A funny thing happened this weekend: Disney released a good Tim Burton movie. After years lost in the wilderness with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, DARK SHADOWS and CORPSE BRIDE, Burton is back with FRANKENWEENIE, a strong and touching animated film that feels like the Burton we grew up with. I was excited to see how audiences received the movie. They showed up for ALICE IN WONDERLAND, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and other sub-par Burton efforts, surely they’d line up for FRANKENWEENIE.
Well, no. The movie took in roughly $11 million this weekend, coming in at number five. That’s not an impressive total, especially considering the amount of time and money Disney spent advertising. By comparison, the similarly themed HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA opened last weekend with $42 million.
So what happened to poor FRANKENWEENIE? Obviously audiences aren’t opposed to “spooky” animated films (see: PARANORMAN, the aforementioned HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA) or family-friendly Tim Burton fare. What’s so different about FRANKENWEENIE?
Theories will vary, some will say the black-and-white approach didn’t sell tickets and others will say it felt unoriginal following PARANORMAN, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA and Burton’s other stop-motion features. Maybe it’s a combination of all those things, maybe it’s none of them. I personally think people are just burnt out on Tim Burton films and movies that aspire to be like Tim Burton films. The brand has become bigger than the man, his name has morphed into an adjective. That’s unfortunate because Burton is finally Burton again with FRANKENWEENIE. The man went back to his roots and people shrugged it off.
I hope FRANKENWEENIE marks the beginning of a creative comeback for Tim Burton. The film proves he’s still got it, even if he hasn’t been showing it off for a few years. Maybe the filmmaker just needed to revisit his origin to become inspired again. He’s definitely returned to form with FRANKENWEENIE. If only more people would have welcomed him back.