Six Early Short Films By Tim Burton

Franken­wee­nie by Tim Bur­ton (1984) by Flix­gr

If you’ve gone to the movies late­ly, you may well have seen the trail­er for Tim Bur­ton’s upcom­ing Franken­wee­nie. While its black-and-white stop-motion ani­ma­tion looks nifty — and it’ll sure­ly look even nifti­er in IMAX 3D — Bur­ton enthu­si­asts know full well that the film isn’t entire­ly new. The orig­i­nal Franken­wee­nie, a much short­er and rougher-edged but nev­er­the­less unique­ly charm­ing pic­ture, came out 28 years ago, and you can watch it free on Youtube today. A live-action film with a kinet­i­cal­ly askew visu­al sen­si­bil­i­ty, this first Franken­wee­nie tells the same sto­ry as the new one: a boy brings his beloved dead dog back to life using the reviv­ing pow­er of elec­tric­i­ty, but few res­i­dents of his small town approve of the result­ing bolt-necked, stitched-togeth­er crea­ture. Bur­ton has made the long, hard road to accep­tance faced by well-mean­ing but ram­shackle beings one of his dom­i­nant themes, so his desire to make a sec­ond Franken­wee­nie comes as no great sur­prise — espe­cial­ly since he also made the first one.

Work­ing for Dis­ney at the time, the young Bur­ton man­aged to land play­ers like Shel­ley Duvall, Daniel Stern, and a 13-year-old Sofia Cop­po­la for this charm­ing­ly goofy homage to Franken­stein. Sad­ly, the stu­dio ulti­mate­ly con­sid­ered the project a waste of mon­ey, and too scary to screen for chil­dren, and sent Bur­ton pack­ing. But how­ev­er dis­cour­ag­ing the expe­ri­ence must have felt in the moment, it gave him 30 full min­utes to tell a sto­ry. His ear­li­er shorts, like the thir­ty-sec­ond Hou­di­ni: The Untold Sto­ry above, had to oper­ate under much more com­pressed con­di­tions. (Leg­end has it that Bur­ton turned that film in to a teacher in lieu of a book report.) After his 1985 fea­ture break­through Pee-Wees Big Adven­ture, he still found the occa­sion­al chance to make a short, as when he cre­at­ed The Jar, for the tele­vi­sion series Alfred Hitch­cock Presents.

Some view­ers like Bur­ton’s movies bet­ter the more resources he has to make them; oth­ers pre­fer the fruits of his more con­strained (and thus restrained) years. To best decide for your­self, you’ll want to take this high­ly enter­tain­ing course in the for­ma­tion of his dis­tinc­tive style by watch­ing his ear­ly shorts, six of which have become avail­able online.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Tim Burton’s The World of Stain­boy: Watch the Com­plete Ani­mat­ed Series

Franken­wee­nie: Tim Bur­ton Turns Franken­stein Tale into Dis­ney Kids Film (1984)

Vin­cent: Tim Burton’s Ear­ly Ani­mat­ed Film Tim Bur­ton: A Look Inside His Visu­al Imag­i­na­tion

500 Free Movies Online Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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