“Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton’s new stop-motion animated feature for Walt Disney Pictures in theaters today, opens with a young boy, Victor, watching a homemade movie. The star happens to be his dog, Sparky, who rescues miniature townsfolk from a Godzilla-like monster, a foreshadowing of things to come.
Victor, a lonely kid with an attic full of film equipment and a wild imagination, may seem like an obvious stand-in for Burton. That turns out to be only half-right. When it comes to monster movies and horror flicks – the stuff that a young Burton grew up on – the director’s strongest empathies actually lie with the monsters.
“The monster for me was the most emotional character. It’s that feeling that kids have, that you’re different and you’re misunderstood and misperceived by society,” says Burton. “It puts an image to the feelings that you have. And the movies were the safest way to explore those feelings.”
“Frankenweenie,” his 16th film as a director, is a quintessential Burton tale, in which little Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) zaps his dead dog back to life during a furious lightning storm.
Despite the stark, black-and-white photography and dramatic camera angles, “Frankenweenie” is also a quintessential Disney film, in which love and kindness win the day and even science has an undercurrent of magic.
“Frankenweenie” arrives on the heels of several horror-themed movies for children that haven’t performed well at the box office, including 2009’s “Coraline” and the August release “ParaNorman,” both also stop-motion productions.