On Frankenweenie And Bringing Back The Past

by , Oct 1, 2012, 7:55 AM
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“Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton’s full-length, 3D stop-action animated and “Johnny Depp-free” remake of a live-action short he did in 1984 –- remember when that was a portentous year from the other side of the time/space continuum? –- opens this Friday but the public relations and marketing engines have been operating at full throttle for a while now.

The film, in the words of its press agents, is “a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life -- with just a few minor adjustments….” It is voiced by Burton stalwarts Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Landau, as well as a newcomer, 14-year-old Charlie Tahan.

“To generate word of mouth, Disney is rolling out all of its ‘Frankenweenie’ merchandise before the film's release Friday,” Alexandra Cheney reports in the Wall Street Journal. “More than 100 items are already available, including plush toy dogs, stationery and graphic T-shirts specifically designed in collaboration with Japanese clothing company Uniqlo…The merchandising also includes a line of seasonal items for Halloween.”

Frankenweenie: An Electrifying Book for the iPad, a Disney book created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, is available for free in the iBookstore (if you have an iPad running iBooks2). 

Free? Why’s that?

“Capturing the creative process from concept to completion, the interactive book integrates videos, vibrant music, and original sketches to offer readers a fully immersive behind-the-scenes look into the making of the movie," in the words of a release.

Well, there may not be any copywriters left in advertising, as USA Today’s Michael Wolff writes this morning, but perhaps the word “advertising” is becoming as quaint as the words “press agent” and “copywriter” as media and marketing forms mix it up and procreate.  Wolff says as much while announcing a $1 million-in-free-ad-space contest for copy that exhibits “cleverness, wit, style, economy of words” and bemoaning the downfall of the “historical partnership between graphic designer and copywriter, [which] has, more and more, become a partnership between project manager and programmer, or videographer and editor, or media buyer and researcher.”

Disney and Burton, meanwhile, are also promoting the film’s use of 3-D and stop-motion animation, which was created using puppets painted in grays, blacks and whites, Cheney reports. It was shot on digital color cameras and rendered into 3-D in postproduction.

As part of the hoopla, “The Art of Frankenweenie” is on display at Disney’s California Adventure theme park through Nov. 5, and will have visited six other countries -- Spain, France, England, Japan, Mexico and Canada, Gina McIntyre reports in the Los Angeles Times. Stop-action animation is, in fact, “enjoying a new vogue,” she writes, and “Burton is optimistic that [the exhibition] will provide a window into the tactile art form that won him over early on, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien.”

An Amazon.com email yesterday highlighting this week’s “popular new releases” includes Van Morrison’s “Born To Sing: No Plan B” above a “recent releases” section featuring the “Frankenweenie Unleashed!” compilation astride Bob Dylan’s “Tempest.” 

“A sound track that’s not just for your kids,” reads the hed on of two reviews for the former, going on to say that the “soundtrack is an interesting rock and throwback adult album.” According to the other reviewer, “apart from the brief hymnal cartoonish Winona Ryder song ‘Praise Be New Holland’ (performed as Ryder's character in the movie), the music sounds pretty grown up.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Robert Heller tells us about the Beach Boys celebrating 50 years of on-again/off-again/on-again/off-again-for-good (probably) music making with a wrap-up of their tour in London last week. Some members of the audience evidently brought their grandkids with them, which I imagine would be akin to being dragged to a performance of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians circa 1969. Man, those cats could swing!

“ ‘When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)’ was played with the slightest twinkle of irony,” Heller writes of the Beach Boys gigs at Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Arena.

The times, they may indeed be a changin’ but with all us boomers looking backwards, one sometimes wonders which direction they are going in. Not, I suspect, toward old-time, get-it-down-on-paper copywriting.

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