiful 4-Disc Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, including a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy discs. Like I said I highly recommend this in 3D if possible. The 1080p transfer just look absolutely spectacular. The black and white looks very sharp and combine that with the 3D presentation and I am in heaven. To top that the release comes with an even better DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track, which is perfect for the film and Danny Elfman’s score. On a side note, I am a fan more of the standard Blu-ray + DVD box art not the 3D release box art. The standard release features more characters up front and not all background.

This releases comes with equally electrifying (get it…”It’s alive!!”) special features. They are definitely aimed for the younger audience and lacking any commentary but still entertaining.  Firstly there is an all new original short called “Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers”. “Miniatures In Motion: Bringing ‘Frankenweenie’ To Life” is an in-depth tour of the London set which also includes never-before-seen footage. “Frankenweenie” Touring Exhibit is a showcase that is currently traveling the world and allows audiences to explore the magic behind the film. Of course a given extra is the original live action short for “Frankenweenie”. Lastly, there is a music video for Plain White T’s “Pet Sematary”.


Related Content

Film Review “Frankenweenie”

Starring the voices of: Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and Charlie Tahan
Directed by: Tim Burton
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hr 27 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

In 1984 a young filmmaker working at the Walt Disney Company made a short film that featured a young boy recreating the “Frankenstein” story by resurrecting his recently deceased dog from the dead. Horrified at the completed film, Disney fired the filmmaker, declaring the film too scary for its young audiences. The film was called “Frankenweenie” and the filmmaker was a 26 year old named Tim Burton. Almost three decades later, and the past being in the past, Disney gave Burton a boatload of money to create a feature length version of the film, with all of the style and quirks that make it a Tim Burton film. And the studio certainly got their money’s worth!

Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) is a quiet kid who makes his own home movies and enjoys science. But the thing that makes him happiest is his dog, Sparky. The two are inseparable. As Victor prepares for the upcoming science fair his father (Short) convinces him to give baseball a try. Against all odds Victor knocks the ball into the street where, sadly, Sparky tries to retrieve it. Sparky is struck by a car and killed. After the funeral Victor lies in bed missing his friend. “I’m sorry about Sparky,” his mother (O’Hara) tells him. “If we could bring him back we would.” Victor quickly begins to think. Then, to quote Gru in “Despicable Me” – “LIGHT BULB!”

Presented in black and white and accented by a great Danny Elfman score, “Frankenweenie” is a heart-tugging classic featuring Burton at the top of his game. The inclusion of some fine 3D imagery makes it THE film to see during the Halloween season. The animation is classic Burton – none of his characters look alike. There are tall people, short people – fat and skinny people. There are also pets that take on the characteristics of their humans. The story is familiar to anyone that knows the history of the Frankenstein family and the vocal cast brings it to life brilliantly. Besides the three leads, stellar work is turned in by Atticus Shaffer, Frank Welker and old Burton company members Martin Landau and Winona Ryder.

I should mention that the film may get a little scary for younger viewers due to the subject matter so parents be prepared to explain some things to your little ones.