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Western Animation / Frankenweenie

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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 with an interest in science. He doesn't really have many friends, but he really does love his dog Sparky, and even creates movies starring him. After Sparky is killed 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 of day in American theaters (it was initially supposed to be attached to reissues of The Jungle Book and then Pinocchio prior to this), though it managed to secure a theatrical run in the UK. 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 was Disney's last theatrically released horror film, until Ready or Not (2019) (albeit via Searchlight Pictures).


This film contains examples of:

  • Body Horror: Mr Whiskers' transformation into a cat-bat.
  • Creepy Child: This being a Tim Burton production, pretty much every kid in the thing is a tad disturbing in their own way, but Weird Girl takes the gold.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Literally with Shelley against Colossus.
  • Dirty Coward: The mayor, who hides behind his niece when the monsters attack then flees for his own life. He shortly gets his Laser-Guided Karma.
  • 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 is more accurate to how the breed is in real life.
  • Ear Ache: At one point in the film, Sparky scratches his ear, causing it to fall off. Victor quickly reattaches it.
  • Enthusiastic Newbie Teacher: Victor's class gets a new science teacher named Mr. Ryzkruzki after their old one gets struck by lightning (it's never said if he died or not). Mr. Ryzkruski is very excitable, loud, and poetic.
  • 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 Mr. Burgermeister when they pop out of the portable toilet he's hiding in.
  • Expy:
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • Mr. Whiskers, after being transformed into a Vampire Cat 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.
  • Fantastic Aesop. You should be prepared to accept death and let go of loved ones, but if you're capable of re-animating the dead, go right ahead!
  • Final Boss: Mr Whiskers is the final mutant animal that Victor and Sparky have to face.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Goodbye Kitty" was there for more than just a Visual Pun.
    • 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.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The kids who try to replicate Victor's experiment with disastrous results.
    • The mischievous, friend-hungry, and always-smiling Edgar "E" Gore (Sanguine).
    • The dangerously ambitious Toshiaki (Choleric), who creates the plan to upstage Victor.
    • The bleak and cynical Nassor (Melancholic), who often falls into The Comically Serious.
    • The eccentric and always calm Weird Girl (Phlegmatic).
    • The gullible and easily-swayed Bob (Eclectic).
  • Franken-X: Victor revives his dead dog Sparky, an event that causes terror in his neighborhood. And then other kids start copying Victor, with the various revived animals wreaking havoc.
  • 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.
  • Hammerspace: Where Toshiaki pulled out his video camera.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: It's okay to be "weird" — as long as it's the right kind of weird.
  • 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.
  • High-Voltage Death:
    • The were-rat gets killed when it accidentally bites one of Sparky's bolts, causing it to shrink back into a dead rat.
    • Victor takes out the giant turtle by electrifying a puddle of spilled beer it's standing in.
  • 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 re-animation.
  • Injured Limb Episode: When Bob and his friend do the experiment to see if the shaken-up soda bottles will make Bob fly, it doesn't work, resulting in Bob falling off the roof and breaking his arm.
  • Inscrutable Oriental: Toshiaki.
  • 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 re-animated 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.
  • Logo Joke: The Disney logo plays as normal with slightly altered music, but near the end, a Scare Chord is played and the music becomes creepier. The logo follows suit as color is drained from it, an Ominous Fog appears around the castle and a storm replaces the previously starry sky as the word "Disney" appears.
  • 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.
  • Mad Scientist: Subverted. There's an eccentric scientist, but he is the Only Sane Man.
    • Also Toshiaki.
    • Not to mention Victor himself, of course. He's just an unusually moral one, knowing what he's doing is taboo.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Nassor's name means "victor" in Egyptian.
    • Persephone, the poodle who falls in love with Sparky, shares her name with the wife of Hades in Greek mythology.
    • Mr. Burgermeister's surname is also his occupation.
    • Shelley refers, of course, to Mary Shelley — the author of the original "Frankenstein" (as well as being a pun on the fact that it's a tortoise).
    • Sparky is reanimated by electricity.
    • Elsa van Helsing is a double one, referring to both Elsa Lanchester and Van Helsing himself.
  • 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.
  • National Stereotypes: Toshiaki, who is stoic, willing to go to extremes to win the science fair, cunning and underhanded, creates a kaiju from his pet turtle and is obsessed with catching everything on film, even if it endangers his own life to do so.
  • No Antagonist: Throughout the movie, both Victor and Sparky have to deal with mean adults, creepy children and dangerous monsters, but there is no single antagonist causing the central conflict, i.e. learning to accept the undead dog.
  • Notzilla: Shelley the turtle is turned into a cross between Godzilla and Gamera.
  • Obviously Evil: Mr. Rzykruski looks to be this with a creepy tall body, long face, and jagged teeth. However this is subverted as he is actually very nice and the only sane adult. That is, when he isn't brutally insulting people to their face.
    • Nassor, being a Large Ham who looks and sounds like Boris Karloff, is pretty obviously set up as a villain the first time we see him.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. There are two characters named Bob; the fat kid and Mr. Burgermeister.
  • Oracular Urchin: Weird Girl, via Mr. Whiskers and his litterbox.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Edgar, the creepy hunchbacked kid who discovers the resurrected Sparky.
  • Perpetual Storm: It's mentioned by the students that the town they live in has lightning storms practically every night.
  • Personality Powers: All of the monsters the kids raise from the dead resemble them in some way:
    • The short Japanese student Toshiaki makes a Gamera-esque turtle.
    • The Igor-like Edgar creates a hunchbacked rat.
    • The creepy pale Weird Girl turns her cat into a monstrous hybrid.
    • 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."
  • Possession Presumes Guilt: The citizens think Sparky the zombie dog killed Elsa the mayor's niece because he was holding her wig.
  • 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.
  • Retro Universe: Word of God says that while the setting appears to be The '50s, it's not quite that, yet not quite present day either, with the closest reference to a modern-day event being a parent complaining how Pluto doesn't qualify as a planet anymore, which happened in 2006.
  • 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 re-animation 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.
  • Sea Aping: Bob conducts electricity into his "Sea Creatures" which turn into small monsters that resemble a cross between a monkey and the Gill-Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon.
  • Shout-Out:
    • For starters, Victor Frankenstein, which is the name of the scientist who created the infamous monster.
    • The gravestone across from Sparky's, on which Victor piles the dirt as he's digging Sparky out reads "Goodbye Kitty" with a picture of Hello Kitty with X's 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.
    • Mr. Burgermeister is named after Burgermeister Meisterburger of Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town fame.
    • Nassor and his mummy hamster are a reference to Boris Karloff's role in the 1932 version of The Mummy. 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.
    • Similarly, Edgar is modeled on Fritz and Ygor, two characters fulfilling the same purpose from the Karloff Frankenstein movies. Though he looks more like the one from Young Frankenstein.
    • The mutated Sea-Monkeys tiny Fish People, probably a reference to Creature from the Black Lagoon (and possibly Gremlins), given the movies penchant for Universal monster movies.
    • The goldfish is pretty much a straight-up shout-out to The Invisible Man (1933), right up to it starting to go mad before disappearing altogether.
    • Elsa's last name is "van Helsing."
    • Toshiaki's giant turtle monster looks like a cross between Gamera and Godzilla. Of course, it's also named Shelley.
    • The general premise of the movie (a person's loved one is killed, and out of grief he digs up the corpse and resurrects it, creating a myriad of unintended consequences) seems very much like an homage to Pet Sematary, down to the loved one being run over while chasing a toy of some kind. The use of the The Ramones' Pet Sematary seems to compound this only further.
    • And the Mr. Whiskers / bat hybrid monster is notably vampire-like, though its means of creation mirrors The Fly.
    • Edgar's re-animated rat becomes bipedal, sprouts loads of fangs, and attacks in the manner of a movie werewolf.
    • The angry mob and burning windmill are oft repeated homages to the 1931 Frankenstein.
    • Mr. Rzykruski's look is based on horror veteran Vincent Price.
    • Mr. Whiskers' transformation sequence is right out of An American Werewolf in London.
    • Man hiding in a portable toilet to escape giant reptilian creature. This time thankfully the man doesn't get eaten.
    • Victor's parents hide into a phone booth which is stormed by the sea monkeys. The scene is reminiscent of the bird attacks in The Birds.
    • Bambi Meets Godzilla: The Colossus versus Shelley scene. Later, the movie theater sign shows Bambi and Godzilla films as now playing.
      • Nassor's and Toshiaki's pets battling may also be a reference to Mons battling. Nassor even yells, "Go, Colossus!" before setting him down.
    • The movie itself could also be a metaphor for stop motion in general, in the sense that one of the major themes is the animation (or reanimation) of dead bodies.
  • Slurpasaur: Victor dressed Sparky up to play a kaiju in his homemade film.
  • Soda Can Shakeup: Bob and Toshaki try to make a jet pack out of shaken-up soda bottles, but it doesn't work and Bob breaks his arm.
  • Sports Dad: Victor's dad wants him to try a sport and randomly picks baseball. While Victor is playing baseball, Sparky chases a ball onto the road, being hit by a car and dying, which is what starts the plot.
  • Straw Nihilist: Nassor, who has a bleak, "doomsday" view on life.
  • Stylistic Suck: By Burton's own admission. The film's stop-motion animation could've easily been animated more smoothly like its 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.
  • Suburbia
  • That Poor Cat
  • The End... Or Is It?: The trailer ends with this phrase! So does Victor's home movie.
  • 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.
  • Running Over the Plot: Sparky the dog gets fatally hit by a car, then Victor brings him back to life with lightning.
  • Toilet Humor:
    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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The invisible fish does not come up again after its apparent disappearance.
    • 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.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Nassor.


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