Many reviews of Dark Shadows earlier this year (including ours) rightfully noted how writer/director Tim Burton has become a shadow of his former self. Recent films have merely adapted stories to his uniquely whimsical, gothic style instead of offering something that's truly all his own. Consider Frankenweenie a complete return to form—no surprise since it resurrects two of Burton's earliest creations from the '80s.
While working as an animator at Walt Disney, Burton released three short films, his last being 1984's Frankenweenie. Paying homage to the 1931 classic Frankenstein, the 30-minute production told the story of a boy who brought his dog Sparky back to life after a car accident. Disney considered the project too dark/scary/demented for children at that time and Burton was promptly fired. The film was still shown in the UK and eventually released on video after Burton rose to prominence with Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands.
Now Burton has revived and reconceived Frankenweenie as a 90-minute animated feature. And if Sparky the dog looks somewhat familiar, then you probably remember "Family Dog," an animated short from 1987 and a short-lived series in the early '90s. Burton designed that cartoon canine as a conical-nosed bull terrier, and he brings similar art direction to this feature.
The story remains true to the original's loving parody of Frankenstein—call it Very Young Frankenstein. Victor (naturally) is a boy genius in the small town of New Holland, which looks a lot like other Burton worlds with its hodgepodge of '60s chic and spooky residents. People and animals alike have dark circles around their eyes, some more bulgy than others. Lightning storms are frequent. TVs broadcast ...