Frankenweenie is a black and white stop motion animation movie from Walt Disney Pictures. It was theatrically released in the United States a little over a month before Halloween, on September 20, 2012. The film was directed by Tim Burton and is a remake of a short live action film which Burton made in 1984.
The plot centers on a young boy named Victor Frankenstein who is deeply saddened when his pet dog Sparky is accidentally killed. Putting to use what he has learned about electricity in his school science classes, Victor brings the dead dog back to life. Although he tries to keep the fact that he has reanimated Sparky a secret, other children find out about it and try to repeat his experiment. Unfortunately, the dead animals which the other children revive turn into dangerous monsters, which are only defeated thanks to the intelligence and bravery of both Victor and Sparky.
The film is a version of the Frankenstein story and contains many visual references to the 1931 film Frankenstein and the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein. There are also several references to other horror movies which were released between the 1930s and the 1970s.
Frankenweenie was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some images, scenes and themes which could be potentially frightening to young children.
The action takes place in New Holland, a small American town where the highlight of the year is the annual Dutch Day celebration and where there are thunderstorms nearly every night. Victor Frankenstein is a small boy who lives in New Holland with his parents. Victor is an amateur film maker and a budding young scientist. He has few friends and spends very little time with children his own age but he adores his pet dog Sparky.
Victor lives next door to a girl named Elsa Van Helsing, the mayor's niece who has been chosen to be that year's "Little Dutch Girl", whose singing is central to the Dutch Day celebration. Elsa owns a black poodle named Persephone who is fond of Sparky. Elsa's uncle, the mayor Mr. Burgemeister also lives in Victor's neighborhood. Mr. Burgemeister hates Sparky because the dog often gets into his garden.
A new science teacher, a man with an Eastern European accent named Mr. Rzykruski, has recently begun teaching at New Holland Elementary School. Mr. Rzykruski announces that a science fair will be held shortly, at which the students will compete for prizes. A hunchbacked boy named Edgar is keen to be Victor's partner for the science fair, considering Victor to be better at science than any other student at the school.
After his father insists that he needs to do more sports, Victor takes part in a baseball game. During the game, Sparky runs into the street, is hit by a car and killed. Victor is very upset by his dog's death and finds it difficult to concentrate on anything else. However, when Mr. Rzykruski demonstrates that electricity can make the muscles in a dead frog's legs move, Victor gets the idea that he can use electricity to bring Sparky back to life.
Victor gathers together several kitchen implements to use in his experiment. He steals Sparky's body from the pet cemetery, sews it back together and puts two bolts, onto which jump leads can be attached, in the dog's neck. Using the power of a bolt of lightning, Victor succeeds in bringing his pet back from the dead. Sparky is not sewn together very well, at different points in the film he temporarily loses his tail and an ear and anything which goes in his mouth is likely to come out of a hole in his neck. He also now needs to be electrically recharged whenever he runs out of energy. Otherwise, the dog carries on much as he did before he died.
Knowing that others would have difficulty accepting the reanimated dog, Victor tells Sparky to stay home and to stay out of everybody's sight, including that of Victor's parents. However, while Victor is at school, Sparky sneaks out and is seen by Edgar. When he returns home, Sparky is reunited with Elsa's poodle Persephone. The two dogs touch noses, causing Persephone to get an electric shock and to be left with two white streaks in the black fur on her head.
Edgar tells Victor that he knows about Sparky being brought back to life. He threatens to tell Victor's parents unless the boy shows him how to revive dead animals. Victor helps Edgar to bring a dead fish back to life but the fish becomes invisible and disappears completely after a few days. Mr. Rzykurski later tells Victor that the second experiment failed because, unlike the first one, Victor did not love doing it. Victor makes Edgar promise to tell nobody about the experiment. Although he does not tell them that it is a reanimated dead fish, Edgar shows off his invisible fish to two other boys named Toshiaki and Bob.
In order to compete with Edgar's invisible fish at the science fair, Toshiaki and Bob make a rocket backpack out of soda bottles. While testing it on a roof, Bob falls and breaks his arm. A PTA meeting is hastily called, at which the mayor speaks out about the menace posed by the science teacher. Mr. Rzykruski loses his job and the gym teacher takes over his class. However, the gym teacher announces that the science fair will go ahead as planned.
A boy named Nassor says that there never was an invisible fish and that Toshiaki and Bob fell for a prank. Edgar blurts out that Victor brought the fish back from the dead, just like he did his dog Sparky. Toshiaki, Bob, Nassor and a girl, known only as Weird Girl, are all keen to try out the experiment for themselves.
On Dutch Day, while looking for a kitchen implement which Victor has borrowed, Victor's mother finds the reanimated Sparky. Her screams summon her husband and Victor. Sparky escapes out of an open window. Victor's parents are horrified that he has brought Sparky back from the dead but agree to help him look for his missing dog.
While Victor and his parents are out, Edgar leads the other children into their house. Toshiaki sees Victor's notes on a blackboard and tells the others how to bring dead animals back to life. Each child chooses a different animal to revive. Edgar finds a dead rat. Toshiaki chooses to bring back his dead pet turtle Shelley and Nassor chooses to bring back his dead pet Colossus. Bob decides to use the lighning to enhance some freshwater Sea-Monkeys and Weird Girl's pet cat Mr. Whiskers brings her a dead bat. Mr. Whiskers is holding the bat when the lighting strikes and combines with it to form a vampire-like cat-bat hybrid. Shelley the turtle changes into a Godzilla-like creature and the other animals become dangerous monsters, except for Colossus, a small rodent which is wrapped up like a mummy. The animals all head downtown, where the Dutch Day celebrations are being held, and go on the rampage, except for Colossus who is soon squashed by the gigantic turtle Shelley.
Victor eventually finds Sparky in the pet cemetery. He is then approached by Toshiaki and Bob who say that they need help to defeat the monsters which they created. The freshwater Sea-Monkeys are lured into eating some very salty popcorn, which makes them explode. Shelley is electrocuted after stepping into a puddle of beer into which Victor has placed an electrical cable. The monster rat is electrocuted when it bites one of the bolts in Sparky's neck. The vampiric Mr. Whiskers snatches Elsa's poodle Persephone. Elsa chases after it, losing the wig which she wore as the "Little Dutch Girl" in the process. Sparky picks up the wig. He is then recognized by the mayor as Victor's dead dog. Assuming that Sparky has eaten his niece, the mayor leads an angry mob, carrying flaming torches, which chase after the dog.
Sparky leads the mob to the windmill which overlooks the town, where Mr. Whiskers is holding Elsa and Persephone. The mayor accidentally sets light to the windmill. Elsa and her poodle manage to escape and Mr. Whiskers is staked through the heart by a falling beam but Sparky dies again when the windmill collapses.
Realizing that the dog poses no threat to them, the people of the town attach jump leads to their car engines to bring Sparky back to life again. The film ends with Sparky and Persephone rubbing noses and sparks of electricity passing between the two dogs.
- Charlie Tahan - Victor Frankenstein
- Frank Welker - Sparky (uncredited)
- Martin Short - Victor's father/Mr. Burgemeister/Nassor
- Catherine O'Hara - Victor's mother/Weird Girl/the gym teacher
- Winona Ryder - Elsa Van Helsing
- Martin Landau - Mr. Rzykrushi
- Atticus Shaffer - Edgar
- James Hiroyuki Liao - Toshiaki
- Robert Capron - Bob
- ↑ Victor Frankenstein is the name of the scientist in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein.
- ↑ The name Elsa Van Helsing is a reference to the actress Elsa Lanchester, who played the title character in the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein, and Abraham Van Helsing, the wise professor who defeats the vampire in Bram Stoker's Dracula.
- ↑ The name Mr. Burgemeister is based on the German word Bürgermeister, which is roughly equivalent to "mayor" in English.
- ↑ Mr. Rzykruski bears a striking resemblance to Vincent Price, a famous horror actor and a good friend of Tim Burton until his 1993 death
- ↑ The film's end credits give Edgar's name as "Edagar 'E' Gore", which is pronounced the same as "Igor".
- ↑ The scene in which Sparky is revived is a parody of the scene in which the monster is created in the 1931 film Frankenstein.
- ↑ Persephone getting white streaks in her black fur is a visual reference to the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein, in which the title character has black curly hair with two white streaks in it.
- ↑ Nassor strongly resembles Frankenstein's monster, as played by the British actor Boris Karloff in the 1931 film Frankenstein.
- ↑ The name Shelley is a reference to Mary Shelley, the author who wrote the 1818 novel Frankenstein.
- ↑ The film's climax is a parody of the ending of the 1931 film Frankenstein, in which Frankenstein's monster is burned to death inside a windmill.