Frankenweenie Writer John August Talks About Crafting The Story Of A Boy And His Dog
In terms of the animation, is it different to see something like Frankenweenie come together versus something like Go or Big Fish?
A little bit. Here’s the other luxury: whenever you see a live action movie you have some experience with those actors before, so if you see Brad Pitt in a movie, you’re seeing the character but you’re also seeing Brad Pitt. He’s a movie star and you’re seeing Brad Pitt. Here everyone is blank slates, especially in this movie where there aren’t these big, giant name voice cast people. Everyone is their own characters and that’s really remarkable. So it’s a little closer to what I had in my head because I just had my voices in my head.
Did you have input into the character designs?
Yup! Tim had character designs for many of these characters even before I had them scripted out. So he had Victor and Sparky and the parents, so we knew what that world was like. And then as I pitched the boys he quickly went on and started drawing them out. But voice wise, they already recorded some of the voices before I found out [laughs]. “Who is playing that?” “Catherine O’Hara.” “Who is playing that?” “Catherine O’Hara” “Catherine O’Hara!” “Catherine O’Hara!” [laughs]. But I was delighted and I liked that it was so many people who had played important roles in a lot of his older movies.
I’ve heard you mention that this was a personal story for you because you actually experienced the death of your own dog while you were working on it, but this is also a very personal film for Tim, as there’s a lot of his own experiences in the story and it’s based on one of his first shorts. Obviously you’ve worked together many times before, but does that put a degree of pressure on you as a writer?
No, it doesn’t. I knew it was a seminal and important movie for Tim, I knew that a lot of what he established as “Burton-esque” in terms of his movies was first found here, but this wasn’t him making a movie from his house, this is his making a new movie, and so we gave him a movie that he could make and would be excited to make, and turn every page and find stuff he was excited to shoot. That’s the same challenge as any new movie, so it wasn’t uniquely tough in that aspect.
What is your working relationship with Tim? You’ve done multiple projects together, but you’ve also both done things separately. How do you come together on a film?
Well, a very long meeting with Tim is half an hour. You go in, he says, “I got this and this and this,” and to that I say, “Okay, I think this and I think it should be structured around a science fair, the movie is sort of weirdly pro-science, even though most monster movies are anti-science…and that’s my way of bringing things together again.” “That sounds good, that sounds good. I need it really soon.” [laughs] “Okay, so I’ll go and do it right away!” I’ve enjoyed the ability to keep writing his movies, but it’s not that I have amazing, great insight or were hanging out over barbecue all the time.
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