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Immersed in Movies: Will Animated Black-and-White 3-D 'Frankenweenie' Win Burton His First Oscar?

Thompson on Hollywood By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood October 4, 2012 at 12:41PM

"Frankenweenie" is not only Tim Burton's best film since "Big Fish" (another rite of passage story), but also a lock for a best animated feature nomination. In fact, the Oscar arguably appears to be Burton's to lose, though it's shaping up to be quite a race with two other tantalizing retro movies yet to come: Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" (November 2) and DreamWorks' "Rise of the Guardians" (November 21).
Frankenweenie still

"He wanted his vision and his vision alone and so I was there to help him realize that vision," Thomas explains. "He was collaborative, but he didn't want it to be a collaboration. He wanted it to be his, singularly, and that was it. And I think we got it."

And what was the greatest challenge? Why, Sparky, the heroic bull terrier, of course. It was based on a real dog, comprised of 300 joints because of the thinness of his legs, supported by special rigs. Burton demanded no anthropomorphizing whatsoever. For instance, after watching the puppet roll over, Burton decided he wanted him to spring back up, but the puppet wasn't capable of that. They had to quickly modify it.

"There was a lot of that trickery where we had to shoot around things and get puppets that are multi-purpose and popping puppets in between and doing some  They didn't want to disappoint Burton or begrudge the vision that had festered in his brain for 30 years.

"As an American living amongst English people, you really have to distill the essence of what it was like living in Burbank in the '70s," Abbate explains. "Once you can find that way in for the artists and the puppet makers and prop makers, it's helpful to clarify it for audiences, too. Everyone brings that little bit of their experience to it. That's why some of the props are personal. Tim creates this place and allows you to bring your own stuff to it as well."

It's about turning the personal into the universal, which is what Burton has been doing all of these years as the Prince of Goth.

This article is related to: Immersed In Movies, Interviews, Tim Burton, Frankenweenie, Academy Awards, Animation, Awards, Awards, Oscars, Tim Burton, Remake

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.