Victor Frankenstein is your typical suburban kid. And when his dog is run over by a car, he does what any typical kid would do: He brings the dog back to life.
It's rumored the Disney balked upon seeing this film, Tim Burton's first, and refused to release it, unsettled by the dark subject matter. Not your average boy and his dog film was this. Of course, after Burton became one of the most successful directors around, Disney had a change of heart.
What is clearly apparent, though Disney may have been blind to it, is Burton's talent behind the camera. Not only is there a mastery of style but Burton knows how to tell a story. Frankenweenie captures perfectly the spirit of whimsy mixed with the grotesque that typifies the Burton oeuvre. It wasn't a big jump from this to his follow-up, Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
So much here foreshadows Burton's later work. From the angry mob of Edward Scissorhands to the burning windmill of Sleepy Hollow, and the overriding theme of misunderstood outsider, this is vintage Burton.
But is the film too dark? I found it more cute than anything. Given that Burton's fan base are largely adults, I can't see anyone objecting to this film. That aside, I think we tend to be overprotective of children when it comes to such weighty subjects as death, and it's probably to their detriment.
Frankenweenie is definitely worth searching out.
Directed by Tim Burton • PG • 1984 • 30 minutes