On the second disc of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” DVD you will find a short film released in 1984 by the name of “Frankenweenie. What you won’t find is monsters, stop-motion animation and cats that leave omens in their litter boxes.
Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is the typical loner school kid. He makes films in his attic, has a secret crush on the neighbor girl and his best friend is his dog, Sparky. After a tragic baseball incident, Victor finds himself unable to cope with the loss of his best buddy and turns to science for the solution. What follows is 87 minutes of repercussions, adorable puppy-dog antics and some serious tear-jerking, heart-string-tugging moments of sincerity.[media-credit name=”www.entertainment.time.com” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit] Hands down the main draw of this film is Frankenweenie himself, Sparky. His solo scenes, pre- and post-mortem, supply the most sense of character in the entire film. While many of the other main players have spirit, none are as unique yet relatable as Sparky. Whether he is bursting a seam from drinking too much water, sniffing across the fence at the new dog next door or welcoming Victor home after a hard day at school, Sparky resembles all the great dogs from our lives while still remaining a character all his own.
The film is horrifying and hilarious all at once, causing you to ask yourself what you would do in a similar situation. If given the chance to bring back a loved one, knowing all the problems that will follow, would you do it? I know I’d give up anything to see my dog live forever, and by the end of this film all I wanted was to give my pup a big ole hug. At the same time “Frankenweenie” handles the subject of death and loss with a sensitivity necessary for a children’s film while still being respectful of the audience as well as the topic.
And just like any other good children’s movie, this one comes with some jokes for the adults as well. Or at least for the bibliophiles. There are numerous references to the original novel “Frankenstein,” the film “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and, of course, the Boris Karloff version of “Frankenstein” (1931).
Along with content, the film is an absolute dream to look at. Set in the imaginary land of New Holland, “Frankenweenie” is shot entirely in black and white and uses stop-motion animation, a dying art form that employs puppets and can take days to shoot just one minute of footage.
In the same style as “Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) and “The Corpse Bride” (2005) “Frankenweenie” takes a dark yet whimsical spin on a classic tale. With loads of heart, beautiful puppetry and a timeless story, “Frankenweenie” is a sincere and lovingly crafted film that rivals the original.