Interview: Tim Burton on Creating 'Frankenweenie'

– by Melissa Molina

Love him or hate him, Tim Burton is a name many recognize right off the bat. Each one of his films stands out due to his peculiar visual style and some high profile actors. Many years before he turned into this widely known filmmaker, he tried to peel himself away as an animator with "Frankenweenie," a live-action short film that became the starting point in his long-running career.

A few successful films later and here he is, revisiting the timeless tale of a boy and his dog with a twist. While Latino-Review got the opportunity to speak with the director, he talks about his love of monster movies, the importance of stop-motion animation in "Frankenweenie" and the future of "Beetlejuice 2."

How important was it to keep the original short intact for this film?

Tim Burton: Well that was the original idea. Being an animator back then, I love the idea of doing live action. It was fun and exciting. It got me into a whole new world which was great... This was such a memory piece. It was something where I started thinking about other aspects of that time, other kids at school and remembering all of the weird people that I remembered, teachers and even down to the sort of architecture of Burbank. So the idea of going to the original drawings, expanding the other monsters in a sort of "House of Frankenstein" kind of motif in black and white, 3D... All those elements made it kind of feel like a whole different project, even though the heart of it and the whole root of it is the same.

It seems to draw a lot on some of these influences...

Tim Burton: Yeah. It's a good point because the movie is filled with references. It was very important to me, and I was just thinking about the process. So many people don't know those references so I tried not to make it reference dependent. For kids and people who don't know those movies, I tried not to make it the only reason why you'd enjoy the film. The homages too are all about the feeling of it so I tried to make sure you didn't have to know every reference in order to still enjoy it. Get a flavor of what those movies were.

Those are the films that spoke to me. Some people have musicals, westerns, whatever. Everyone's got their thing. For me those [horror] movies just spoke to my emotional life in the sense that I think all those movies did. If you felt like weird or outcast, lonely or whatever you can relate to the monsters. Frankenstein was a misunderstood character and most of the monsters were misunderstood characters. I think a lot of children feel that way so it was quite easy to identify with those characters and sort of psychologically guide you through. They kind of help you through your emotional life as you're growing up and you don't quite understand everything on an intellectual basis.

You made the first film as a young director coming into his own. Now you make this one as a guy who's on top of his game. What are your feelings to making this now compared to back then?

Tim Burton: Well it's different, that was live-action. I was at a different point. In some ways I was quite grateful that the short was live-action because being an animator, if I had done it animated back then I probably wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to direct live-action. If I were to just give the reality, looking at the drawings and thinking about the story of Frankenstein, bringing an inanimate object back to life and the stop-motion animated process on it, it's a pure version of the idea in the sense of the medium and the story mixing in the right way.

Could you elaborate a little bit more on the stop-motion and how it worked so well for this particular story.

Tim Burton: When you're taking a story which is Frankenstein, bringing an inanimate object back to life, that's what stop-motion is. Some movies are better drawn, some movies are better being done on the computer, and some movies are better being done in stop-motion. You try to do a film where the medium is the right way to do it. This was an instinct that this was the right way to do it because the story and the medium are the same.

What has it been like working with Winona Ryder now compared to when she was younger?

Tim Burton: No, that's why I asked her to do the voice of a kid because she still sounds like one. [laughs] She hasn't really changed much at all which is great. I love working with her and I haven't worked with her in many years. It was a small thing but because it was a project that means a lot to me it was nice to have somebody like her. Then there's Catherine (O'Hara), Martin (Landau) and Martin (Short) who I've worked with. You know, it was important, especially on this, to have that kind of connection which made it more special to me. It's interesting, the people that you love, you can see them everyday and then not see them for a couple of years. I haven't seen her in awhile and when I saw her it was like I saw her yesterday. Those are the people that mean a lot to you that you still have that connection.

What's the latest on the "Beetlejuice" sequel?

Tim Burton: Yeah, nothing. The writer is writing something and I have no idea when it's coming in. I have no expectations to see if it's any good. I gave him [the writer] a couple of things but I didn't give him too much because I didn't want to have any preconceived ideas about it. As you get older so many preconceived things you read and see and sometimes you want to be surprised because you maybe have the best response to something if you aren't throwing in thirty years of preconceived notions about things.

It doesn't sound you're too excited for it.

Tim Burton: I'm not. Honestly, I love the character but it's something... if it's a good script then that's great. There's no point for me really to thinking about it until I read it.

 

"Frankenweenie" is out in theaters everywhere this Friday.

Interviews, Film Frankenweenie, Tim Burton