Frankenweenie is a 30-minute black and white live-action film which was made by Walt Disney Productions in 1984. The film was directed by Tim Burton. It stars Barrett Oliver as Victor Frankenstein, Shelly Duvall as his mother Susan Frankenstein and Daniel Stern as his father Ben Frankenstein. It features a young Sofia Coppola as the neighbor's daughter. The screenplay was written by Lenny Ripps, based on an original idea by Tim Burton. The film is an affectionate parody of the Frankenstein story in general and the 1931 movie Frankenstein in particular. A feature-length stop-motion animation remake, also directed by Burton, was released in 2012.
The plot is set in motion when young Victor Frankenstein's beloved dog Sparky is accidentally killed. The boy uses his scientific knowledge to bring his pet back to life. His parents are shocked when they find out what their son has done and all of his neighbors are horrified by the resurrected dog's strange appearance. However, the community eventually comes to realize that Sparky is not only harmless but a hero.
The short film was originally intended to be shown as a supporting feature when Disney's Pinocchio was re-released to movie theaters in the United States in December 1984. However, Disney executives decided that Frankenweenie was too horrific for children. It was not released theatrically in the US, although it was shown in British cinemas in 1985 as a supporting feature for the dinosaur movie Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend. Following the mainstream success of Tim Burton's films Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Batman, Disney released Frankenweenie on home video in 1992. The short film would later appear as a bonus feature on DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the 2012 animated Frankenweenie remake.
Frankenweenie was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America but was rated as being suitable for all audiences in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Victor Frankenstein is a young boy who makes amateur movies and adores his pet dog Sparky. When Sparky dies, after being accidentally hit by a car when he runs out into the street to get a ball, Victor is deeply saddened. At school, Victor sees how passing electricity through a dead frog can make its muscles move. He immediately gets the idea that he can use electricity to bring Sparky back to life and reads more about the subject. He takes materials from the kitchen and the garage and uses them to construct the machinery necessary to conduct electricity from a bolt of lightning into the dead dog. One night, after his parents have gone to bed, Victor sneaks out to the pet cemetery where Sparky is buried and digs up the dog's body.
Sparky is brought back to life but he does not look the same as he did before. There are two bolts attached to his neck and he is rather badly sewn together, water comes out of his neck when he drinks and a patch of skin from his back appears to be missing and is replaced by a piece of cloth with a polka dot pattern. The following day, Victor plays truant from school to spend time with Sparky. He wants to keep the revived dog's existence a secret from everybody but Sparky manages to escape and is glimpsed by some of Victor's neighbors, who are horrified by what they see.
When Victor's parents return home, some of their neighbors complain about the dangerous animal that they are keeping, the girl who lives next door insisting that she saw a monster. Mr. Frankenstein goes to investigate and is shocked to see Sparky back from the dead. At first, Victor's parents are horrified by the mere idea of what their son has done. However, they soon come to accept Sparky when they realize that he loves them just as much as he did before his accident. They even help Victor to keep Sparky's existence a secret for a while. However, when rumors about the dangerous animal that the Frankensteins are keeping continue, Mr. Frankenstein decides to present Sparky to the neighbors.
The Frankensteins invite their neighbors to a party at which the revived dog will be presented, Mrs. Frankenstein giving Sparky fresh stitches first and Mr. Frankenstein reassuring everyone that the dog is just the same as he was before. However, when the neighbors see Sparky, they are terrified by his strange appearance. In the panic that follows, Sparky runs out of the house and Victor follows him. Victor's parents go out in search of their son and the neighbors form an angry mob, determined to destroy the monstrous dog.
Sparky finds his way to a crazy golf course and goes straight into the windmill, Victor following right behind him. One of the neighbors accidentally sets fire to the windmill with a cigarette lighter. Sparky drags the boy out of the burning structure to safety but it collapses around the dog, killing him again.
The neighbors realize that Sparky heroically saved Victor's life and decide to bring him back from the dead a second time, using extension cables attached to their cars. Sparky is reanimated once again. A black poodle with white streaks in the fur on her head (a visual reference to the title character in the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein) comes out of a car and approaches Sparky. The two dogs fall in love with each other at first sight, causing electrical sparks to fly out of Sparky's body.