Frankenweenie is an unusual film from the mind of Tim Burton. The movie is a remake of a short movie with the same name that he made in 1984.Victor Frankenstein is a young boy who creates movies starring his dog, Sparky. After Sparky is hit by a car, Victor learns at school about electrical impulses in muscles, and gets the idea to bring his pet back to life. He creates elaborate machines which bring down a bolt of lightning that revives the dog. While Victor is pleased, his neighbors are terrified by the animal, and when the Frankensteins decide to introduce the revitalized Sparky to them, they become angry and afraid. The movie was first made as a short film in 1984 by Tim Burton for Disney, which resulted in his termination from the studio under the idea the movie was too scary for children. The film was shelved and didn't see the light in U.S. theaters but managed a theatrical run in the U.K. Despite the trouble, the film caught the attention of Paul Reubens, who would champion Burton for directing on his film Pee-wee's Big Adventure, which would be Burton's feature length film debut.The film received a feature length remake as a black and white stop-motion animation film in 2012 with Tim returning as director and his long time composing partner Danny Elfman. The cast includes Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Martin Short, Robert Capron, Atticus Shaffer, Charlie Tahan and Conchata Ferrell. This version expands the story with some of Victor's fellow students discovering Sparky's miracle revival and deciding to create their own monster animals out of pets both living and dead. This only serves to bring more chaos to the town.
This film contains examples of:
3-D Movie: Victor's home movie is one. And the film itself is one, of course.
Ambition Is Evil: Edgar, Nassor and Toshiaki's desire to win the science fair leads to all hell breaking loose.
Animation Bump: Actually inverted with the 2012 remake. Burton noted that, during the production of Corpse Bride, many people thought the puppets moved with such fluidity that they mistook the animation with that of actual CG. He thought it undermined the beauty of the artform, and thus decided to make the animation cruder for this film.
Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Inverted; according to the book Burton on Burton Disney wanted a G rating on the 1984 short film but the movie was given a PG rating. Though Burton asked the MPAA what he could do to get a G rating, the MPAA said there was nothing he could do to have the rating changed.
Big Bad: Averted. The antagonistic characters are either ambitious, a Jerkass or a mindless monster, but never outright evil.
Big "NO!": Twice, both from Victor. For added dramatic effect, he's even in the exact same pose both times: both times, he has the exact same expression on his face, and both times, his parents are gripping him by the arms so he won't impulsively run forward into danger.
Disc One Final Boss: Shelley is electrified and brought back to her/his tiny and dead state. It was by this time that you probably forgot about Mr Whiskers.
Disney Death: The first example of a death doesn't quite count because the audience knew going into the theater that this movie was about a boy bringing his dead dog back to life. The second example of a death counts, because Sparky dies a second time after Mr Whiskers drags him back into a burning windmill, said burning windmill then killing both Mr Whiskers and Sparky. However, this time Victor's parents give Victor explicit permission to bring Sparky back to life... which at first doesn't appear to work. Victor is all set to remember Sparky in his heart and move on, when Sparky finally wakes up and starts playing around with Persephone.
Dog Stereotype: Played straight with Persephone, at least in terms of "poodles are always female". Averted with Sparky; bull terriers are usually portrayed as large and vicious, but Sparky is friendly, affectionate and good with kids, which more accurate to how the breed is in real life.
Evil Laugh: Toshiaki does one when he pulls out his video camera after Bob and Victor go to the "Dutch Festival" after seeing mutated Shelley.
One of the mutated sea monkeys does one to Mayor Burgemeister when they pop out of the portable toilet he's hiding in.
Most of the central classmates in Victor's class, as well as him, are homages to famous actors in horror movies or Tim Burton films. Victor Frankenstein is a younger (and less meek) version of Victor Van Dort. He also resembles the title character of Tim Burton's short film Vincent (unsurprising since Victor Van Dort was basically a grown-up version of the character).
Mr Whiskers, after being transformed into a homicidal feline/bat hybrid monster by Weird Girl's attempt to replicate Victor's experiment, gets impaled by a flaming beam within the New Holland windmill while fighting Sparky. They don't show the impact, but you do see the aftermath.
Not to mention Sparky himself, offscreen. Judging by all those seams and patches holding his body together, it's not hard to imagine what he looked like at the scene of the car accident.
The sea-monkeys die by eating popcorn and exploding into liquidy guts. And this movie got a PG rating.
Five-Bad Band: The kids for a brief period of time when they go into Victor's house to find out how his experiment works.
Not to mention there's a headstone reading "Shelley".
When the undead Sparky gets out while Victor's at school. He casts a shadow on the piece of cloth Bob's mother hangs out on the clothesline to dry. The shadow Sparky casts looks similar to the were-rat Edgar creates.
How Sparky growls at the invisible-fish, foreshadowing how the animals that Edgar, Bob and Toshiaki's resurrected dead animals turn out quite disastrous. Though I'm not certain about Mr Whiskers since he was fully alive during the time he got electrocuted messing with the dead bat.
Good Parents: Victor's parents, Susan and Edward Frankenstein.
Heroic Dog: Sparky at the film's climax; he's the one who leads the town to where Mr Whiskers has taken Elsa, he's the one who beats Mr Whiskers, and he ultimately helps Victor and Elsa get away... at the cost of his own life, since Mr Whiskers drags him back into the burning windmill to die along with him.
Goth: Due to the black and white colour of the movie it's hard to tell. But Elsa's clothes in her first few scenes and her monotone voice suggests this.
The Igor: Subverted. The trailers made it look like Edgar "E" Gore was going to be one of these, but while undeniably inspired by the concept, Edgar doesn't actually get to fill the role of being a Mad Scientist's assistant and Victor doesn't want him to.
However, Edgar share some of the personality traits of Bela Lugosi's Ygor character in the sense that he is less servile than the typical Igor, and that he openly encourages the resident Frankenstein to experiment with reanimation.
Idiot Ball: What exactly was going through Nassor's head by having his resurrected yet normal hamster going against Toshiaki's mutated tortoise?
Drunk on power, perhaps?
I Just Want My Son To Be Normal: Victor's father wants his son to get out more, and play baseball, because he doesn't want people to think he is weird. Which is ironic as, by looking at the other kids, it seems Victor is one of the most normal kids at that school.
I Just Want to Have Friends: Edgar, according to the junior novel. Along with the fact he wants to be with the cool kids and sit with them at lunchtime.
Jump Scare: There is one when the reanimated rat shows itself on camera.
Killed Off for Real: Averted twice by Sparky, but played straight with Mr Whiskers and the other lightning-animated critters.
Large Ham: Mr Rzykruski's speech about the purity of teaching to children comes off as malevolent because of his hammy overtures.
Nassor is in ham mode full time.
Lies to Children: Mr Rzykruski's lecture on lightning is full of this trope, describing electrons as if they're people eager to emigrate to a new region.
Although if you ignore his choice of a metaphor, he does manage to get the "mechanics" of how lightning works correctly, including the fact that it's not just a bolt striking down on the ground.
However, he gets the charge of electrons wrong.
Lightning Can Do Anything: Played straight. It even does different things to each animal brought back from the dead (based on "uncontrolled variables"). However, Shelley's growth was most likely helped by a can of Miracle-Gro fertilizer that Toshiaki happened to have around.
Possibly justified in that, for unknown reasons, the town has a thunderstorm every single night, indicating there may be something unusual about these particular bolts.
Lying Finger Cross: Edgar crosses his fingers when he promises to Victor that Edgar won't tell anyone about Victor's method of bringing animals back to life. He does at first keep Sparky's existence specifically a secret, but he tells the other kids about his "invisible fish" in order to win favor and eventually lets the part about Sparky slip without meaning to, which is what leads to the other kids trying to resurrect dead pets back to life as well.
Missing Trailer Scene: The homage trailer shows Weird Girl holding the paper with Mr Whiskers'... "message" to Victor in the shape of a skull and crossbones. In the movie, it's just a turd in the shape of a V.
Monster Mash: Well, almost. There's a vampire cat, a hamster mummy, an invisible fish, a werewolfish rat, a Kaiju turtle, Gillman-like sea monkeys, and, of course, a Frankenweenie.
Mummy Wrap: Nassor ends up mummified by streamers and trapped inside a cabinet.
The tall Boris Karloff-inspired Nassor creates a hamster mummy.
Pluto Is Expendable: One of the complaints the parents lodge against Mr Rzykruski is that he doesn't consider Pluto to be a planet any more.
Poor Communication Kills Your Career: Mr Rzykruski, in all of his hamminess, is very passionate about science and teaching it to others. This, unfortunately, translates to him trying to defend his position as science teacher by saying that he "rip[s] open the children's heads to get to their brains".
Reasonable Authority Figure: Victor's parents are very understanding and supportive of their sons hobbies and quirks, even after learning he brought his dog back to life, though Edward is a little pushy at getting Victor to try sports, but only because he worries Victor doesn't spend much time with people other than sparky, which he doesn't. Best shown when they are the only ones to speak up for Mr. Rzykruski at the town hall meeting.
Rodents of Unusual Size: Played straight with the dead rat Edger reanimates, causing it to grow to the size of a child. Averted with Colossus, whose name remains non-indicative even after reanimation as a hamster mummy.
Saying Too Much: How the other kids find out Victor's come up with a way to bring animals back to life. The other kids accuse Edgar of lying about his "invisible fish", and in his rush to defend himself Edgar insists that Victor can bring animals back to life; that's how Victor brought Sparky back...oops!
Science Is Bad: Resoundingly defied. The townsfolk believe this, and are shown to be unambiguously wrong by the only actual qualified scientist in town.
Also played with. While Mr. Rzykruski says science is neither good or bad, he also says that it can be used both ways.
For starters, Victor Frankenstein, which is the name of the scientist who created the infamous monster.
Sparky pre-transformation looks very similar to another Burton canine.
The gravestone across from sparkies, on which victor piles the dirt as he's digging Sparky out reads "Goodbye Kitty" with a picture of Hello Kitty with Xes on its eyes on it.
Elsa is named after Elsa Lanchester, who played the title role in Bride of Frankenstein (that she is basically Lydia Deetz just adds to the fun). Her poodle Persephone gets her very own Bride of Frankenstein beehive hairdo, compliments of a static charge from Sparky.
Nassor and his mummy hamster are a reference to Boris Karloff's role in the 1932 version of The Mummy (1932). Nassor's flat hair is also a reference to Frankenstein's Monster, a role that Karloff famously played.
Nassor getting wrapped up in streamers and then falling into a matryoshka-shaped cabinet riffs on Karloff's being mummified alive in the 1932 film.
Nassor's and Toshiaki's pets battling may also be a reference to Mons battling. Nassor even yells, "Go, Colossus!" before setting him down.
Sparky gets run over by a car the first time he dies in the film when he tries to get a baseball and return it to Victor. The same thing happens to Momo in Magical Princess Minky Momo; the only differences were that Sparky was actually at the baseball game instead of being near the game like Momo was, he decided to get the ball by himself instead of being asked to get the ball, and he wasn't distracted by something else before getting run over.
Slurpasaur: Victor dressed Sparky up to play a kaiju in his homemade film.
Stylistic Suck: By Burton's own admission. The film's stop-motion animation could've easily been animated more smoothly like is rival movie, ParaNorman, but Burton declined to do so as he wanted the film's stop-motion to be a little stiff with the movement in keeping with the horror vibe of the film.
The Power of Love: This is why Victor's attempt to bring Sparky back to life worked, and the lack of it is why the other kids eventually bringing animals back to life doesn't work and just turns them into monsters. But Nassor, who also expressed a desire to be reunited with his pet, also succeeded. Sort of.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mr Rzykruski attempts to give one of these to the townspeople after they blame him for the "science experiment" that resulted in one student breaking his arm. He labels their behavior insane, explains that he was trying to expand the students' minds, and that their charges against him are unfounded. The speech doesn't work; he's fired and his position is replaced by the gym teacher, who knows nothing of science. It also didn't help at the fact he stated all of this by calling them idiots and saying he wanted to crack the kids' heads open in his description.
Weird Girl: Mr Whiskers left a message. Victor: ...Did you get that from the litter box?
Torches and Pitchforks: Well, just torches — it is suburbia, after all. Still, even torches out of nowhere is pretty out there.
Überwald: At least, the closest one can make American suburbia into this trope. Many of the characters have Germanic or Slavic last names (Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Burgermeister, Rzykruski), and the town of New Holland celebrates a Dutch Day.
Mr Rzykruski's home country may well be Überwald, considering his accent and his comment that back home, "everyone is scientist."
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Two examples. First, Mr Whiskers is responsible for the resurrected Sparky leaving the house the first time and causing trouble, providing quasi-justification to the mayor's feelings of animosity towards Sparky. Second, Edgar finds out Victor's secret, and then tries to use it to win favor for himself by means of an "invisible fish". This causes a chain reaction that eventually leads to Edgar letting slip the fact that Victor's methods can resurrect animals, which is what leads to the other kids turning their dead pets into monsters by accident and almost getting the town destroyed.
We Can Rebuild Him: Victor decides to go this route in bringing Sparky back from death. Unfortunately, Toshiaki decides to do the same thing with other animals in order to one-up Victor, which goes horrifically wrong.
Also, how did Weird Girl cope with the death of Mr Whiskers?! Did she get a new cat? Is she still friendly with Victor?
None of the other kids are seen or mentioned after the chaos in the town square. Nassor's stuck in a cabinet, but the others may just be hiding given that their parents will probably ground them for life...
In fact, the movie has no epilogue! This seems to be par for the course for Burton.