Released in the United States on October 5, 2012, Disney's Frankenweenie is the first ever 3D, black and white, stop-motion film. This film was directed by Tim Burton. It was written by Tim Burton and John August.
Sparky is Victor’s best and only friend. At a baseball game, Victor hits a home run which Sparky runs after, and in doing so, is killed by an oncoming car. Victor and his family mourn the loss of Sparky. While in science class, Victor witnesses his science teacher Mr. Rzykruski's bringing back muscular movement to dead frogs from the use of electricity. Victor goes to Sparky’s grave, digs him up, and secretly brings him home to his laboratory in the attic. Successfully mimicking his science teacher’s experiment, Victor is able to bring Sparky back to life.
Family and parenting is a common recurring theme in Disney films, and Frankenweenie (2012) is no exception. Victor Frankenstein's parents are active participants in his upbringing. For starters, Ben Frankenstein cares about Victor being a loner and pushes for him to join sports in order to make friends. In addition, both parents are supportive of Victor's love for directing his own movies and for his interest in science.
Victor's parents understand how much their son enjoys science because they are actively engaged with him. When there is unrest at a PTA meeting concerning Victor's science teacher, Ben stands up for Mr. Rzykruski by sharing his son's feelings. Then, when Victor Frankenstein's parents learn that Sparky has been resurrected, they tell him how that is wrong and dangerous, but ultimately decide to find a way to make society accept his actions and love for his best friend. After Sparky runs away scared, Victor and his parents separate to cover more ground at night to search for him.
As a result, parents and children alike see the encouraging message of parents and children working together in a successful family relationship. The story takes a shift and focuses on parenting anxieties when we see the concerns of Ben and Susan in a conversation after the discovery of Sparky's rebirth. As parents can immediately relate, this scene is most likely for their attention and not for children's. Finally, communication and nurturing is promoted as the Frankensteins work together to resolve all conflicts together.
The setting of Frankenweenie takes place in a suburban neighborhood in New Holland. The neighborhood is picturesque with rows of houses and white picket fences, but there is something disturbing about the community's inhabitants. Mr. Burgemeister has a sinister voice and is consistently nosy as he watches Victor from around the corner and peeps through the blinds. In addition, the neighbor lady characterizes that stereotypical person who gets into hysterics and complains about anything they perceive as inappropriate. The underlying critique is of the idealistic suburban lifestyle, that underneath is not as glossy as it appears.
The community comes together in discontent with the intentions of destroying Sparky once and for all, only to make events spiral out of control. The mob mentality of the townspeople displays how violence and making assumptions can lead to dangerous and horrific outcomes. The community concludes based solely on circumstantial evidence that Sparky has kidnapped Elsa. The angry mob is the cause for the windmill catching fire towards the end of the movie, making an already bad situation even worse.
The conclusion of the film, however, shows a transformation in the community as the townsfolk display understanding and acceptance for the relationship of love between Sparky and Victor. This is significant in showing that in the face of adversity and conflict, a community can come together and fix the wrongs and stand together for what is truly right and just.
In Mary Shelley's novel, education is conveyed by the monster learning to speak, read, and write.The monster is taught by watching and mimicking a family. Similarly, Victor receives higher education at Ingolstadt learning chemistry and other science philosophies. Frankenweenie focuses on a critique of the public education system specifically of ill equipped teachers, closed mindedness, and management.
The PTA meeting of the students' parents, teachers, and Mr. Burgermeister displays the problems in the school system. To begin, the parents are directly involved in disrupting the educational system by slandering the science teacher Mr. Rzykruski because they do not understand the material their children are coming home from school with. The parents show a close-mindedness to the evolution of science and knowledge taught to students. Mr. Rzykruski's response that the parents are "ignorant and simple" does not help his case. The problem with communication between educators and parents is serious and critiqued in this scene. By sacking the science teacher, the gym teacher is then set as the judge for the science fair; she is not properly qualified for this position, much less educated enough in that subject to teach the students anything useful.
After Victor Frankenstein succeeds in resurrecting his dog Sparky, he attempts to reproduce his experiment for Edgar with a fish that results in drastically different conclusions. The science teacher Mr. Rzykruski tells Victor that science can be used both for good or bad. In other words, Victor loved his best friend so much that he needed the experiment to succeed in order to enjoy Sparky's presence again. Unfortunately, Victor's classmates then set out to reanimate their deceased pets in order to win the science fair and best each other. The results are several destructive creatures that wreak havoc on New Holland. The significance of the disastrous experiments is a critical discussion on the significance of the roles: intention, morality, and ambition play in the realm of science. The film suggests that "good" intentions will result in "good" results.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein toils with the same idea. Victor begins his studies in science and chemistry in order to help the world with discovering the secrets of nature; but his ambitions cloud his judgement and send him down the wrong path. When Frankenstein becomes a god by creating his monster, the question of morality in science comes to center focus. How far is too far? Back to Frankenweenie, Mr. Rzykruski warns Victor to be careful. Then Mr. Frankenstein says to Victor, "Crossing the boundary between life and death, reanimating a corpse, is very upsetting," downplaying how serious Frankenstein's actions really were.
Tim Burton's Frankenweenie was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature/Film. In addition, the film won in New York, Florida, Los Angeles, and Boston the Best Animate Film at respective ceremonies. Frankenweenie was nominated for five Annie Awards all in 2012 as well. Needless to say the film was a success. This box office hit received an estimated $81 million in worldwide gross income (boxofficemojo.com).New York Post said, "Tim Burton's best film in years" and USA Today stated, "It is also a beautifully crafted homage to classic horror films..." (Metacritic.com). Based on 38 critic reviews, Frankenweenie received mostly positive scores (Metacritic.com).
Significance of Adaptation
This Frankenstein adaptation has entertainment for parents and children. By rewriting Shelley's Frankenstein for children, Tim Burton is adding to the cultural literacy for families about this classical literary work. Cultural literacy is the idea that everyone should know or have a general knowledge of certain items about their culture. This can include pop culture references, classical literary allusions, historical events or people, etc.Cultural literacy lives on due to many different mediums like television, film, books, comics, and more. The article, "Television for Children" says, "Children's television has maintained a particularly strong relationship with children's literature," further establishing a link between mediums reaching a young audience (Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English, Credo Reference).
Other adaptations have been drawn on. For example, the character E is similar to Richard Brinsley Peake's Fritz in Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein (1823) and Igor in Young Frankenstein (1974). Tim Burton did not set out to create an adaptation that focuses on fidelity of the original, but to produce a piece of art that he considers his own "original idea".
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Contributed by Danny Nguyen Huynh and Megan Rozzana