Monday, January 28, 2013

New Book: "Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion"

A new book, Frankenweenie: The Visual Companion, will be released on February 5th, 2013. The 256-page art and making-of book has been written by Mark Salisbury, edited by Leah Gallo and Holly Kempf, and features a foreword by Tim Burton.

You can pre-order the book today at

Interview: Burton on Oscars, "Frankenweenie," Critics

Vulture spoke with Tim Burton to learn about Frankenweenie and its chances at winning an Oscar this year, his balance between films that are critical successes and box office hits, his broken arm, and more:

Do all the nominations and awards help make up for the film's less-than-blockbuster box -office performance?

It's really nice, especially for a film like that. Everybody works really hard for something like this, especially the people who work in a dark room for a couple of years. The thing about stop-motion is that it's such a slow, painful process — one frame at a time. The positive side is that it helps keep the medium alive. It's not high on to-do lists for studio execs to make stop-motion, let alone black-and-white stop-motion. There's still a bit of a stigma, so any sort of positive response is meaningful.

You would think after The Artist there would be less opposition to black-and-white — especially when it comes to films about Hollywood. Argo also got a lot of awards love partly because it's about Hollywood helping to save the world. And Frankenweenie celebrates classic horror films. Hollywood loves nothing more than celebrating itself.

That's true, now that you mention that. Even last year, films like Hugo did that. But I never really thought of that. It's certainly not my perception of the world. For me, it's just what inspires me, and those monster movies stay with you on some kind of level. Those early things are still inside of me. It was just fun to play around with words and themes and memories, because you don't get to do that on every project.

Loved the shout-out to Mary Shelley with the turtle's name, by the way.

[Chuckles.] My son's turtle was named Shelley. When you have a pet as a child, that's the first pure relationship you have. It's unconditional love. And it's your first experience with death as well, so it was an easy emotional connection to make to Frankenstein and monster movies. Those first relationships are very important. And to me, the Frankenstein story is about creating things, not the business of creating things.

But you still want it to be successful.

No one wants to feel like they weren't, unless they're doing some kind of weird art-house thing: "I hope nobody sees this film! And if they see the film, I'm selling out!" You hope for success, but it's a strange phenomenon. You have a movie that gets shitty, crappy, horrible reviews but makes a lot of money; you have a movie that gets good, decent reviews, but then no one goes to see it. I've been lucky, even if a film didn't do that well [at the box office], I end up meeting people who connected with it, and that evens the score.

How do you feel about the critics who say you should stop using Johnny Depp so much?
I'm in a no-win situation. Some say I use him too often, and then others say, "How come he's not in this one?" Whatever. I'm strangely used to that from the beginning.

I don't decide to make a film because of the actors first, even though there are a lot of people I love. I don't think I've ever gone, "Oh, I want to work with that person," and then specifically found a part with that person just to work with them. For Frankenweenie, I hadn't worked with Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, or Martin Landau in a long time, so that was great. But the project drew me to them because they're all so talented.

With Catherine, not since Beetlejuice. People want a sequel for that one.

Those were fun characters, but I'd have to see what the script was like and if it was worth doing — I can't just make it because it's one of the worst ten movies of the year! The first two films I did, Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, made the ten-worst-movies-of-the-year lists. Then, years later, people said they were my best movies. What? So if those were my best, I'm in real trouble. [Laughs.] The point is, even if I wanted to analyze it, I'm not going to make everyone happy. It's easier when you're starting out and people don't really know what you are. But then you become a thing, and that's not really what you want. I never really targeted my films for kids. It's just what I like to make. But then people were saying The Nightmare Before Christmas was too scary for kids — too much singing, too scary. And then the kids loved it. So I've had conflicting information from the beginning.

How is The Nightmare Before Christmas too scary? It's no scarier than any fairy tale ...

Exactly. When you were a child, did you ever see Disney movies? There's some scary stuff in there. That's what made Disney movies to a large degree, but as people get older, they kind of forget that. There's a new generation looking at fairy tales now, and that's what monster movies were for me. I've always been interested in those kinds of stories, the ones that have been around for ages. When I go back and reread "Red Riding Hood," it's so bizarre, so weird, so fascinating, and we forget how strange they were, even if they've stayed in our consciousness for ages. Fairy tales are amazing, intense, psychological horror stories. But if you ask most adults, they immediately think it's all princesses and happy endings, and it's so not. Obviously.

Are you still thinking about doing Pinocchio next?

It's really hard to think about doing anything when I've got a throbbing pain in my shoulder! The painkillers are not that good here. The doctors are like, "Take two aspirin."

You're in London. Codeine is over-the-counter there!

Yeah, but it's a pretty weak form of codeine, probably. But you're right. I should do that. [Laughs.] I'm hoping the pain subsides soon, but it's like when you have a toothache, and it's hard to think, hard to do things, hard to focus on what's going on when it's throbbing away.

Once the pain subsides, then you can consider Pinocchio, or perhaps a Walt Disney biopic starring Ryan Gosling. Have you seen that poster?

The story at Cal Arts was that Walt was cryogenically frozen and somewhere in the basement. We used to spend Friday nights looking for him. So that's the story. Listen, I'm open to ideas at the moment!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Big Fish" Musical on Broadway Oct. 6

The Wrap reports that the musical version of Big Fish will be coming to Broadway on October 6th, where it will play at the Neil Simon Theatre. The production is based on the original novel by Daniel Wallace and the Tim Burton film. Susan Stroman directed the show, with the book written by frequent Tim Burton collaborator John August (screenwriter of Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Frankenweenie, etc.).

The musical will have its world premiere with a five-week engagement beginning April 19 at Chicago's Oriental Theatre. Previews there start April 2.

The cast includes Tony Award-winning actor Norbert Leo Butz ("Catch Me If You Can") as Ed Bloom, the character played by Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor in the movie, and Kate Baldwin ("Finian's Rainbow") as Sandra Bloom, played in the movie by Alison Lohman. Bobby Steggert will take Billy Crudup's role of Will Bloom, and Zachary Unger will play Young Will.

The musical is produced by Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen and Stage Entertainment with Roy Furman, the Nederlander Organization, John Domo and Broadway Across America.

Interview: "Frankenweenie" Animation Director Mark Waring

We Are Movie Geeks recently interviewed Frankenweenie animation director Mark Waring. Waring discussed how the stop-motion animation process on Frankenweenie was unique, what the crew was like, Tim Burton's influences, and more:

We Are Movie Geeks:
Congratulations on FRANKENWEENIE. I took my daughters to see it and we loved it.

Mark Waring: Oh good, thanks.

WAMG: Did you grow up a fan of stop-motion animation?

MW: I was always interested on those things. Whenever there was something with stop-motion on TV I would always watch it, but it was never something that I thought I would end up doing. I was always interested in art and design and films as well but it wasn’t until I was in college that I was introduced to animation through a course. It was then I realized that this was what I wanted to do. It was design, art, sculpting, film, all combined and it was something I could do for a living. Then I started studying the history of animation and thought this was really wanted I wanted to do.

WAMG: I saw where you had recently participated in a panel discussion on Ray Harryhausen.

MW: Yeah, I’ve done a couple of those. Tony Dawson, who’s written four or five books on Harryhausen, runs the Ray Harryhausen Foundation, invited me to do that. Ray has never thrown anything away. He’s kept everything he’s created throughout his whole life right down to models he made when he was twelve. There’s a whole history and archive there and Tony is helping him look after that. He’s got me involved in various talks and panel discussions. Harryhausen has been such an influence and has helped me so much in my art. He was a pioneer and his techniques are still relevant. We still reference his monster characters. The animators all get together and look at his films and study what he did and how he worked.

WAMG: What are the key differences between what Harryhausen was doing decades ago and what you are doing with a project like FRANKENWEENIE?

MW: Technically it’s exactly the same. It’s basically down to, as an animator, you’re standing in front of a puppet that got an armature inside and you’ve got to bring it to life. Turn it into something that’s moving in a believable, if not necessarily realistic, way. You have to give it emotion, which I think is what Ray Harryhausen did best. He made them angry, or frightened, or whatever they were and we’ve got to do the same thing. We’ve obviously got more technology around us now.

WAMG: And more people. Harryhausen pretty much did everything on his own.

MW: Absolutely. He did all of that on his own. He made the puppets. His dad helped make the armatures. His mom helped make the costumes, but he shot it and did virtually everything on his own. With the technology we have now, we can check our work, which he couldn’t do. We can walk away, have a cup of tea, look at it, and come back and fix anything. He had none of that, he worked blind. He had no references whatsoever. Sometimes what we do is have our animators work blind like Harryhausen did, just for practice, to kind of get into the swing of it. It’s tricky. Harryhausen developed these metal pointers that he could measure exactly how far he moved, or would need to move, say one of the Hydra’s seven heads. We still use that tool today, in spite of all the technology at our disposal.

WAMG: Did you grow up a fan of monster movies?

MW: Sort of, yeah. If anything like that came on the TV, I would watch it. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing but over here, in the UK, those sort of things weren’t really shown on TV like they were in America, but it was definitely something I was interested in.

WAMG: I noticed in FRANKENWEENIE Victor’s parents are at one point watching HORROR OF DRACULA with Christopher Lee on their TV. Who’s idea was that?

MW: Oh, I’m sure that was Tim Burton’s choice. After all, FRANKENWEENIE is Tim Burton’s childhood. Victor and Sparky are Tim and his dog. That’s what he based everything on, the whole idea of a boy and his dog and what that meant to him, he just packs FRANKENWEENIE with his world and I suppose HORROR OF DRACULA is just a film Tim remembers fondly from his childhood and that’s why he chose to include it.

WAMG: Did Tim Burton give you much creative leeway with FRANKENWEENIE, or was it strictly storyboarded?

MW: He was involved a lot, especially in the early development stages. All of the character designs come straight out of his sketchbooks. We’d worked together in the past and all of the inspiration comes through him. I think the storyboarding style as well. The early stages of the process set the tone and the film shows that. There’s very little in the film that doesn’t have his fingerprints all over it. That said, he’s very open to suggestions. He likes to surround himself with people who know him so a lot of the crew from THE CORPSE BRIDE also worked on FRANKENWEENIE.

WAMG: How many animators worked on FRANKENWEENIE?

MW: I guess around thirty. There are different levels of animators. We have four or five lead animators, then fifteen or so who are crafting every day doing their work. After that there’s a team of assistants who animate as well. Some are good at intimate character work, some are broader at animating the broader action scenes. So we mix and match and steer people towards their strengths.

WAMG: I remember when Tim Burton made MARS ATTACKS fifteen years ago and wanted to use stop motion, but decided he could make CGI look more like what he had in mind. Why do you think he went back to old school stop motion for CORPSE BRIDE and FRANKENWEENIE?

MW: I think partly stop motion is a physical thing, it’s a tactile thing. You can see the work that’s gone into it. I would have loved for MARS ATTACKS to have been stop motion. When I first heard about the film I thought it would be the perfect homage to ’50s sci-fi and B movies and flying saucers and all those things. It would have been perfect if they’d gone down that route. They had originally wanted to do it as stop motion. They had brought some puppet people in and had made armatures and I think it was quite last minute that they actually pulled the plug and went with CGI. They may have been worried about the time it was going to take with deadlines or whatever and I think if they would have gone that way, it would have been fantastic. There’s a magic to the art of stop motion that CGI just doesn’t have. It doesn’t mean that CGI is wrong or that one style is better than the other, I just think with stop motion you better see the craft on display.

WAMG: Had you seen the FRANKENWEENIE from the ’80s before you got involved with this project?

MW: Oh yes, we used that film as a reference for so many of the shots, but obviously the story has been fleshed out much more. I think it had its own mood and momentum but the feel of that short is what we were going for.

WAMG: There’s a short on the Blu-ray release of FRANKENWEENIE titled ‘Sparky vs the Flying Saucer’. What can you tell me about that?

MW: Well, I directed it and it was great to have the opportunity to do that. In the film itself, Victor is showing making a little film, a home movie with Sparky acting as a giant monster and the idea behind ‘Sparky vs the Flying Saucers’ is that this is another film that Victor has made with Sparky, and perhaps he has made a whole series of these films that he can show to his parents. This one is a Mars Attacks type of thing really with space aliens and Sparky in a space suit and all.

WAMG: Was this Tim Burton’s story?

MW: It was from Tim’s idea but the actual script itself was by Derek [Frey] who is Tim’s assistant and he and I discussed the idea and we fleshed it out with the storyboarders and made this little film. We made it towards the end of the shoot and thought about maybe tagging it on to the end of the film but it’s now on the DVD.

WAMG: Do you see possibly making some more Sparky shorts?

MW: I’d love to. I love the concept that there could be more of these films featuring Sparky hidden away in Victor’s attic. Who knows? I think we created a lovely world. Maybe we could make more shorts, perhaps a cowboy film or any classic film genres.

WAMG: What’s next for Mark Waring?

MW: I would love to work on more features. I’d love to work with Tim again. I love the stop motion format. In the meantime though I’m working on commercials in London and keeping busy.

WAMG: Good luck with your future projects and thanks for talking to We Are Movie Geeks.

MW: Thank you.

Friday, January 11, 2013

"Frankenweenie" Now Available on DVD, Blu-ray

Frankenweenie is now available for home video purchase and rental. Click the links below for special features details, technical specifications, and to order your copy now.

Frankenweenie (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy)

Frankenweenie (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

"Frankenweenie" Nominated for Oscar

Frankenweenie has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Animated Feature category of the 85th Academy Awards.

This marks Tim Burton's second Oscar nomination. His previous nomination was for 2005's Corpse Bride, which he shared with co-director Mike Johnson.

The 85th Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, February 24th, at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time / 4:00 PM Pacific Time.