With Frankenweenie, Tim Burton goes back to a couple periods of his own history. One is his childhood, during which he was alienated from average school life, and found solace in monsters and movies. Another is his early career, when he created a short film for Disney that, creatively, was his first big success, and professionally his first major failure. Meant to run before the re-release of Pinocchio, the original Frankenweenie, about a boy who reanimates his dead dog, was deemed too dark and weird, and shelved for years, although I do remember seeing it before a screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas in London. Check out this interview with Burton from /Film HERE
Timothy Walter “Tim” Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an American film director, producer, writer and artist. He is famous for his dark, quirky-themed movies such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Dark Shadows, and blockbusters such as Batman, Batman Returns, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland.
Burton was born in 1958, in the city of Burbank, California, to Jean and Bill Burton. As a child, Burton would make short films in his backyard using crude stop motion animation techniques or shoot them on 8 mm film without sound. His future work would be heavily influenced by the works of such childhood heroes as Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl, as well as Edgar Allan Poe and horror and science fiction, such as Godzilla, and films made by Hammer Productions, the works of Ray Harryhausen and Vincent Price.
After graduating from Burbank High School, Burton attended the California Institute of the Arts to study character animation. Some of his now-famous classmates were John Lasseter, Brad Bird, John Musker and Henry Selick. As a student in CalArts, Burton made the shorts Stalk of the Celery Monster and King and Octopus. They remain only in fragments today.
Burton graduated from CalArts in 1979. The success of his short film Stalk of the Celery Monster attracted the attention of Walt Disney Productions animation studio, who offered young Burton an animator’s apprenticeship. He worked as an animator, storyboard artist and concept artist on films such as The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron and Tron.
While at Disney in 1982, Burton made his first short, Vincent, a six-minute black-and-white stop-motion film based on a poem written by the filmmaker, and depicting a young boy who fantasizes that he is his (and Burton’s) hero Vincent Price, with Price himself providing narration. This was followed by Burton’s first live-action production Hansel and Gretel, a Japanese-themed adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, which climaxes in a kung fu fight between Hansel and Gretel and the witch. Having aired once at 10:30 pm on Halloween 1983 and promptly shelved, prints of the film are extremely difficult to locate, which contributes to the rumor that this project does not exist. (In 2009, the short went on display in the Museum of Modern Art, and in 2011 the short also played at the Tim Burton art exhibit at the LACMA).
Burton’s next live-action short, Frankenweenie, was released in 1984. It tells the story of a young boy who tries to revive his dog after it is run over by a car. Filmed in black-and-white, it stars Barret Oliver, Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern. After Frankenweenie was completed, Disney fired Burton, under the pretext of him spending the company’s resources on doing a film that would be too dark and scary for children to see.
Pursuing then an opportunity to make a full-length film, he was approached by Griffin Dunne to direct the black comedy film After Hours, however, after Martin Scorsese’s project The Last Temptation of Christ was cancelled (although it would later be completed and released in 1988), he stepped in to direct it. Not long after, actor Paul Reubens saw Frankenweenie and chose Burton to direct the cinematic spin-off of his popular character Pee-Wee Herman. The film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), was made on a budget of $8 million and grossed more than $40 million at the box office. Burton, a fan of the eccentric musical group Oingo Boingo, asked songwriter Danny Elfman to provide the music for the film. Since then, Elfman has provided the score for all but five of the films Burton has directed and/or produced.
After directing episodes for the revitalised version of TV series of ’50s/’60s anthology horror series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre, Burton received his next big project: Beetlejuice (1988), a supernatural comedy horror about a young couple forced to cope with life after death, as well as a family of pretentious yuppies invading their treasured New England home including their teenage daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) whose obsession with death allows her to see them. Featuring Michael Keaton as the obnoxious bio-exorcist Beetlejuice, the film grossed $80 million on a relatively low budget and won an Academy Award for Best Make-up. It would be converted into a cartoon of the same name, with Burton playing a role as executive producer, that ran on ABC and later Fox.