Movie Fanatic caught up with visionary director Tim Burton recently at CinemaCon in Las Vegas to talk about two of his upcoming films in 2012: Frankenweenie and Dark Shadows. The helmer finds it astounding that a full-length version of his first short film, Frankenweenie, and the big-screen adaptation of a show he loved as a child, are both arriving this year.
Burton tells us also about the magic of working with his frequent collaborator Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows (what’s your favorite Depp-Burton movie?) and how he found the right tone to bring the cult soap opera to the silver screen.
Movie Fanatic: What took so long to make Frankenweenie, your first short film, into a full-length feature?
Tim Burton: Oftentimes these projects take a lot of time. I remember Nightmare Before Christmas took almost 10 years to get made. [Laughs] There seems to be a 10-year moratorium on idea things or something. It’s mounting a stop motion animated movie, the process itself takes a lot of time. It’s also a rarified medium -- you want to make sure you get the right people and the right animation and the right animators. It’s such a personal project, it was important to have all those right pieces in place.
Movie Fanatic: Did you think you would still be using this medium after 20 years?
Tim Burton: I was lucky to do the short when I did. I think if I did it now, I’d be changing it so much -- it would never get done [laughs]. I’m glad that it happened this way. I’ve done enough stop motion movies now to where I just feel that this is the right project for me, right now. Something about the Frankenstein story told through stop motion animation seemed like a right fit for right now.
Movie Fanatic: You, and I, adored the original Dark Shadows TV series. But you’ve made a film for all audiences. How do you achieve that balance?
Tim Burton: I don’t know [laughs]. That’s the thing, I think people see it and go, “They are making fun of it.” But, that’s not the case. The reason I did it is because I loved the show. Johnny loved it, Michelle Pfeiffer loved it. The three of us on the movie that knew Dark Shadows, none of the rest of the cast did. I didn’t show it to them, because I thought that would affect things. It was great to have those two, Johnny and Michelle, who got the vibe of it. They helped the rest of the cast get the right spirit.
Movie Fanatic: Was it tough to find that right tone on Dark Shadows?
Tim Burton: It was weird. We were trying to capture that movie soap opera acting and things. We just treated it, even though there’s humor in it, we treated it seriously. We treated it like it was a real melodrama. It is a strange tone to go for, it was quite organic. We just went on our instincts, right or wrong.
Movie Fanatic: What does it mean to you that in 2012 you have Dark Shadows, a film celebrating something you adored from your youth and Frankenweenie, your first film effort brought to life for the big screen 20 years after you made it? How is it that both are coming out in the same year?
Tim Burton: It’s strange [laughs]. I wouldn’t have planned it that way. Projects seem to have a life of their own. Especially with stop motion, you do it when the elements are right. That’s been in the works for several years. It just happened like this.
Movie Fanatic: Now that it’s happened, how does it feel?
Tim Burton: It’s a bit too much [laughs]. I’m sick of me already!
Movie Fanatic: How has your collaboration with Johnny Depp changed over the years?
Tim Burton: It really hasn’t. It’s funny. The first time we met on Scissorhands, we really connected. It’s been the same ever since. I love working with him. He tries to be different in every movie. Each time I work him, it’s like the first time.