Tim Burton Discusses His Real-Life Dog That Inspires 'Frankenweenie'
Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" is about to hit the U.S. theaters very soon, but before that, the director took some time to discuss the inspiration of his latest creation. Being known as a filmmaker who made various eccentric flicks, Burton opens up to Chicago Tribune that his new stop-motion movie, which has generated relatively positive reviews from critics so far, is actually inspired by his own story with his dog when he was a young boy.
"I had this strong connection with a mutt we had named Pepe," Burton recalls, "and it was a good connection." He says, "Like your first love. It was very powerful. The dog was not meant to live very long because of a disease he had, but he ended up living quite a long time. So you have this strong connection, and then you think: 'Well, how long is this going to last?' You don't really understand those concepts of death at the time."
For those who are unfamiliar with "Frankenweenie", the black-and-white film is a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life-with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, the entire town all learn that getting a new "leash on life" can be monstrous.
While Burton's real-life pet was a mutt, the dog in his film happens to be a bull terrier. Explaining why he chooses the breed, he says, "My original drawings for the film are quite abstract. They don't really identify a breed so much. I was trying to make the dog more general with the right kind of spirit. But when it came to going with a real dog, (using a bull terrier) definitely felt like the right type. They're quite special-looking. The ones I've known have got good personalities."
Aside from talking about the dog that inspires his movie, Burton discusses why he always makes dark-themed movies instead of cartoony ones for children. Having no regret that he once got fired by Walt Disney Pictures for making films that were too scary for children, the British director says that things related to "death" have become unavoidable elements in children's tales.
"In this 'Frankenweenie' film, I make a reference to 'Bambi' because Disney founded itself on exploring those things - Bambi's mother dying, for example. Or 'The Lion King' - there's death all over that movie," he claims. "I find that people at the company forget the history of Walt Disney movies. 'Old Yeller', 'Snow White' - the movies had scary elements. I felt 'Frankenweenie' was a pretty classic Disney movie."
Burton insists that "Frankenweenie" is actually not that scary for kids. "There's no yelping and screaming. No bodies being crushed," he says. "I felt like it's the safest and most positive way to explore those themes. It's more of a fantasy, a wish fulfillment. Do I really want to bring my dead dog back? My dead grandmother? My dead parents? Not really."
Of his experience on getting fired from Disney, Burton says, "I've been in and out of Disney both positively and negatively. (Getting fired) has happened to me so many times! I will say that there were no fights about (shooting this movie) in black and white, which was great because I wouldn't have done it without doing that. They could have made that an issue and they didn't. I'm always grateful for anything like that - where they at least try to see it the way you do, and then accept it."
"Frankenweenie" will make its way out Stateside on October 5.
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