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still from frankenweenie In his attic lab, Young Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) attempts to bring his dog Sparky back to life with lessons he learned about electricity in his science class. (Photo: © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

It's Alive! It's ALIVE!

Frankenweenie comes back from the dead on Friday

By Diego Magaña | October 3 , 2012

BURBANK, California — A storm is hitting theaters on Friday with a 100 percent chance of lightning, 200 percent chance of bull terriers, and lots and lots of screams. Despite the grim forecast, many people will be drawn toward the eye of the storm, called Frankenweenie. Why? Because the force of nature behind the electrifying, artistic black-and-white stop motion feature film is none other than director Tim Burton.

In Frankenweenie, the intelligent and misunderstood teenager Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) harnesses electricity and scientific knowledge to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life after Sparky is hit by a car. It's a happy reunion at first. But when Victor tries to hide Sparky away in his attic and the curious bull terrier escapes, news spreads quickly among his classmates.

With their curiosity and competitiveness sparked, Victor's classmates start resurrecting corpses from the pet cemetery, too. Of course, things go very bad and the zombie pets wreak havoc in the quirky, suburban town of New Holland.

As with every cinematic creation, there is a machine that makes it all happen. The moving parts here are the talented team of Disney Animation Studios and several of Burton's loyal filmmaking friends. And in order for this machine to run, there must be a spark (the idea).

But do you really know how many genius minds it takes to create a monstrous masterpiece? We ask Burton, the artists, cast, crew, and all the people who made the film possible.

"I was a boy once. I had a dog," says Tim Burton. "[Frankenweenie] was based on that first kind of pure relationship. It was quite unconditional — your first love in a way. He also had this thing called distemper. They said he wasn't going to live very long, and he ended up living quite a long time, but there was always this specter hanging over. You're a kid, you don't really understand it, but that's where this whole thing sort of stemmed from."

In 1984, Burton turned his idea of bringing a dead pet back to life into a live-action short film called Frankenweenie. Now, 28 years later, the filmmaker responsible for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland brings his story back to life as a stop-motion animated feature film.

Frankenweenie isn't the first stop-motion film Burton has worked on. He directed Corpse Bride in 2005, and in 1993 he produced The Nightmare Before Christmas. But making these types of films is very different than live-action ones. Each character has to be moved a little bit at a time, then photographed, then moved again, then photographed, and so on until it looks like the character is moving.

It might seem like a tedious task working with stop-motion puppets and handmade sets, especially when there are deadlines. But Frankenweenie Executive Producer Don Hahn doesn't describe it that way.

"It's meditative," Hahn says. "You get lost when you're sewing a button into a miniature shirt."

The actors and actresses were actively involved in the art too.

Atticus Shaffer, who voices Edgar E. Gore, says that he watched a lot of old black-and-white movies to get into the right mindset to work on Frankenweenie.

"To prepare for the role I would also watch things like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca because they're classic black and white," Shaffer says. "They helped me to perfect and hone the voice better."

Catherine O'Hara, who voices Weird Girl, Gym Teacher, and Mrs. Frankenstein, adds that Burton "has a great dark and light sense of humor. He mixes dark and light tones beautifully in his movies."

O'Hara has worked with Burton before. She acted in Beetlejuice, then later provided the voice of Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas. So she knows firsthand how important the relationship between Burton and his actors is.

"When you're with Tim Burton, you're having a lot of fun, but you are also helping to create the art."

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