Saturday, October 20, 2012

Video: "Frankenweenie" Cast & Crew at London Film Fest has some highlights from the Frankenweenie cast and crew panel at the 56th BFI London Film Festival. Video provided by RedCarpetNews.

Tim, this film was made in London, and you are an adopted Londoner. How do you feel about opening the London Film Festival?
Tim Burton: It's amazing. It is special because it was made here. It's strange because when we started the film there was no Olympic Stadium and by the time we finished it was done. It just shows you how long a film like this takes to make!

This is a film that you've come back to. You started this as a live action short film in 1984 and now you've come back almost 30 years later. What made you want to make this Frankenweenie?
Burton: Looking at some of the original drawings at some point Don had mentioned the idea of it. It was such a memory piece, the drawings and doing stop motion and black and white and 3D, and kind of thinking about other kids I remembered from school and weird teachers and parents it just became a real memory piece. The purity of stop motion and for me the idea of seeing black and white in 3D stop motion was an exciting prospect. Obviously be able to work with all these people that I've worked with in the past just made it more special.

What's everyone's memories of their first impressions of Tim Burton?
Allison Abate: I just thought he was so energetic and so fascinating and so young!
Martin Short: On Mars Attacks I was so thrilled to meet Tim. I'm such a fan of Tim's, but what I was really excited about after my experience on Mars Attacks was how unbelievably collaborative Tim is. He really wanted to know what you thought and you kind of felt free to put out anything in the atmosphere and he would hone and refine it. It was a really ideal working situation for an actor.
Catherine O'Hara: I was called to meet Tim for Beetlejuice. I flew to L.A. and was told to meet him at Warner Bros. Boulevard and that's where Warner Bros. Studio is but I looked it up in the L.A. map book and I found a Warner Bros. Boulevard in Anaheim and I drove and drove and drove and I thought, 'whoever this guy is he is so far outside of where show business is really happening I'm not sure I want to work with him.' I finally phoned somebody and found out that I was in the wrong place and then finally got back there about two hours late and there was a note on the door [saying], 'I'm really sorry I missed you.'
Don Hahn: It was an odd time at the studio [Disney] and I think they didn't know what to do with Tim and to their credit gave him some money to make shorts called Frankenweenie and Vincent. It's amazing because they never knew what to do with those shorts, never quite knew how to release them, and didn't want to put the Disney name on them. And to come around full circle now a few years later and be able to revisit that and have the studio support and celebrate what Tim's trying to do is really odd in a way but terrific. It's interesting how a guy who's 25 years old can make a film that's as smart and interesting as Frankenweenie can turn around again and revisit that years later.
Martin Landau: I remember seeing Beetlejuice and I was very taken with the film. I saw it with my daughter and we left the theatre and I said, 'my God who directed this? I'd like to work with whoever it is.' I had no idea who Tim Burton was at that time. And here we are! It was a joyous experience working with him on Ed Wood with Johnny and Tim. I found that half the time he never finished a sentence or I did. We'd rehearse and he'd come up and say, 'you know what...' and I'd say, 'yeah.' He created a playground for the actors and he still does that and good directors do that. It's a fun place to work with Tim Burton and anytime he'd ask me to do something I would drop what I was doing, including my pants!

Legend has it you were fired by Disney, Tim. Are you surprised that your outlook is now considered part of the mainstream?
Burton: It wasn't like The Apprentice, 'you're fired!' It was a bit more Disney-friendly, 'here, let Goofy and Minnie show you out.' [Laughs] There's an exit with little cherubs on it, a magic forest door!
Short: [adopts Mickey Mouse voice] 'You're fired!'
Burton: It was a strange period in the company's history and it's obviously changed over the years. It's a whole different place. It was a low point for animation not just for Disney but for everything nothing was really going on. But at the same time I got the opportunity to do the films [Frankenweenie & Vincent shorts] so even though they weren't released the opportunity to do them was really great so I've always been grateful to them for giving me the chance to do it. [In terms of being considered mainstream now] I'm not so sure that's true.

What has it been like working with your heroes such as Martin Landau and Vincent Price?
Burton: It's so inspirational. When I talk to Martin and hear him talk about Alfred Hitchcock, or being on Space 1999 - I told him I had a Space 1999 lunchbox - you learn so much from people like him and it's just a joy. You love making films, meeting these people is why you like making movies. In terms of Catherine and Martin here, I've been a fan of theirs forever that's why I said 'guys do as many characters, do like three characters. It wasn't that we didn't want to pay other actors! It was because they're so great and interesting, it made it part of the creative process. They're coming in and doing things like a weird demon possession. Working with people that I've worked with in the past made it very special for me.

Martin and Catherine, you played three different characters and acted opposite each other which is unusual for animated films - what was that experience like?
Short: The parents Catherine and I did together which I thought was very smart but I think that Tim really had a very specific idea of what he wanted for those characters, very intimate and very real so by doing it together it was easy to achieve that. The other two characters that I did were just experiments that Tim and I would go on. Where you just kind of start with blank sheet but then you land in a Lionel Barrymore meets President Ronald Regan [place]. And then I'd say to Tim, 'what if he smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day and just quit about two months ago?' That pre-emphysema sound.
Burton: I think we even talked about a constipated Raymond Burr.
O'Hara: I think it was smart on Tim's part, it cut down the amount of times he had to say, 'um... why don't you say it like a human being would say it?' I was so happy when I saw their scenes, they are so beautiful and private and the way they stay back, it's so discreet how we shoot this family. I'm so proud to be their voices.
Short: Tim's always respectful. He would just say, 'go with your instinct and then divide by 7.' Animation is usually in colour but you have chosen to film this in black and white. The black and white was a crucial element. It's something that is hard to put into words but for me it made it more emotional and the idea of seeing black and white and also the 3D element, to me just helps support the work that the people who worked on the film did. You look at these puppets and you see the reality and tactile nature of it. Every little prop and everything is handmade and drawn, the black and white and the 3D process really shows you all the work that the artist put into it. To me the black and white really shows off their work very well.

There's an exhibition opening in London. Could you tell us about The Art of Frankenweenie?
Abate: One of the exciting things Disney did for us was to realise how beautiful the artwork is and how special every prop is. We have a travelling show and it's an exhibition of three sets from the movie and puppets, to represent three little moments from the film in real life. It's at the BFI Southbank next week. There's also something called, 'At the Desk of Tim Burton.'
Burton: Yeah but the desk is a bit too clean. There's no used tissues or empty beer bottles!

Hollywood tries to reproduce what is successful, did you have any problems with Frankenweenie in terms of the tone and the style, presenting that when the Pixar films and style is so popular?
Burton: from my point of view I feel like all forms of animation survive. I remember a few years ago after Pixar took off and computer animation took off that they said that they weren't going to make any more hand drawn movies which I thought, 'oh that's really unfortunate.' Thankfully they changed that and I hope it's the same for stop motion, I think it's a beautiful art form and you just hope that all forms of animation can flourish.

How much would you say Frankenweenie is a tribute to horror films and how do you open that up to children who haven't seen those kinds of films yet?
Burton: It's an interesting point because obviously a lot of references are based on, for me, a love of those movies but we thought very hard throughout the film that we didn't want to make it reference dependent. That's why we tried to shoot it and make it feel like one of those movies so you can feel what those movies look like even if you didn't know the references. We just felt like you should be able to enjoy the movie without having to know exactly every reference. It was always something in the back of my mind to make it more of a feeling of those films so that people that didn't know those exact references would still enjoy the film.

Martin your character looks like Vincent Price but doesn't sound like him - was that a very deliberate decision on your part?
Landau: Well one of the things about this I was floored by was Tim sent me a picture of Mr Rzykruski - it's like an eye chart this name! The wonderful about it is behavior, when I'm acting it's part of everything. In this instance I had a picture of this character but I relinquish the behavior to the animators. When I saw the film I was dumbfounded because if I'd been on camera I would've played it exactly the same way and my mouth was agape actually because I was shocked. I knew the character looked a little bit like Vincent and I little bit like I did earlier in life but I saw him as a completely singular person and a wonderful teacher and not a very diplomatic person. I think that when I read it I also felt that he probably lasted two months in any school he taught in! Have a conversation with your student's parents and you call them stupid or simple. I don't think Vincent would've played it the way I did, I think it would've been a different thing but I think there's a physicality there's no question. I always felt too that Tim was attracted to Ed Wood in a sense because of Ed Wood's connection to Bela [Lugosi] and his appreciation of Vincent Price's work - which I loved as a kid as well, as a young actor I would always go out of my way to watch a Vincent Price movie.
Burton: Most good animators try to get the actor in there. Don, this iteration of Frankenweenie began with you in a strange way because you went to Tim with the idea.
Hahn: Yeah I did. It wasn't a big leap. All I did was go to Tim's office and say, 'look you made this really great story years ago, there's got to be more.' And there was more. I think just the Frankenstein mythology and be able to go back into some of the ideas that were turning around in Tim's head for probably years and all I had to do was mention the name and I think he took off running. We had great collaborators, that's the other thing about working with Tim that I love is that he surrounds himself with people he trusts and lets them do their work.

Danny Elfman's score in Frankenweenie is fantastic. How important was it for you work with him on the film?
Burton: I've worked with him from the beginning of my career basically and on my first feature film, both didn't know what we're doing - we're still pretty much in the same boat! So I feel quite close to him. I always feel like he is another character in the film and helps to solidify the emotions of whatever's going on, because there's usually a mixture of things going on and he's always felt very good at sort of guiding as another character and setting the tone of what the film is.

Death seems to play a prominent role in your animations. What is your fascination with bringing characters back to life?
Burton: When I was a kid I always wanted to be a mad scientist, a regular scientist was no fun. It's not so much about bringing dead things back to life; I find that quite creepy actually. It's more about creating. Creation, making things, that's why I think I always loved the Frankenstein story because it's partially about creation and making things and that's what filmmaking is and that's what stop motion is and so for me that's the fun of it. That's why you like doing it; it's not so much about the business or box office or reviews it's about actually making something. I think that's why this was so special, it's with a smallish group of people, real artists and a more pure version of why you like making movies.

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