In anticipation of the stop-motion full-length remake of Tim Burton’s classic short, Frankenweenie, Walt Disney Studios has erected a mobile touring exhibit titled ‘The Art of Frankenweenie‘ which treats visitors to a rare, inside look at how the film was made. One of the first stops on the world tour is San Diego Comic-Con and we were invited by Walt Disney Studios to be one of the first to preview the exhibit which was hosted by film producers Don Hahn and Allison Abbate. Talent from the film, including Atticus Shaffer (of ABC’s ‘The Middle’ and voice of Edgar Gore) also passed through the exhibit to see the displays of props, puppets and concept art.
The exhibit is set up into four main sections. The first is titled Tim’s Desk and it takes the visitor inside the mind of film creator and director Tim Burton. It features many of Burton’s original sketches from which maquettes (also on display) were created. The exhibit, in fact, features several maquettes offering quite varied versions of Sparky, demonstrating his evolution into the character that will appear on the big screen. The display continues with other puppets and maquettes offering insight into the filmmaking process. One interesting thing to note is that whereas puppets in the past, such as Jack Skellington in Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas would have replacement heads for various vocal expressions, all of the puppets have one head design and the mouth is manually adjusted as needed (sometimes by using small screwdrivers inserted into the side of the puppet’s head as shown in some of the art on display). The exception to this is substitute biology teacher Mr. Rzykrus who does have alternate physical mouths as it appeared truer to the character himself.
The remainder of the exhibit focuses on the puppets and key sets used in the film, such as the classroom set, the kitchen set of the Frankenstein home and the Frankenstein attic. The kitchen set also features a separate display of an array of miniature props that had to be created in order to create a realistic universe for the film. Through the meticulously created props as well as set dressing featured in the sets themselves, one truly gets the sense of the amount of dedication that went into producing the film in all disciplines involved in film production. To that, the attic set also features a level of interactivity which allows visitors to turn various lights on and off at the flip of a switch.
There are several hints to more of the story to be found throughout the display however. While the latest trailer hints at Victor’s secret of bringing beloved Sparky back to life being leaked and others following suit, there are a range of new ‘pets’ on display including a were-rat (which merchandising hints belonging to Edgar) and vampire cat, presumably an alternate form of Mr. Whiskers which, according to the headline of the newspaper Mr. Frankenstein is reading, is a mysterious cat found in a postbox and ends up in the hands of Weird Girl. Visitors will also see the giant creature (whose puppet is actually the same size of the rest in reality) that will eventually wreak havoc on the small town of New Holland on its annual Dutch Day event.
Other interesting tidbits picked up from the experience include how the film (as stills) was shot with digital SLR cameras such as the Canon 5D, using a wide array of lenses to produce the desired effect. Hahn also talked about how technology has influenced creating stop-motion films, for example rods can be freely inserted into the backs of puppets, providing support so they can be shot in any position (including mid-air) and digitally removed in the post-production process.
Also on display is a healthy dose of upcoming merchandise based on the film which includes clothing by Mighty Fine Tees and accessories by High Intencity, vinyl figures by Disney Store (including a series of Popcorn Vinylmation) and Medicom, plush by The Bridge and Medicom, Apple iPhone cases and chargers by PDP Mobile and more.
Below is our gallery of photos and video from the exhibit as well as the merchandise on display. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger version.
‘The Art of Frankenweenie‘ exhibit can be viewed at San Diego Comic-Con at booth 3635 for the duration of the show before it moves on to other locations such as the Disneyland Resort. Because of high demand and tight space, timed ‘hall passes’ are being distributed at the booth in order to visit it. Frankenweenie is also featured as part of the Walt Disney Studios panel in Hall H later today along with Oz the Great and Powerful and Walt Disney Animation’s Wreck-It Ralph.