Friday, June 15, 2012

Burton on Making "Frankenweenie" Work

IGN visited Tim Burton for a tour of the making of his stop-motion animated film, Frankenweenie, which some are describing as not only Burton's "dream project," but one of the most personal feature films he's made.

“There’s a kind of House of Frankenstein feel to it,” explains Burton, referring to the 1944 classic film that brought Universal’s horror movie franchises – Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman – together on the screen. “It’s a way for me to go back to what the original concept of the drawings was; stuff and characters I’d been thinking about over the years, without any real framework. So when we decided to do it with [screenwriter] John August, and focused on it with some other monsters, it sort of took on that tone a little bit. But still keeping the essence of what the original was.”

There will be plenty of monsters in the film, but producer Allison Abbate clarified that the real villains of the film will not necessarily be the most grotesque or strange looking. "It’s the people who are the freakish monsters in the story,” says Abbate. “It’s normal school politics on a heightened level,“ Burton elaborates. “It's like that kid you always thought was weird at school, but here he also looks more like Boris Karloff or Peter Lorre. They’re basically all horrible people…”

Burton enthusiastically weaves in and out of his studio like it's his own laboratory. “It’s always quite surreal to see people working on them,” he marvels, “five people on this one house, it’s incredible.”

Some of the sets are even based on Burton's own childhood experiences. “This is the school I went to,” Burton winces, as we tour the local high school, its science lab replete with details like chemistry sets and Bunsen burners. “I can’t stay in this room, it brings back horrible memories!” He squints again at the building’s clean, oppressive outline and regimented rows of desks. “Jeez… is the school [designed by] Leni Riefenstahl?”

Burton has had the unique opportunity to make this film in black and white. Since all of the sets, puppets, and props exist in the real world, everything had to be handmade and shot in reality, with real-world physics to consider. In a sense, it's almost like making a live-action film in slow-motion, rather than a traditional or computer animated movie. “The great thing about this is we light it like it’s a real movie,” Burton enthuses. “Even frame by frame it helps the acting. You kinda feel like a giant on a live-action set, but with that classic black and white richness and depth of field.”

In addition to being in black and white, the film will also be presented in 3D. However, it will not be shot in stereoscopic 3D. But Burton has had experience with such a post-production conversion process on The Nightmare Before Christmas, and feels that it can work. “Knowing you’re going to do it and having the time to do makes sure it’s not a crappy conversion. We took time with Nightmare.”

“People want this ‘revolt against 3D,’” he says impatiently. “I don’t adopt that like it’s one way or the other. It should be a choice. To me, more choice is better than no choice. I’ve seen good 3D and bad 3D movies. I would understand people seeing a crappy 3D movie and feeling ripped off.”

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