When Tim Burton first made the animated short film Frankenweenie in 1984, Disney fired him, arguing that it was "too scary" for the company's family audience. The studio eventually re-partnered with the director and, almost 30 years later — after Burton's macabre sensibility has earned Disney billions with films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Alice in Wonderland — Disney is calling a mulligan and releasing a full-length version of Frankenweenie this Oct. 5. In the black-and-white stop-motion flick, young Victor is devastated when his dog, Sparky, dies. Determined to play with the pooch again, he pulls a Dr. Frankenstein and reanimates him. Of course, Sparky 2.0 isn't quite the same, which stirs up a feature-length film's worth of trouble. Judging from the newly released trailer (watch below), is the film still too dark to succeed?
No. It looks like a hit: "Leave it to Tim Burton to make even the gruesomest scenarios utterly heart-wrenching," says Jen Yamato at Movieline. The trailer had me welling up with tears within the first 30 seconds. Sure, the dark themes and allusions to classic horror cinema aren't typical children's fare, but with hits like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Burton has "prepped audiences to accept [this] kind of dark children's storytelling...." Disney's decision to revisit the film that got Burton fired "feels like poetic justice."
"Death, zombie-making, and other childhood concerns about in Frankenweenie trailer"
I can see it turning people off: Fans will be elated that Burton is once again serving up "big-eyed oddball characters, a 'monster' who's just misunderstood, [and] an off-kilter portrayal of suburban life," says Sandy Schaefer at Screen Rant. Frankenweenie appears classically "Burton-esque," in the vein of Beetlejuice. Still, a sizable group is fatigued by that "brand of twisted eye candy." To those who "have gotten their fill of Burton cinematic ghoulishness": Frankenweenie absolutely isn't for you.
"Frankenweenie trailer: More Tim Burton stop-motion madness"
Regardless, this is where Burton shines: Burton is quite literally returning to his roots — one of his first shorts — and that's reason to celebrate, says Katey Rich at Cinema Blend. Frankenweenie's black-and-white palate and "rounded, odd creature design" is a return to the Burton we fell in love with (see The Nightmare Before Christmas). Certainly, it's a welcome detour from the sprawling whimsy of recent work like the disappointing Alice and Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. "It feels like Frankenweenie could have been made in 1992, and for once, that's a good thing."
"First trailer for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is the right kind of throwback"