Frankenweenie (2012) Blu-ray Review: A Technically Impressive Animated Endeavor

Based on his 1984 live-action short of the same name, Tim Burton’s feature-length, stop-motion Frankenweenie finds the story about holding onto the things you love expanded and reinforced through the use of references to many horror movies the director cherished as a young man. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t succeed as well as the animation does.

Victor Frankenstein is a bit different in a high school filled with children who are all a bit different.  He makes movies and has a fascination with science.  He also has a dog Sparky who means the world to him and is his only friend.  After Sparky is killed in an accident, Victor is unable to let him go, and following in the footsteps of his namesake, he brings Sparky back to life.  Victor tries to keep Sparky’s revival a secret, but word gets out to his classmates, many of whom try to replicate the experiment themselves.  Unfortunately, none are as successful as Victor and end up unleashing a collection of monsters on the citizens of New Holland.

From a technical standpoint, Frankenweenie is a very impressive endeavor.  The production design is amazing and deserves to be preserved in a book to marvel at.  The decision to shoot in black and white was certainly the right one and the lighting certainly accentuates the appearance.  The animation team also deserves high marks for their work in creating a world that comes to life. 

Where Frankenweenie stumbles a bit is the character development and plotting, both of which are uneven.  The characters, even Victor, are more caricatures, and didn’t offer much connection.  While I don’t expect a children’s movie or a Tim Burton movie to get too deep in regards to dealing with death, it felt glossed over and should have had more time spent on it considering the impact Sparky’s death has on Victor and the story.  Also, there were conflicting messages about science.  The nostalgia from having watched the same horror films Burton did as a kid certainly added to Frankenweenie‘s appeal, but there were so many I found myself taken out of the moment a few times.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.  This is reference quality for a black and white film.  Blacks are inky, and there is quite a spectrum of grays on display.  The fine details and textures on the characters and sets created by the model shop are something to marvel at.  Disney offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 to immerse the viewer within the atmospherics and Danny Elfman’s score.  Cars can be heard passing across channels, helping to bring the stop-motion figures to life.  Dialogue is clear and is balance well with the other elements. 

HD Extras include “Captain Sparky vs. The Flying Saucers” (2 min), an amusing short featuring Victor and pre-dead Sparky making an amusing short.  “Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life” (23 min) takes viewers behind the scenes to the making of the film and will leave those fascinated by the process craving for more.  “Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit” (5 min) is a brief look at the art exhibit that highlighted what went into making the film.  The “Original Live-Action Frankenweenie Short” (30 min) stars Barret Oliver as Victor and Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern as his parents.  Music Video (4 min) of The Plain White T’s “Pet Sematary.”

Frankenweenie finds Tim Burton revisiting his early days of filmmaking.  He and his teams delivered an exquisite-looking film that has transitioned into what might already be the best-looking Blu-ray of 2013.  Though the story is slightly lacking, the visuals alone make me want to revisit the film.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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