First look: Sparky is back in new 'Frankenweenie' short
05:00 AM, Dec 20, 2012
The cute little undead dog from Frankenweenie has some spark left in him.
Sparky, the resurrected canine of director Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated Disney film Frankenweenie, stars in the all-new original short Captain Sparky vs. the Flying Saucers appearing on the Blu-ray/DVD release of the movie, out Jan. 8. And it taps into Burton’s own interests in 1950s sci-fi and a boy learning how to make films.
Frankenweenie stars Victor, his pup and the adventure that follows when the youngster brings Sparky back to life using science and tries to keep it secret from his parents and the rest of the townspeople.
Victor’s also a fledgling filmmaker who makes his own home movies, including one where he dresses Sparky in a monster outfit labeling him “Sparkysaurus” and laying waste to a toy town, Godzilla-style.
Captain Sparky is another movie-within-a-movie, which finds Sparky recruited into duty when the most low-budget alien spacecraft ever begins attacking the planet. The short is one of the special features on the upcoming release, along with a look at the London set that was used to film all the puppets, sets and props in addition to Burton’s original live-action Frankenweenie short film from 1984.
While Burton was filming the animated Frankenweenie, there was talk of doing more of Victor’s little DIY Super 8 films, says Mark Waring, the movie’s animation supervisor who directed the Captain Sparky short. “Quite a lot of people, especially on the crew, had done that themselves.”
One dilemma that presented itself, though, was how to make the home video appear like a youngster did it but still be good enough that it didn’t make Burton’s technologically advanced filmmaking team look bad.
“In the short, there are a few sections of (Victor) trying to very early use stop-frame technique. The whole thing’s stop-frame, so how do you make it look more stop-frame than it actually is?” says Waring.
The key was to add in aspects like the “camera” being knocked around, showing mistakes like hands getting in the frame, having flying saucers appear with strings on them and the occasional jumps and bumps “all of those things to get the sense of how that would actually be if you made the film as a kid,” Waring says.
If you were a little Spielberg, he figures, “mistakes would be kept in because you don’t know how to change them you haven’t got a whole team of special-effects people to paint the wires out.”
Waring’s team was also happy to work with Sparky again after putting in the time to make the animated pet feel real on screen, from bringing real canines into the studio to visiting dog shows.
“That’s basically what we were trying to do: find Sparky’s character,” Waring says. “It wasn’t just a thing that moves around. He has to have a personality, so we spent quite a bit of time in the early stages developing that, and as that came through, people were realizing he’s got a bit of a spark about him and a bit of cheekiness.
“All of those things gradually fed into who Sparky really was.”
Captain Sparky also features the return of the scene-stealing Mr. Whiskers, a weirdly lovable cat with bug eyes who was developed later in the Frankenweenie production process. His guest appearance taps into the cat-and-dog chase dynamic with Sparky.
For a while making Fra
nkenweenie, Waring says, Mr. Whiskers was just a design on a piece of paper. “Nobody had really thought about how that would actually work. Then when we made him and stuck him on set, it was instantly a lift for everybody. It was this insane character with these mad, stare-y eyes who just meowed.”
Burton often brought an infectious, child-like enthusiasm to days he spent in the animation studio making Frankenweenie, and Waring, who had previously been the director’s animation supervisor on Corpse Bride, feels he’d bring that passion to a sequel.
“Everything’s in place. There’s a whole world waiting,” Waring says.
“If there’s any chance of a Frankenweenie 2, I’m sure everybody would love it.”