‘Corpse Bride’ & ‘Frankenweenie’

Tim Burton, while known for his live action films (including 1989’s Batman, 1994’s Ed Wood, and 2010’s Alice In Wonderland), actually started out working in animation.  He attended the California Institute of the Arts to study character animation, and his classmates included John LasseterBrad BirdJohn Musker and Henry Selick.  The success of his 1979 short film Stalk of the Celery Monster attracted the attention of Walt Disney Productions’ animation studio, who offered him an animator’s apprenticeship.  He worked as an animator, storyboard artist, and concept artist on films such as 1981’s The Fox and the Hound, 1985’s The Black Cauldron, and 1982’s Tron. He made two short films while at Disney: the stop-motion animated 1982 short film Vincent, and the live action 1984 short film Frankenweenie.  Disney fired Burton after the completion of Frankenweenie because they felt that he spent the company’s resources on making a film that was too dark and scary for children to see (the short film did, however, bring him to the attention of Paul Reubens, who was looking for a director for a little film called Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure).  For this final Oscar edition of Animation Corner, I’ll be looking back on the two animated feature films directed by Tim Burton: the Oscar-nominated 2005 film Corpse Bride and the Oscar-nominated 2012 film Frankenweenie.

Co-directed by Burton and Mike Johnson, 2005’s Corpse Bride centers on a shy groom who, after a disastrous wedding rehearsal, goes into the woods to practice his wedding vows but unknowingly does it in the presence of a dead woman who is then awakened and believes that he has married her.  Featuring the voices of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Tracey Ullman, Paul Whitehouse, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Deep Roy, and Danny Elfman (who also wrote the terrific songs and score), this critically acclaimed stop-motion animated musical cost $4o million to make and grossed $53 million domestically (it grossed $64 million internationally, making its worldwide total $117 million).  It received Best Animated Feature nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Producers Guild of America, and the Saturn Awards (it won the Saturn Award).  It was also nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar (but lost to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit).

Directed by Burton, 2012’s Frankenweenie centers on a young boy who conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to later face unintended (and to an extent monstrous) consequences.  Featuring the voices of Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Atticus Shaffer, and Conchata Ferrell, this critically acclaimed stop-motion animated film has grossed $35 million domestically so far (it cost $39 million to make), and it has made another $32 million internationally so far for a worldwide total of $67 million.  It has received Best Animated Feature nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Producers Guild of America, the BAFTA Awards, the Annie Awards, and the Golden Globes.  It did win Best Animated Feature from the New York Film Critics Circle, and it was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.  Will it win this Sunday?  Let’s find out.

6 responses to “‘Corpse Bride’ & ‘Frankenweenie’

  1. Fine piece on a pair of Burton films I really admire. Well done.

    • Thanks. I was kind of disappointed that Frankenweenie didn’t win the Best Animated Feature Oscar; I really thought this would be Tim Burton’s year. Hopefully he’ll make another animated film soon.

  2. Hell they decorate the whole Haunted Mansion Burton style from Halloween to Christmas.

    Big fan of both of these films.

  3. its amazing that Disney would fire Burton over Frankenweenie (’84) only to release Frankenweenie (2012), some 30 years later 🙂

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