Frankenweenie (1984) Poster

(1984)

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9/10
The Frankenstein legend from a child's perspective, with a gentle sense of humor
mctheimer22 March 2000
It's hard not to like this film. You'll especially enjoy it if you've seen (a) James Whale's "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein," and (b) Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas."

The plot is basically the Frankenstein legend. The variation is that it's about a little boy whose dog has been hit by a car. The boy raises the dog from the dead a la Frankenstein. Charming complications ensue.

This was Tim Burton's first film, and it's a great harbinger of things to come. Burton was an animator at Disney, but the company thought he was a little too weird and let him go as an animator. This film shows how he would treat children's films, and it's delightful. You'll recognize the art direction, especially in the graveyard, from "Nightmare."

The film does a wonderful job of including nuances from the Whale flicks, from the electrodes on the dog's neck to the resuscitation lab to the brief parody of "Bride."

There's enough scary-ish stuff (slightly more gentle than meeting the Almighty Oz) to keep kids going, and enough recognizable movie riffs and humor to keep adults going. What's not to like?
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8/10
Enjoyable homage
camachoborracho15 July 2005
Saw this on the Nightmare Before Christmas DVD and thought it was pretty good. Apparently Disney thought it was too dark but with the exception of one shot of the dead dog it was actually pretty cute.

Some of the performances were over the top (neighbors) but I am pretty sure that was supposed to happen - I mean come on we're talking about resurrecting a dog people. The ending is a little sappy but that's because it's a family film I suppose. I really did enjoy seeing Frankenstein replayed in the tale of a dog as well as references to Bride of Frankenstein etc. What is particularly weird is seeing Daniel Stern & Shelly Duval play parent roles, as well as the kid who played the older brother on The Wonder Years. For the most part the pacing is good since I almost never checked my watch.

Good camera work for a young Tim Burton and overall decent movie which shows the latent talent of Mr. Burton before he got really famous.

8/10
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good family fun
darkneox1193 June 2001
Frankenweenie is ironic because it was banned for being too out there for kids yet crap like Pokemon and Power Rangers is ok for them. The kid from Neverending Story stars as a kid who loves his dog and one day when his dog is killed he resurrects him from the dead, ala Frankenstein and lets his dog live again. This is a cute film and is noteworthy as being a creative concept by Tim Burton. If it wasnt for this movie, Pee wee's big adventure would have never existed.***1/2
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Wonderful and creative
Jason-22822 February 2001
Though this is one of Burton's earlier, shorter, and less popular films, it is perhaps one of his most creative and early "spoofs" (though I would not truly call it a spoof.) Burton created a wonderful, childish look at the classic horror film on which this was based. The greatest scene of the movie is the pet cemetery, with the small tombstones displaying the types of pets buried there (a fishbowl for fish, a cat with X's as eyes, etc.) And the putt putt golf course that serves as the famous windmill scene. I must also commend Burton for choosing to make this film in black and white. During the first few minutes I was not sure if it was going to work, but after most of the film, I realized that it was perfect. Original, cute, and obviously Tim Burton, this film is good for everyone, regardless of what Disney thinks (I guess they were afraid that kids would start digging up the graves of their old dead pets and end of shocking themselves.)
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10/10
Not a dog at all!
Lee Eisenberg3 January 2006
I can't believe that Disney wouldn't let Tim Burton release this! They thought that it was too scary for kids?! Puh-leeze! "Frankenweenie" is a really cool movie! Basically a spoof of Mary Shelley's classic novel, the movie features suburban American boy Victor Frankenstein (Barret Oliver) resurrecting his dog Sparky, who got run over by a car. Needless to say, the reanimated dog creates some chaos once the neighbors meet him! I would imagine that they probably had a lot of fun filming this. Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern play Victor's parents Susan and Ben, respectively. Paul Bartel also stars, and there's even a very young Sofia Coppola. "Frankenweenie" is a real treat for everyone!
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10/10
There is a beginning for everyone
Kristine16 November 2004
Ah, Tim Burton. One of the greatest and strangest directors in the world. I was lucky enough to have seen "Frankenweenie". It was one of the many wonderful extra features on "Nightmare before Christmas". I would highly recommend this to any Tim Burton fan. It is in fact probably a must. You get to see his early work. It is very interesting on his take of "Frankenstein". The story has some laughs. I think it was meant that way. So if you enjoy any of Tim Burton's stories, I think you will definitely enjoy this one. "Frankenweenie" is a great story. Tim Burton. He has come a long way from these days.

10/10
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8/10
Tim Burton's talent clearly shows in his early short film!
Coventry8 June 2004
I just love this… A classic, immortal story enriched with personal ingeniousness! That's exactly what Tim Burton did here! His jolly little film introduces us to the 10-year-old Victor Frankenstein who can't bear the loss of his beloved dog. A car hit Sparky and Victor doesn't want any other dog to replace him. So, he sews him back in one piece and reanimates him electrically! This short only lasts a good half hour but that's more than enough time for Burton to inject memorable sequences, black humor and a healthy dose of social criticism. Burton mocks the life in small American villages, like he'd do it again later in his classic `Edward Scissorhands'. The director also knows the classic Frankenstein version by heart and terrifically reuses the settings and atmosphere here. Just look at that adorable scene with the miniature windmill near the end! An outstanding short with humor, a bit of tension … and even good acting! Frankenweenie stars Daniel Stern (C.H.U.D) and Shelley Duvall (The Shining). It can be found as an extra feature on the Nightmare Before Christmas Special Edition DVD, for example.
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10/10
A truly funny classic.
Chris-3324 December 1999
This short story is a flat out classic. It's funny and unique. And who better to direct than Tim Burton. The story is about the Frankensteins, a normal suburban family in modern times. Victor, the young son, is crestfallen when his dog Sparky dies.

The movie is very funny and original, and I'm glad that Tim Burton decided to do this movie in black and white, as he did 10 years later with his masterpiece Ed Wood. Frankenweenie is just a fun and original idea that is glad to be a short and mostly unknown movie. A great film.
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7/10
A cute take on the legend
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews25 June 2006
Along with Vincent, this short is featured on the DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Since I first read about it here on IMDb, I've wanted to watch it. It's a delightful little film version of Frankenstein, seen from a child's perspective, and with charm and a sweet sense of humor. You'd be hard pressed to find a film that, whilst remaining somewhat dark, still manages to appeal to the kid in all of us so well. Most anyone can enjoy this. The fact that Burton was fired from Disney for making this kind of film is quite sad. This short displays beyond any doubt that Tim could easily have handled great children's films. The plot is well-written and moves along nicely. The scene of Sparky's demise is almost painful to watch, as it is so easy to see where it's going, how it'll end. But Burton holds us there, keeps us in a position where we can only watch, anticipating what will happen but do nothing. The way the story develops and ends works very well. I shouldn't write it out in detail, as it is far too great to spoil. The acting is solid, with few, if any, performances lacking. The characters are credible, if slightly grotesque at times(a trait Burton brings to most of his projects, be they about the living or otherwise). The writing is very good all-round. The humor is neither cruel nor juvenile... just about everyone can laugh at it. It is at times somewhat dark, though. Not much left to say... I enjoyed this simply shot, fun little movie, a sign of great things to come for Tim Burton. I recommend this to any fans of him and anyone looking to watch alternate re-tellings of the great novel. 7/10
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10/10
A small masterpiece
Atreyu_II25 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Frankenweenie" is a brilliant short. I don't even particularly enjoy Tim Burton's movies, but this one is really good. This is his greatest achievement. It's a bit difficult to describe this mini-film. It is genial, plain, simple, macabre, dark, dramatic, touching, disturbing, cute, comical and fun at times... It's a tribute to the Gothic horror genre, yet there's practically nothing scary about it. It isn't one of those commercial terror/horror films from recent years or nowadays. This is a classic.

One of the most distinguish things about this movie is that it is entirely in black and white, despite being a production from the 1980's. Perhaps they did it to make the story feel more heavy and darker. Or maybe they did it to accent the spirit of Frankenstein. It also accents the nostalgic feeling/spirit. You know something? It actually works! Considering I don't say the same thing about "Schindler's List", some folks might wonder how can I possibly feel the opposite about "Frankenweenie". All I can say is that some things just can't be explained - one simply feels them.

This is a very well done short film and its plot is equally interesting. The story's about Victor Frankenstein and his friendship with his beloved dog, Sparky (a Bull Terrier). Although it's sad to see the dog dying twice, it is happy to see that the dog is brought back to life. For example, Victor makes use of electrical impulses in muscles learned at school and even creates genial machines which resuscitate his pet by bringing a bolt of lightning.

At one point, Victor correctly says that «People are weird» because his neighbors fear his dog with no reason. In the meantime, a mess caused by their anger makes Sparky run away and Victor goes after him. They end up finding themselves in a miniature golf course and use its flagship windmill as their hiding place. However, they are soon found and an accident lits the windmill on fire. Victor nearly dies, but Sparky saves him just in time. Sparky dies again, but this time people recognize him as a hero and bring him back to life. Our story has a happy ending.

The friendship between Victor and Sparky together with the fact that Sparky rescues Victor makes me understand why Bull Terriers are considered such good dogs for children and also that they have a natural instinct of protection towards children. These «canine gladiators» are lovable dogs with a jolly character and their peculiar appearance is unique, being their egg-shaped head their most distinctive feature.

Generally speaking, the actors are good in their roles. Shelley Duvall is good as Susan Frankenstein. Daniel Stern, best known for playing Marv in the first two "Home Alone" films, portrays here Ben Frankenstein and he's good too. Barret Oliver, a familiar actor from "The Neverending Story" and "D.A.R.Y.L" (both awesome movies), as well as one of the best and cutest child actors of all time, is excellent in the role of Victor Frankenstein. And last, but not least, there is Sparky (his name was really Sparky), as formidable and as intelligent as a dog can be in the acting business.

I am surprised that this motion picture is from Disney studios. This is perfect to watch anytime of the year, not just on Halloween.

Some elements in this small film remind me of "Back to the Future", particularly when Victor uses the elaborate machines to revive the dog, as well as the clocks seen in that room and the use of a bolt of lightning. Some of the sceneries, sequences and dark elements create this resemblance too. There is a bit of a "Back to the Future" atmosphere in this live-action short.

I've read that Tim Burton will make a "remake" of this, but as a full-length movie. It is more than good the way it is, why bothering to remake it? They can't use the same cast. Plus, Barret Oliver is an adult now and I think no one but him could do Victor Frankenstein. I also wonder: will they use a Bull Terrier to be Sparky this time? Or will they use a different dog breed?

This should definitely be on Top 250.
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9/10
wonderful homage to horror films
MartinHafer23 May 2006
It's amazing that Disney, who paid for this project, initially shelved this short film because they deemed it "inappropriate for children"! This is only a slightly dark and very funny family film that is a homage to the horror pictures of the 1930s and 40s--complete with glorious black and white cinematography! And, I think that children of just about all ages would enjoy this without being traumatized. More importantly, there's enough fun to this story that adults won't watching it either--and that's important for parents that are tired of the usual drivel that was foisted upon families during the 70s and 80s. The acting is way overdone, but deliberately so--as everyone who initially sees this re-animated dog becomes deathly afraid and overreacts, since the pooch is a sweet dog underneath its ugly exterior. So, believe it or not, this is a great film about accepting others and not prejudging them--and you probably did NOT expect this film to have such excellent family values!
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10/10
Great for kids and adults!!
ShaunaLynn21 July 2005
I saw this movie when I was finally old enough sit up by myself. It was a great movie, and always had a great impact on me as a child. It was the first movie I ever remember watching, causing me to later in life become a huge Tim Burton fan. I thought the film was very well written and directed, and as I watched it recently I enjoyed it just as much as I did when I was two! Great movie, along with Edward Scissorhands, and Nightmare Before Christmas. Though it isn't easy to get hold of a copy now with VHS being discontinued, you can probably find a copy on VHS on eBay.com or on the Special Edition nightmare Before Christmas, there is a section that has the short film Frankenweenie on it. Have fun watching!!
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4/10
comic but disturbing tale, typical Burton-esquire
rebeljenn25 November 2005
'Frankenweenie' is a story of a young boy whose dog is killed, and he is so upset over the loss of his pet that he decides to bring the dog back to life. This is a sad film with a comical twist - there were some funny scenes and some very sad/disturbing scenes too. It is interesting to see Burton's style of film-making when he was starting out as compared to now. This is not as 'polished' as his current work (obviously), but you can tell it is a Burton film because of the use of dark humor.

Overall, 'Frankenweenie' is not a very long film, and Burton did well to tell the story in the amount of time that he did. It was not rushed at all, and it was a story that just spoke a lot about the character and his emotion for his pet. If you can see this and you're a fan of the film-maker, I would see it. However, I think a general audience would find the film to be average. You won't really appreciate it unless you're a big Burton fan.

I have heard that this is/was a difficult film to find. I located it at my local Blockbuster rental store a few years ago.
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Interesting early Burton short film
utgard1428 December 2015
Tim Burton's loving tribute to Universal's Frankenstein movies. The story's about a boy who brings his beloved dog Sparky back to life using the same method as in Frankenstein. It's a beautiful-looking film, shot in black & white, with lots of the clever touches we've come to associate with Burton over the years. The cast, from Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern to Paul Bartel and Joseph Maher, all do an intentionally exaggerated job that's fun to watch. Lead Barret Oliver is great (whatever happened to him?) and there's even a young Sofia Coppola in a small role. It's an enjoyable movie, suitable for the whole family, despite Disney's concerns at the time that it wasn't kid-friendly. It's got heart and humor and a healthy dose of nostalgia going for it. If you love the old Universal horror movies then it has even more appeal. Burton expanded on the idea in 2012 with an animated film that's not bad on its own, but has a different feel to it than this.
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Absolutely sublime
GusF10 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A short film directed by Tim Burton, this is absolutely sublime. It is a brilliant, touching film which both parodies and pays tribute to "Frankenstein", the 1931 film version in particular. It tells the story of a ten-year-old boy named Victor Frankenstein, based on Burton himself as he makes short films in his backyard, who is distraught by the death of his (very appropriately named) dog Sparky. Shortly afterwards, he learns that electricity can be used to stimulate muscles, which inspired Mary Shelley to write "Frankenstein" in the first place. He harnesses the power of lightning to revive Sparky, who soon comes to be misunderstood and feared by the Frankensteins' neighbours. The script by Lenny Ripps, based on an idea by Burton, is top notch.

The use of black and white is extremely effective and Burton's direction is excellent. Barret Oliver, a prolific 1980s child actor best known for his roles in films such as "The NeverEnding Story", "D.A.R.Y.L." and "Cocoon", is pitch perfect as Victor, who manages to seem like a real boy in spite of the plot. Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern are great as his supportive parents. Joseph Maher excels as the film's "antagonist" Mr Chambers while Roz Braverman is a laugh riot as Mrs. Epstein. It also features fairly small appearances by Stern's future "The Wonder Years" co-star Jason Hervey and Sofia Coppola, a making a rare appearance in something not directed by her father Francis Ford Coppola.

Considering that I basically prefer dogs to people, I was a little apprehensive about watching this given the subject matter but I need not have worried as it is as heartwarming as it is macabre. It perfectly conveys how much a dog can mean to a person. I couldn't imagine life without my dog Freddie! It has already become both my favourite film about a dog and my favourite short film. Were it not for "Ed Wood", my 17th favourite film of all time, this would be my favourite feature or short film directed by Burton. My enthusiasm for it knows no bounds.
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5/10
A second viewing...
punishmentpark25 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This is my old review:

"After I saw Tim Burton's full feature 'Frankenweenie' (2012) I discovered that I'd not yet seen 'Frankenweenie' (1984). I didn't know it was 'real-life' as opposed to the animated 2012 version, but that doesn't have to be a problem. But even though this one has its charms, it wasn't all that great.

The premise is a funny one, but the developments are rather lame, particularly when in the end those annoying neighbors have a sudden change of heart. Then there is the lead who plays Victor, he fails to earn my sympathy. Actually, there isn't any character that is sympathetic, which also has to do with the lame story and the fact that Burton doesn't seem to know what to do with this short story other than hauling in cliché after cliché - pretty much the only original thing here is the premise, but that is simply not enough.

I can sense Burton's enthusiasm here and there though, like when the boy goes to work in the attic in order to spark Sparky back to life. But all in all, this makes for a world of difference with Burton's wonderful (animated) short that preceded this, 'Vincent' (1982), and of course with other, later feature length masterpieces.

5 out of 10." -End of first review-

I've seen it again recently, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere, settings and animations. Maybe the story and the characters are all a bit on the lame side, but I didn't find it to be that important this time around. Sheer Burton fun is my new conclusion.

From 5 + 3 = 8 out of 10!
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10/10
The 'Frankenstein' of the 80's
bts19848 December 2010
It's easy to see where this wonderful little tale got its inspiration from. It was from the 1931 film 'Frankenstein', which is only strengthened by the fact that this is filmed in black and white. This short is like a lighter version of 'Frankenstein'. It's more cute than scary or macabre, although it still has some of that familiar dark feeling. Above all the things, this is film-making of quality, with awesome visuals in a Gothic style.

The music is terrific, the pace is excellent, the locations cinematography is marvelous, the characters are generally likable, the actors are great, there is humor... it's a little movie that oozes charm and nostalgia.

Barret Oliver, the cute kid from 'The Neverending Story' (1984) and 'D.A.R.Y.L.' (1985), is once again terrific, here as Victor Frankenstein. Shelley Duvall aka "Olive Oyl" offers another great performance as Susan Frankenstein. Daniel Stern is Ben Frankenstein. Even here he already showed potential as a comic (and this was years before becoming a superstar with the first two 'Home Alone' movies). Even looking younger and without beird and mustache, ain't no mistaking on that "Marv" face.

And there is also Sparky the Bull Terrier, awesome as Sparky (just like his name in real life). Sparky is a nice name for a dog. Bull Terriers have got to be among the most peculiar-looking dogs, in great part thanks to their unique head in the shape of an egg.

The title 'Frankenweenie' is unusual. I can perfectly see where it got the "Franken" from. As for the "weenie", it probably is meant to make one realize it's a "kid's version" so that it's suitable for kids to watch and not scary like the original tale.

This "piece of a watchmaker's shop" is the best thing Tim Burton ever did. This is his masterpiece.

Title in Portugal: 'Frankenweenie', I guess.
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80's cinema
nadstar424 July 2008
This film was shown in the Cinema's to kids in the UK, before the main film started. I never knew what is was called but always remembered it, as it freaked me out. If it was 84 when it was shown, I would have been 5. That feels about right. So now i'm remembering this film, tipsy and thought... oh with the power of the internet I may actually discover this film's name. Now I have and by Tim Burton of all people! My job is done, after years of wondering about the scary dog, that should have been dead. Concentrating on typing is difficult right now. Any other 29 year old seen it in the cinema and felt scarred? Not sure what the main film was after. I can't wait to watch it again now I have found it :-)
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10/10
Tail of terror...
poe42626 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** Yet another black and white epic inspired by the great German films of the Silent Era (by way of the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN, no less), FRANKENWEENIE is a love story and it begins quietly enough, with no indication of the horrors to come. The Great Goth (Tim Burton) hits his stride, here, his first time out of the gate, and delivers a satisfying (if chilling) children's tale in his patented cinematic style. (Burton seems to be much more in tune with the True nature of children than many of his highly-heralded contemporaries.) One can only imagine (at this point) what a filmmaker of Burton's caliber could do with a remake of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI or an adaptation of some of the tales of Edgar Allen Poe...
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8/10
Frankenweenie
kashmir_1725 April 2002
If anyone's seen the original 1931 classic Frankenstein you already know what this short is about. Only there are a few minor changes to the classic tale.

In Frankenweenie, little Victor Frankenstein's much-loved pitbull, named Sparky, gets run over by a car. The Frankenstein family then puts the family dog to rest in a very gothic looking pet cemetery, that looks something from Tim Burton's own Nightmare Before Christmas. While in science class, little Victor learns a few things electricity can do to something that is already dead... which gives him a wild idea. Little Victor Frankenstein digs up Sparky's grave and gives Sparky life! In the typical suburban neighbourhood, Sparky wreaks havoc on the Frankenstein's quirky neighbours. Victor's parents find out about his dark secret and try and convince their paranoid nieghbours that Sparky is not some monster that will eat anybody that gets in his way. Paying homage to the original Frankenstein film, the final sequence involves Sparky being trapped in a windmill that soon catches on fire! Including the last few seconds of the short, Sparky falls in love with a poodle with the same wacky hair-do as Frankenstein love interest in The Bride of Frankenstein.

This is one of the two first directional debuts of the master storyteller Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman, Sleepy Hollow), along side of his six-minute tribute to his idol Vincent Price, called Vincent in 1982. Tim Burton's own masterpiece, Edward Scissorhands is in the same vein as this same short film, being that Sparky was his owner's creation and becomes very misunderstood due to the fact that he doesn't look like any other dog, while Edward was Vincent Price's own creation and soon becomes the outcast in suburbia because of his `scissorhands'.

Tim Burton also decided it would be better if he filmed the short in black & white... he was right. The short was perfect using black & white. It adds that feel of an old-fashioned horror flick. Exquisite!

While Tim Burton was working for Disney as an animator, Disney decided to give Tim his own creative freedom, letting him direct and be the brains behind the story of two shorts for Disney: Vincent and Frankenweenie. But when Disney saw Frankenweenie they banned it because they thought it was unsuitable for children and was never released. But as luck would have it, in 1993 when Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas came to theatres, Disney played it non-stop on the Disney station. Pretty funny, eh?

Any-hoo, this short is strongly recommended to all Tim Burton fans and fans of the Frankenstein franchise.

****1/2 out of ***** 8/10
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Entertaining, gothic and full of pathos
bringmesunshine9 November 2001
I just recently viewed this film when buying the special edition of Tim Burton's 'The nightmare before christmas dvd'. This film is quite impressive considering it was one of Burton's first attempts. For Disney, I think it has quite a gothic elememt which is heightened even further by Burton's decision to film it using black and white. I think it is pretty clear that Frankenweenie is a pastiche of Frankenstein; partcularly the scene where Sparky is brought back to life by being exposed to lightening, just as Frankenstein did with his creation.

Burton depicts the character of Frankenstein as an outsider as a result of his actions. This theme is one that has overridden many of his subsequent films such as 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Mars Attacks'.

I would reccomend this film to both children and adults.
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5/10
I hope the new one is better
JoshSharpe16 September 2012
If you keep track of upcoming movies (like I do), you may know that Tim Burton is releasing a film called "Frankenweenie" next month. It is based on his original idea of a boy that brings his dead dog back to life. In 1984, he released a short film version. Well, almost released it. Disney fired him because it scared children and they didn't want him making those kind of movies for them. It wasn't released to the public until an edited version came out on VHS in 1994. It wasn't until 2008 that the original uncut version was released with the special edition DVD and Blu-ray of "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Unfortunately, I don't think all this work was worth it. The creative idea doesn't translate very well on screen here. I don't think most kids would be scared; just rather uninterested. And the black and white adds nothing to it and I found it unnecessary. I will be sure to see the new "Frankenweenie" next month and I'm hoping it will be an improvement over this.
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8/10
A surprising yet entertaining short black and white film
Stompgal_8711 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I first heard of this film when the 2012 stop-motion remake (also very good) was publicised. What surprised me the most was that I thought this film would be stop-motion when I first heard of it but it in fact live-action. Intrigued, I saw this on YouTube and it was better than I thought it would be, despite the part between Sparky's resurrection and the climax dragging on.

First off, the black and white cinematography was a great nod to other black and white film versions of Mary Shelley's novel such as 1974's 'Young Frankenstein' for instance. The most entertaining thing about this film was spotting the scenes that were included in the stop-motion remake such as the beginning and the ending. The acting was generally well done and the dialogue was engaging if slightly clichéd in places. While the lightning effects may look cheap, I liked the musical score on the whole despite its repetition in parts and the piece accompanying Sparky's burial could have done with more poignancy. Other than that, the score was altogether chilling and emotive.

Overall the live-action was the most surprising aspect for me and the pacing was somewhat uneven but this short was very entertaining all the same what with spotting the scenes that were remade in stop-motion form. 8/10.
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8/10
An Early Look Inside the Mind of Tim Burton
ThreeGuysOneMovie16 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
With the upcoming release of an animated version of Frankenweenie, just in time for Halloween this year, I thought it might be a good time to review the original. What's that you have never seen the original 29 minute short created for Disney by Tim Burton? Frankenweenie was created way back in 1984, when everyone was still convinced those godless commies were going to invade our shores. This short film was supposed to be released at the same time as the re-release of Pinocchio in theaters. However, children in test screenings were horrified by the film. Disney summarily fired Burton over the creation of this film and his spending of a cool million to create it.

This film might have been lost in obscurity for all time if Burton had not eventually found success and acceptance, by a wide audience with films like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Suddenly, Disney was a big fan of Tim Burton, in the hopes of cashing in a bit they added two shorts to the DVD releases of A Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie and Vincent. Hell they even added the Burton created Jack Skellington to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland and Disneyworld. Seems like their is a fine line between kooky filmmaker and bankable director.

The story in Frankenweenie is a rather simple, heartfelt tale of a boy, young Victor Frankenstein and his dog Sparky. While playing with Sparky young Victor accidentally throws his ball a bit too far and Sparky get killed by a car. Devastated, Victor sets out to reanimate his beloved dog Sparky. He creates a small scale mad scientist lab and successfully brings his beloved Sparky back to life.

However, all does not go according to plan, as the reanimated Sparky starts to terrify the surrounding neighbors. Despite attempting to allay the neighbors fears by having a meet and greet at the family home, the neighborhood soon turns on Sparky and forms an angry mob. This mob chases Sparky and young Victor to an abandoned miniature golf course. Will Sparky and Victor escape the mob or will the mob extract vengeance on the terror that has been reanimated.

At its core this film is mildly dark comedy that pays homage to the classic Universal Monster films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. The decision to shoot the film in black and white only serves to add to the creepy atmosphere. The recreation of the windmill scene at the end Frankenstein via the use of the miniature golf course borders on genius. Less a film about the horror or reanimation the dead than a commentary of American fears, mass hysteria and mob mentality at the time of its release, Frankenweenie is a short early peek into the mind of cinematic virtuoso Tim Burton.

If you enjoy the Classic Universal horror films, or are a fan of Tim Burton this is certainly worth a watch. The scares are mild and the mood is lighthearted, I would be surprised if any children reacted in horror like that test audience long ago. The film is included with your DVD copy of A Nightmare Before Christmas and can be viewed in under 30 minutes.
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The White Raven !
ahmed elshikh28 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This Tim Burton movie, produced by Disney while Burton's first career there as a conceptual artist, is the weakest movie by him I have seen to date. And notice well that that comes from someone who adores him !

In his previous movie (Vincent) Burton advised us about accepting the uncommon ones as they could be exceptional, through a tale of a talented, not understood, kid. Being uncommon is a subject I'm convinced Burton has suffered from early in his life, especially in Disney, putting in mind his eccentric imagination and instant craze of the whole horror genre. Now with (Frankenweenie) he counties the trouble of his lead kid in (Vincent); where both refer to none other than Burton himself. It's about winning the appreciation of something dear and lovely that may seem ugly or horrific for others, which could equal a different talent or a superficially unpleasant person, or – simply – a moviemaker who's interested in such matters. The thing, here, is that Burton wanted to be himself and Disney's as well. And that's where the taste got mixed up.

The movie is dark, with an idea of accepting the zombie (!). In the same time, it tries to allege a happy end where the entire refusing mob – of that zombie – turns into caring, loving and rescuing friends, actually with the "bride" of Frankenstein, sorry.. Frankenweenie, moment; it's a very happy end !

I thought that Burton maybe would have preferred an end where the dog and the boy die, as long as that society expels them form its understanding or mercy. Or maybe the boy would be saved by the dog which got to die later as a martyr of sacrificing or a murdered of mala fides. However, he gave us that extremely smiling end to lose being a scary melancholic tale, while not being a colorful gay Disney movie either. This movie stood on the middle with no satisfaction or beautiful special taste.

The direction isn't dazzling or interesting; the resurrection scene – which is the best scene – is just fair, and the steadicam's shots were done before in The Shining (1980). The images of the neighbors getting horrified by the zombie, absolutely innocent, dog were exaggerated and unbelievable. All the sets didn't harmonize with the huge very artistic pet cemetery's set. The sense of humor is totally lost (a spoof of Frankenstein my foot !), only a lame line about the mother's sister, which looks finally a bit misplaced. And the dog's make up as zombie is so primitive, silent movies primitive ! The music is the sole great factor, however of course not redeeming enough.

I didn't wonder when I read that Burton was fired from Disney for "wasting" their resources on films like this. It has nothing to do with their known by heart goods. At any case, he would return to the same subject, accepting and appreciating the uncommon, many times throughout his next smarter years to an extent makes (Frankenweenie) a hasty rehearsal for (Edward Scissorhands) six years later.

So it's, at best, a hasty rehearsal more than a movie. It belongs to Burton's world, but not as balanced or enjoyable as the rest of his works. And it couldn't gain being a raven or a pigeon, ending up as something in between, badly hybrid !

P.S : unlike many, including Burton himself, I don't see this movie as a short remake of Frankenstein aimed at children. I deem it a short dark remake of the decade's icon E.T, with the same suburban, friendship between a kid and uncommon creature, hateful grown-ups, sympathetic parents, chase to destroy the creature, that creature's power of goodness, and happy end with the long-wanted appreciation achieved.
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