How to Fix Tim Burton

Earlier this year I did posts on how to fix Superman and Alice in Wonderland. Now I am taking on a great visionary like Tim Burton. In my opinion aside from his animated films he hasn’t made a good movie since Sweeney Todd in 2007. I’m sure he is rolling in his money somewhere but if anyone were to ask my advice here’s what I would say.

tim-burton1. STOP ADAPTING THINGS!– Tim Burton comes from an animation background and his animated films (both producer and director) have still remained great. What’s unique about them? They are original properties!  They come from Tim Burton’s brain!

Let’s look at his track record with adaptations:

Planet of the Apes- clunky, awkward, boring, and aside from Rick Baker makeup Tim Burton’s visual style nowhere to be found.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- they replace all the whimsy of the Gene Wilder classic with a Michael Jackson version of Wonka. I hated this film so much in the theater.

Alice in Wonderland- long, boring adaptation that trades in the Wonderland nonsense for a prophecy and chosen one with a apocalyptic battle scene and Crispin Glover being creepy, Helena Bonham Carter screaming

Dark Shadows- based off of cult TV show feels like each performer is in a different movie. The tone is all over the place. I didn’t laugh once.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- just like so many YA adaptations it gets bogged down in exposition instead of creating compelling characters. I was so bored.

So there you have it. STOP DOING ADAPTATIONS!!!!

2. Animate Again– I don’t know how good Burton’s relationship with Disney is after Frankenweenie but I’m sure he can find a studio to work with again. In my opinion Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride are by far the best thing he has done since Ed Wood.

You could say that’s just because I am an animation addict and that would be true but Tim Burton started in animation and some of his most personal projects have been in that medium. His short Vincent feels practically autobiographical.

vincent06The other thing is animation takes time. A live action film can be filmed in as short as a month. Animation is multiple years process and I think Burton needs that to refine his scripts and make sure they are more than style over substance.

I’m not saying never do live action again but let’s get the Burton mojo back with animation. I’m sure Laika would work with him again and that would be awesome.

3. Collaborate- In my opinion Tim Burton’s best movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, isn’t actually directed by him. It is directed by Henry Selick. Sometimes I wonder if Tim Burton and Zack Snyder both need collaborators.

They are both visionary storytellers. There’s no doubt about it but left to their own devices the stories are muddled and boring.

ed-woodI don’t have any proof but I’ve got to imagine in the early days of Burton he was reigned in a lot more than he is now. At the very least I know Ed Wood was a very collaborative effort between writers Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, director Tim Burton and producer Denise Di Novi.

Working with his muses such as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (who has evidently been replaced by Eva Green) you would think would invite collaboration but it does not appear to be the case. Perhaps you get too comfortable and that leads to uninspired work.

Animation is a very collaborative medium so it is no surprise his best work has been there.

4. NO CG-  Now I don’t really mean no CG, but I think CG has kind of ruined Tim Burton.  I can only imagine how much cooler his Alice in Wonderland would have been if he had to literally create the world.

If you think about Edward Scissorhands, Burton created an entire world. Just as an example, his version of suburbia in Edward Scissorhands is full of color and makes a statement about the life just in the color of the paint and the way the castle floats above the small houses.

edward_scissorhands_hillIn his recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the suburb is just normal houses that look like any other houses.

peregrine-houseThe one part I liked in Miss Peregrine’s was the skeleton scene which is made to look like stop motion! It was like a little peak at what might have been.

skeleton5. REMEMBER THE EMOTION– Most of Tim Burton’s early films work (for me at least) not because of visual splendor but because I am emotionally attached to the characters. Big Eyes is the only one of his recent live action films I have connected with on that level (I so wish Christoph Waltz hadn’t ruined that movie with his overacting). Sweeney Todd has it because of the Sondheim music but other than that Tim Burton has had one flat protagonist after another.

Alice's expression through most of Wonderland...
Alice’s expression through most of Wonderland…

Ed Wood is a great movie because we care about Ed making his horrible movies. He is so happy doing what he is doing and that makes you root for him. Edward Scissorhands is heartbreaking. Jack Skellington is likable despite stealing christmas. Frankenweenie breaks your heart in two and I’m not even a pet owner.  The list goes on.

edward-scissorhands2Even a silly movie like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure you laugh but actually care a little bit about him finding that darn bike. I’m not the biggest fan of Burton’s Batman films but particularly Batman Returns has a lot of emotion in it. I mean Penguin’s story is a complete tragedy. I wish we could get a tenth of the emotion from Penguins funeral with the birds walking him into the water in films like Alice in Wonderland or Dark Shadows.

And you don’t have to make the character have Daddy issues to get emotion. Just have a character experiencing something that matters to them. Put on that Danny Elfman score and you’ve got my attention! Corpse Bride gets emotion out of me in Victor playing a piece of classical music. It’s a moment of human connection. That’s all it takes.

corpse-bride-victor-playing-pianoI really do think that Tim Burton is a talented man, a genius when he is on his game. I LOVE Corpse Bride. I LOVE Ed Wood. I LOVE Edward Scissorhands. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is genius. I thought Sweeney Todd was terrific. Frankenweenie made me bawl my eyes out. I want to like a new movie from him so badly!

So, that’s my opinion on that. You are welcome Mr Burton for the free advice 😉

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Corpse Bride Review

This post was previously published on my column at ldsblogs.com.  I would love if you all checked out that column and maybe added a comment or two.

Welcome as we get a little spooky here on Family Movie Night!  It is October after all! So in honor of the season we are going to talk about Tim Burton’s 2005 film The Corpse Bride.

During this time of year many parents ask themselves a question about how dark is too dark for their children to see.  I know when I was a child there are 2 films that really scared me and they were both Disney films.  The first was Disney’s Return to Oz- an ugly, mean spirited film where Dorothy gets strapped down and give electro-shock therapy (and that’s before she even gets to Oz!).   There is also a queen that has a hallway with heads that she scalps from people and wears when she wants a new look.  Ah the nightmares.

The other movie that terrified me was as odd as it might sound- The Rescuers.  It is an extremely downbeat, sad film from Walt Disney with a little girl who is kidnapped by a horror of a lady and forced to go down in a dark cave all by herself.  There is very little hope for Penny and at one point she is told nobody will ever want to adopt her.  Geesh Disney!

So those were two films that scared me but there are many kids who like both those films.  So how do you know as a parent?  It’s really tough.   My advice would be you simply have to look at the kid in question and see how sensitive they are.  Also what kind of scares does it have?  Is it a ghost story or does it take on more weighty themes?  What’s the overall tone of the film?  Many of my favorite scary movies like today’s choice actually have a very sweet innocent tone but they are set in a scary world.

267130-corpse-brideIn the end it is a touch call for a parent but I think you know in your gut what your kid is ready for and can handle.  Go with that.

That said, let’s talk about Corpse Bride.  This is a really fun ghost story told with stop motion animation and in a mostly black and white Victorian world.   Our main character is Victor who is being forced by his parents to marry a woman named Victoria, who is also being forced into the arranged marriage.

However, the two betrothed meet and find they like each other and don’t mind getting married. Unfortunately, Victor gets nervous and goes into the forest to practice his vows.  In so doing he puts a ring on what he thinks is a twig but in actuality it is a woman in spiritual limbo named Emily, or in other words- the Corpse Bride.

With a ring on her finger Emily thinks her and Victor are married and swoops him off to the Spirit World where we get a terrific song called Remains of the Day. I love how in the Spirit World the colors are more vibrant, even fluorescent in hue.  It feels like a different world than the Victorian one we’ve seen so far.

Victor of course still loves Victoria and he doesn’t know how to get himself out of the situation.  Emily also is a sweet soul who has the best of intentions but also gets her feelings hurt quite easily.  They are pretty well developed characters for this type of film.

Corpse-Bride-1The story is somewhat predictable but the visuals are so lovely creating a scary yet fun mood.  The cinematography by Pete Kozachik moves through the city feels effortless and smooth.  He even came up with a new way to use digital still cameras when filming stop motion.  There also aren’t any dead zones where I am bored or wondering what is going to happen.  I think that is the good thing about stop motion animation- it is so laborious to do there are rarely any wasted scenes.

My favorite part of the movie is the great Danny Elfman music.  He is particularly good at packing exposition into the songs while still making them catchy and easy to sing along too.  As I said, I particularly like Remains of the Day but Tears to Shed, According to Plan and The Wedding Song are all beautiful.  I also think Victor’s Piano Solo is one of the best instrumental solos I’ve ever heard in a movie.

To see the rest of Rachel's reviews, click here.
To see the rest of Rachel’s reviews, click here.

Overall it is a satisfying ghost story with a nice heart to it, beautiful visuals, and great music.  I would be curious to know how your kids react to it and if it is too scary for them.  Please put it in the comments what they think and if you have any suggestions for picks I could use in upcoming weeks I would love to hear.  Let’s get some comments going!

Did the Right Film Win? 2005 Animated Oscars

Today we get to one of the hardest years I think I will face in this analysis of the films nominated for Best Animated Academy Award each year.  I love all of the 3 films nominated and can see going with any of them.

Check out my video where I talk about the films and decide- did the right one win?  If you like the video give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Picking my favorite was difficult because they are all so strong.  In the end I went with Corpse Bride because I love the Danny Elfman music and being a lover of musicals that will always put a movie over the top.  I particularly like these 2 numbers.

What would you pick? Please put in the comments section. Thanks.  I’ve really loved this discussion on both  my channel and here on the blog from this series so thank you for contributing!

 

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart Review

jackIn my quest to see the animated films of 2014 I had a chance tonight to see the french movie Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart. It’s available to all subscribers right now on Netflix and I think it is worth a watch although it has its issues.

It’s probably the most steampunk influenced animation I’ve seen since Treasure Planet, so if you are a fan of steampunk than you will especially love it.

jack7Much like Book of Life the artistic style is the films strength.  It looks very creative (as steampunk is prone to do) and it surprised me with each character design, setting and creatures.    That said, I did kind of wish they had not gone the CG route and done stop motion or hand drawn for this kind of story.  I think it would have looked better and they would have gotten more emotion out of the characters who seemed flat on occasion despite the interesting design.

jack12

It kind of reminded me of Corpse Bride a little bit which is stop motion and I think this would have been better if it had taken that approach instead of CG.

The music is stronger than Book of Life.  In fact, the entire movie is based on an album by an emo sounding band called Dionysos that included an illustrated novel by the lead singer.  Not all the songs are memorable but they create wonderful mood that goes well with the visuals.

The story is the movies weakness.  It starts out strong with Jack getting born on the coldest day on earth and his heart dies so a midwife puts a cuckoo-clock in the place of his heart.

jack2The problem is he cannot get excited or fall in love with his clock heart or he could short circuit and die.  (Robots and clocks are a big part of steampunk. It reminded me a lot of Hugo in that regard.  Reminded me of a lot I guess!).

Unfortunately he meets a beautiful Spanish girl who sings and falls in love with her.  He also decides to go to school and meets a bully named Joe.

jack8There is an accident with Jack and Joe and Jack is forced to flee on a ghost train.  To be honest right around that point the movie started to lose me a lot.

jack11It looked really cool throughout but for the last 45 minutes or so I really didn’t understand what was happening.  There was a ghost train and he was chasing the girl and she didn’t like him and then liked him and then Joe comes and I don’t know what else.

jack4In Book of Life they have the 2 characters in love with the same girl and the songs but I liked in Book of Life there was some good in both of the boys.  It made it more interesting.  Here Joe is just a bad guy from school onward.  There was no motivation as to why he is a bully or mean to Jack.

Maybe I just need to watch it again to get a better idea of what was happening but n this watch through I was confused.

jack3

It also has a very poor English dubbing that doesn’t ever seem to match the lips very well, which is distracting.  I almost wish they had just used subtitles if they were going to do it so cheaply.

But it is visually wonderful and I love the steampunk look and the music was neat.  All together in spite of problems I still enjoyed watching it.

Have any of you seen it?  What did you think?

Overall Grade- C

It is not for very small children who might get scared or feel it is too sad.  More 10+

Top 13 Disney Scares

Halloween is coming so it seems only appropriate that we talk about some Disney scares! This is not limited to the canon although there are a few movies with scares I have not seen or have not seen in a while, so this is by no means definitive.   It is also not necessarily the scariest movie just scenes.  Make sure to read my piece on Darkness in Disney to see where I draw the line on good scares and too much for kids (and me. I’m a wimp!).

Some of these are more funny scary than terrifying scary if you know what I mean.

13. Bear- Fox and the Hound- I have an animal phobia so the look of this bear is enough to give me the creeps!

bear

12.  Night on Bald Mountain- Fantasia- I mean it’s the devil and his minions with power and fury.  Not terrifying in a jump scare kind of way but in a ‘better repent now’ way…

on bald mountain

11. Snow White Forest Scene- Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs– Snow White holds up extremely well including this scene when she is spooked in the forest.  I think most of us can relate to that feeling of being watched and that the trees may stretch out and grab you!

snow white scared

10. Headless Horseman-  Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad- The story of Ichabod is the perfect ghost story for kids.   It’s dark and scary but not too scary.  Enough to make them feel excited and giggle but not give nightmares.  I couldn’t find a great clip but look at the face of the horse.  That should tell you something!

horseThis imagery with the pumpkin and the horse with the red eyes.  That’s pretty scary stuff!

headless2 headless

9. Crazy Donald-  Fun and Fancy Free-  Crazy Donald is Disney’s version of The Shining.  I mean he goes completely insane, axe wielding and all.  Best part of Fun and Fancy Free by a long shot.

tumblr_lmp8mwNWNI1qfuepw Get this duck some food!

8. Mob Song- Beauty and the Beast- Think the delusions of crowds and mass hysteria is most terrifying thing of all than Mob Song from Beauty and the Beast is the scare for you!  The thing that makes this song particularly scary is the way it escalates and it actually feels like there is little hope for our friends.  How can they defeat the entire town? It is also scary because Gaston has reached full madness.  He couldn’t get what he wanted and pride made him snap.  That is a very human villain.

mob song

7. Syndrome- Incredibles- One of the most human villains in all of Disney and that’s what makes him so scary.  I mean he has the whole family captured and nobody knows where they are.  He’s bitter and resentful but clearly smart.  The voice performance is chilling.   He even tries to take the baby at the end!

Syndrome_Close_Up

6. Kidnapping- Great Mouse Detective-  If this scene were with people instead of mice it might be too much for me.  It is really scary and certainly starts the film off with a bang.

5. Remains of the Day- Corpse Bride-

(Found out this is not a Disney!  Oh well.  It’s still scary!)

This is more funny than scary but it  is a great song and ghost story.  I love the  brilliant animation.  If you listen to the tale  it is pretty grim stuff. ‘At the end of the day we are all remains of the day!’ Kids will probably laugh but be a little scared too. I love it!

maxresdefault

4. Incinerator Scene- Toy Story 3-  This is a scene that is not scary in the traditional sense like Remains of the Day or the Headless Horseman.  This is scary because it really feels like they are all going to die.  My nieces were all very upset by it.   I mean they get awfully close to that incinerator!

3. Heffalumps and Woozles- Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh- I had to pick either Pink Elephants on Parade or Heffalumps and Woozles  because they are very similar.  I went with the latter because it is aimed at smaller children which makes it bolder and scarier. Also I think the song is scarier in the lyrics and way it is sung.  Pink Elephants on Parade is more trippy than scary (same with Alice in Wonderland).  Plus, creepy toys are always effective in scary movies!

2. Boogie Man’s Song- Nightmare before Christmas- a gambling burlap bag of bugs gambles on whether to kill Santa. Yes, I think that makes the list!

1. Pleasure Island- Pinocchio.   Was there any doubt?  This scene is nuts! Pinocchio is a morality tale designed to teach children sin is bad and the wicked are punished.  And boy does it teach it effectively.  I remember as a kid being terrified of the kids turning into donkey scene.  They were bad kids but couldn’t you send them to reform school?  I mean how many donkeys do these salt mines need?

donkeysAs an adult the most terrifying thing about Pleasure Island is the kids stay donkeys!  There is no redemption or forgiveness to the kids.  That’s it.  They are done! And the Coachman is never punished.  Pinocchio escapes and we assume the Coachman continues to rake in the cash. Yikes!

This is a bad clip but it’s the only one I could find with the scene.

13. Honorable Mention- If I was doing live action I would include Return to Oz on the list even though I hate it . It’s too scary, dark and grim.  Not a fan but can’t deny it is very scary Disney!  (I’m also a Wizard of Oz purist.  I love the original and hated, hated, hated, hated every other version that has been made)