Comic-Con: Tim Burton relives school nightmares with ‘Frankenweenie’

July 12, 2012 | 7:06 p.m.
Victor and his dog Sparky in "Frankenweenie" (Disney)

Victor and his dog Sparky in “Frankenweenie” (Disney)

Tim Burton confessed to a Hall H crowd at Comic-Con on Thursday afternoon that a little of his own life experience helped animate his upcoming 3D feature “Frankenweenie” — a full-length resurrection of a live-action short film he made in 1984 about a young boy named Victor who brings back his beloved dog from beyond the grave.

Namely, it was school experiences — interactions with fellow students and “weird” teachers — during his boyhood days in Burbank that helped flesh out the sweetly creepy tale. Not that the filmmaker provided much in the way of detail about specific points of inspiration.

“There are still lawsuits pending,” Burton quipped to Chris Hardwick of the Nerdist fame, who served as moderator for Disney’s Hall H panel presentation.

The filmmaker brought a new trailer and two scenes from the movie for the Hall H crowd. The trailer easily recalls Burton’s black-and-white biopic “Ed Wood” with its promises that “Millions Will Be Thrilled by the Greatest Story the Screen Will Ever Know!” and, of course, the presence of Martin Landau, who voices the decidedly weird science teacher Mr. Rzykruski. That character featured prominently in one of the two clips, with the second focusing on Victor’s ill-advised attempts to help another boy, Edgar, bring a dead goldfish back to life with unexpected results.

The film includes voice work from other Burton regulars, including Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder, but during the Q&A, Burton was greeted by a gaggle of other familiar faces — a group of fans dressed as characters from Burton’s films appeared at the podium (including a few Mad Hatters from “Alice in Wonderland,” and a Sally from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”). Burton appeared impressed by their ensembles, saying that it “makes me feel like my family has come to see me.”

One young woman was even moved to tears when her turn came to ask Burton a question.

“For me, you see things like that, that’s the special thing to me,” said Burton in an interview following the panel. “If you connect with one person, there’s something that’s emotional and nice about that. It means a lot to me… It’s not business and it’s not Hollywood. I’m not a big communicator; when I sense something like that I find it really special.”

As for the overall experience of Comic-Con, “it does get crazier every year,” Burton said. “I remember coming in the late ’70s. You’d see a few Princess Leias and a couple of Vulcans down at the Holiday Inn. It’s definitely changed.”

“Frankenweenie” opens Oct. 5.

— Gina McIntyre


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