Disney has unveiled a series of character for this Halloween's "Frankenweenie," a black-and-white stop-motion feature from Tim Burton and Disney that was based on a short film of his that got him fired from the studio back in the mid-eighties (seriously). The posters and characters look appropriately Tim Burton-y (maybe a little too much – some of the characters seem like slightly redressed designs from "The Corpse Bride" and the dog looks very "Family Dog"-esque). In other Disney animation news, the studio has quietly slipped a new "Cars Toon" short film onto iTunes and Amazon, which ties in directly to the new Carsland section of Disney California Adventure.
Firstly, the "Frankweenie" stuff – it looks pretty great. We get a look at all the major characters, both human and animal (the titular resurrected pooch is named Sparky) and while this stuff is pretty basic, it is kind of a thrill to see what a Tim Burton reunion this movie is – Catherine O'Hara ("Beetlejuice"), Martin Short ("Mars Attacks!"), Winona Ryder ("Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands"), Conchata Ferrell ("Edward Scissorhands") and Martin Landau ("Ed Wood," "Sleepy Hollow") all make appearances with a special cameo supplied by Christopher Lee ("Sleepy Hollow," "Alice in Wonderland," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Corpse Bride," "Dark Shadows") that's too good to ruin here.
While Burton might have had a shaky year with the hot mess that was "Dark Shadows," it looks like he'll be back in the swing of things with "Frankenweenie," placing him solely in his dark fable wheelhouse that has served him so well in the past. Ironically, it was this darkness that initially infuriated Disney, who deemed the original short too scary for its original usage (to be a pre-film supplement for a December 1984 re-release of "Pinocchio") and promptly fired Burton. Well, it's amazing what a couple of decades and a few hit movies will do to repair a relationship.
"Frankenweenie" will debut in Disney Digital 3D on October 5th, making it the third movie in as many months to be horror-themed family entertainment (after Laika's stop-motion "ParaNorman" in August and Sony's computer-generated "Hotel Transylvania" in September). Let's hope people aren't tired of things that go bump in the night by then.
Also, Disney and Pixar have quietly slipped a new entry into their short film series, "Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales," which features characters from "Cars" and "Cars 2," mostly involving Larry the Cable Guy's Mater telling a series of comically exaggerated stories. They used to be fanciful little shorts that were really a lot of fun but more recently have turned more utilitarian and promotions-based – "Air Mater," which debuted on the "Cars 2" DVD, was little more than a set-up for the direct-to-video spin-off "Planes" (which is produced by John Lasseter but animated by DisneyToon Studios) and this new film is setting up something else altogether.
"Time Travel Mater" (featuring killer animation by Pixar's recently opened Canadian campus) ties directly into the newly opened Carsland section of the Disney California Adventure theme park. Carsland is the crown jewel of the massive, $1 billion+ expansion of California Adventure that is an overdue attempt at making Disney's second West Coast gate a destination in and of itself and not just something you stumble over to if the wait at Space Mountain is too daunting. Everything about the short – from the clock that Mater puts up, which mirrors the sign outside of the E-ticket centerpiece of the new land Radiator Springs Racers (the clock there tells you how long the line is and this weekend that line was verrrrrrry long), to the glowing tunnel that he glides through, to the original Radiator Spring (in Calfornia it's located in the line) – gives you back-story and depth for the ride, which is based on technology developed for EPCOT Center's kick-ass Test Track attraction.
While we weren't, ahem, invited to the press event last week to open California Adventure 2.0, we fully intend on checking out the new land this summer. Vrrrrrrrroooooom! [Kinopoisk]