Frankenweenie: Appreciating Tim Burton’s Forgotten Disney Classics

With Halloween quickly approaching, we continue to take a look back at some of our favorite Disney Halloween-themed movies. Of course, no Disney Halloween countdown would be complete without properly recognizing two Disney movies that have such an impactful cinematic history and Disney history itself. Those two films are Frankenweenie, a 1984 live-action short film directed by Tim Burton for The Walt Disney Company, and a 2012 remake by the same name, created in stop motion animation. In many ways, the 2012 film is a prime example of Tim Burton at his absolute best, bringing well-grounded characters and emotion to create compelling and often absurd adventures, all while pleasing visually rewarding as well. Of course, the 1984 short that it is based on is a classic in its own right, and full of much creativity and ingenuity that earns its spot as a forgotten gem of Disney history.

Both versions of Frankenweenie follow a similar storyline, which is both a parody and homage to the classic Frankenstein tale. In this story, after the tragic death of his beloved dog Sparky, Victor Frankenstein, a young boy, decides to create an experiment that could bring his dog back to life. His intentions are far from nefarious, but rather one driven by his love for his dog and his hope for Sparky to continue to be a part of his life. Victor goes on an emotional journey throughout the film that leaves him to understand the importance of the ones around us, and even when the ones we do love are no longer with us, they never truly leave us and are always with us as long as we choose to remember them. In true Burton fashion, the film is often weird and even slightly absurd, but ultimately heart-wrenching and beautiful.

From its main premise, Frankenweenie is a homage to classic horror films, and this plays out throughout the climax of the 2012 remake, paying homage to movies like Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man, just to name a few. Frankenweenie finds new ways to be stunning and creative, despite being based off a pre-existing film of almost the exact same premise and title. Shot in absolutely mesmerizing stop-motion, it’s a visual masterpiece, especially with Burton’s track record of directing The Corpse Bride and producing Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Told through beautiful artistry, nearly every frame of the film is a work of art in of itself, and showcases an incredible talent that defines the beauty behind this movie.

The film puts viewers on an emotional journey that is both odd and satisfying, with character arcs that are bound to fill its viewers with sadness. It’s often exceptionally dark for a film that Disney would have typically preferred to put its brand name on (especially when remembering this was once the studio that put Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Nightmare Before Christmas on the Touchstone brand because they didn’t feel the two fit within ‘the Disney brand’). However, the dark aspects of Frankenweenie are to its strength and blend Burton’s signature sense of dark comedy and emotion for a wonderfully crafted movie. Frankenweenie is far from perfect, but it is endlessly charming, and emotional, making it a sadly forgotten film, even just five years later.

Frankenweenie was not well-received financially at the box office, earning a measly $35 million dollars at the end of its domestic run, which hardly made back its $39 million dollar budget, but it’s a great film that deserves to be remembered, and a wonderful film to revisit this Halloween season. It’s a film that’s bound to make you laugh, cry, and leave you in sheer amazement by the beauty of it all. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to catch up before this Halloween season, by watching it online or purchasing it today.