When Tim Burton was an eager young animator and filmmaker working at Disney Studios in the early 1980s, he made an inventive live-action short film inspired by his childhood in Burbank and the love of a family dog. That 1984 short, “Frankenweenie,” which starred Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern, has now been turned into a 3-D stop-motion animated feature.
“It was great to be able to go back to the original and expand on it,” says Burton, who shot the short at Disney Studios in Burbank and on the streets of Pasadena. “This is such a memory piece for me. I started thinking about other kids I remember in school, and other aspects of the neighborhood I grew up in Burbank. We also expanded on the monster theme of the movie. All those new elements made it feel like a brand-new project.”
The story centers on a creative young boy named Victor who feels at odds with his cookie-cutter neighborhood. He finds solace in the amateur short films he makes and the love of his closest companion, his dog, Sparky. When tragedy strikes and he loses Sparky, Victor is inspired by lessons from his science teacher to bring his best friend back to life. While he tries to hide his new home-sewn creation, Sparky gets out and unleashes panic in the neighborhood.