"Frankenweenie" (opens Oct. 5) may be a new film to most viewers, but for director Tim Burton it was a return trip to familiar territory. He had first directed the story as a live-action short in 1984. Why did he want to take another stab at his Frankenstein-esque story, this time using stop-motion animation? "Obviously it was great to do the live action thing so many years ago, but over the years, kind of going back and looking at the drawings I did for it from the beginning and loving stop motion, and also because it was such a memory piece, I started thinking about other memories I have of other kids at school, the weirdness of certain teachers, and the monster movies and things," Burton said. "For me, with all those elements -- stop motion and black and white; it just felt like a whole different project for me."
Though the animation may not have the lurch of old-school stop-motion, Burton promises that "Frankenweenie" has some intentional rough edges. "I think the thing is, if you look at this movie compared to 'Corpse Bride' or something, it’s a slightly bit funkier," he said. "It got to the point with 'Corpse Bride' that people almost thought it was computer animation. So we kind of went back to a slightly rougher style of animation, because I thought it was important that it felt like a stop motion movie. Because the technology has gotten so good, the line between is this computer or is it stop motion had gotten blurred. We actually kept things a little cruder on this one so it still had that stop motion feel to it… It’s a little bit jerkier than some of the other ones."
What may have been more surprising than the animation was the fact that the entire film is in black-and-white -- a first for a full-length animated feature. Burton said it wasn't the hard sell one might expect. "Disney was actually quite accepting about it. I think maybe it helped it was it was one of the cheaper animated films around. I think if it had been like a normal, expensive movie there might have been a little more, but they understood the emotional side of it. It had to be in black and white. I wouldn’t had done it if they had said you have to do it in color, I probably would have said no."
Even though "Frankenweenie" is in 3-D, what kept the film from being more expensive wasn't cutting back on the quality of the animation. "We kept the crew pretty small," Burton explained. "We try to keep it a small, weird family." Of course, with Burton that "weird family" usually consists of stars he's worked with on previous projects. "On this one, it was nice, because, especially it’s people that I love I hadn’t worked with in a while, Catherine, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, all people that I love. It was nice on a project like this to make things as personalized as possible… knowing those people made it more special."