Frankenweenie (PG; 29 minutes)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This was made by Tim Burton in 1984, but Disney decided not to release it at the time, since it was supposedly too scary for young children. I didn't see it until probably around 2000, on Exposure. I'm writing a review upon watching it again in 2012, as a bonus feature on the DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Actually, I'm watching it the day after the theatrical release of this year's full-length movie of the same name, also directed by Burton. (While the original was live-action, the remake is stop-motion animation.)
So... it's about this 10-year-old boy named Victor Frankenstein, who has just made his own short film, starring his dog, Sparky, who has been dressed up like a dinosaur. Right after his family and friends watch the movie, Victor takes Sparky outside to play fetch... and the dog is soon killed by a car. Not long after that, Victor is in school, when his teacher demonstrates to the class the effect of electricity on a dead frog: it makes the legs move. This gives Victor an idea. He creates his own little laboratory in the attic, and digs up Sparky, hoping to bring him back to life with a massive jolt of electricity. (It's kind of amusing that the dog's name happens to be Sparky, I guess.)
Anyway, the experiment is a success, but of course Victor has to keep Sparky hidden. (Btw, the dog has bolts in his neck, and very prominent stitches holding him together.) However, when Victor falls asleep, Sparky leaves the house, and the neighbors all get frightened. Victors parents (who are played by Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern) are shocked to learn what their son has done, but they realize Sparky is the same lovable old dog he always was, and want to help Victor allay their neighbors' fears.
I don't want to give away any more of the plot, but I'll say it neatly parallels the classic Boris Karloff movie "Frankenstein," albeit with a happier ending. And honestly, it's hard to imagine any but the youngest of children being scared by the movie, and it's kind of ridiculous that the characters were so scared. Sparky really just looked like he was wearing some kind of cheap monster costume, like in his dinosaur movie. If you didn't know he was really back from the dead, you'd never believe he'd been dead in the first place. Um... I don't remember exactly what I thought of the film the first time I saw it, but I don't think I liked it as much as I had hoped I would. This time I must have liked it a bit better, but I'm still not wild about it. It was a fairly sweet story, and amusing, if somewhat macabre. And I appreciate the homage to Mary Shelley's story (come to think of it, I guess it's also kind of interesting that Mrs. Frankenstein was played by someone named Shelley). But mostly I just found the whole thing kind of silly, and I found the neighbors a bit annoying. It's a decent movie, though, considering it's only a half hour. I don't think I would have liked it if it were longer than that... though I'm sure I'll like the new full-length animated movie a lot more than I did this. (For various reasons, such as my love of animation, as well as the irony that the short film that got Burton fired by Disney nearly three decades ago has now been "resurrected," so to speak, as a Disney feature film.)