Frankenweenie: Martin Short Interview

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Frankenweenie: Martin Short Interview

From Disney and creative genius Tim Burton (Alice In Wonderland, The Nightmare Before Christmas) comes the hilarious and offbeat Frankenweenie, 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. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation – but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town learn that getting a new ‘leash on life’ can be monstrous.

Boasting an electrifying variety of bonus materials on Blu-ray and DVD, the stop-motion animated masterpiece is filled with quirky characters and unexpected twists. The madcap movie features an all-star cast including the voices of Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell and Winona Ryder.



We chat to acclaimed actor Martin Short – who plays Mr. Frankenstein, Mayor Burgemeister and Nassor in the movie – to find out more…

What went through your mind when you were offered the chance to voice three characters in a new Tim Burton stop-motion project? 

I was thrilled to hear that I would have the opportunity to work with Tim Burton again, and I loved the idea of doing three characters. It was an exciting idea. You know what? When you get to work with the best directors working today, you think to yourself, ‘Wow, this is a lucky phone call.’ It was spectacular. Also, you know that if Tim is going to revisit something that is close to his heart, this is going to be a work of passion for him. That makes you think on an extra level that you’re thrilled to be part of it.

What’s it like to work with Tim Burton? 

It’s very, very exciting to work with Tim Burton because he’s still thrilled and excited by everything. When I worked with him on Mars Attacks, he wasn’t what I thought he’d be at all. He was a playful, funny guy who enjoyed jokes and who laughed at everything. We shared a similar sense of humor. If something happened, he’d find it funny and I’d find it funny. I wasn’t expecting that. He isn’t particularly dark at all, but just joyful and really enthusiastic.

How collaborative is Tim Burton to work with? 

Tim is very collaborative – and for an actor, it’s a very rewarding experience to work alongside him. At the end of the day, the actor’s job is just to give paints to fill the palate of the director. He is the person who’s going to work with an editor to make this film and finish it – but Tim very much wants to hear your take on everything.

How did you come up with the voices of your three characters in Frankenweenie? 

You create these characters with the help of Tim. He guides you through. In the beginning, you see a sketch of your character and then for the first session or two, Tim wants to hear how you see it. And when he starts laughing, then you know you’re on the right track. He’s not necessarily laughing because something funny has been said, but he’s laughing because it’s fitting into how he saw it.

How did you come up with the voice of New Holland’s mayor, Mr. Burgemeister? 

Tim had images of Burgemeister, but he didn’t know what he would sound like. He knew that he should be disturbing, weird and odd. At one point, I said, “What if he had been a four-packs-a-day smoker but had recently quit?” With Tim, that’s the kind of thing he’s looking for.

What else helped you come up with the voice of Burgemeister? 

When Tim started on the character, he had an idea in his mind that this neighbor was sinister and spooky and creepy – but he didn’t know what that meant. Burgemeister could be from any part of the world, or he could be from the United States. You start off with more of an attitude as opposed to a specific voice – but then Tim hears something he likes and that becomes the character.

How did you come up with the voice of Nassor in the movie?

I remember when we had this idea that Nassor would sound like Boris Karloff. I kept looking at YouTube to see old Boris Karloff clips and then I’d do my lines quickly. But then, at one take I was doing, I had more of a lisp and Tim said, “Oh, the lisp part is good. Yes, go with the lisp.” But I had to reel it in sometimes. Tim would also tell me, “Now you’re doing it too much.” However, the lisp stayed with the character.

Which of the three characters you voice in the movie do you hold closest to your heart? 

Burgemeister is a creepy guy. I loved doing that character the best, but I probably feel closest to the father, Mr. Frankenstein.

Catherine O’Hara plays Mrs. Frankenstein in the movie. Did you get to record any material together in the sound booth? 

Yes, we did. Usually in animation, you record all of your material by yourself – but Catherine and I recorded scenes together for this, which was great.

On an animation like Frankenweenie, is it more or less difficult to communicate emotion through your voice alone? 

It’s all about using a different muscle as an actor. That’s like saying, “Is it more difficult to work on film than in theater?” It’s just a different exercise. To be honest, I’ve always felt that I have a face for animation!

Victor is a bit of an outsider at school. Were you one of the popular kids, or were you an outsider? 

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in my attic pretending to have my own imaginary television show. People were outside playing hockey and I was in the attic with a mike, reel to reel and an applause record. I wasn’t unusual!

When did you finally feel popular; the time you finally felt like you’d made it? 

In show business? I don’t think you ever feel like you’ve made it. When you’re still striving and facing the precipice continually, I don’t think you ever sit back and say, “I made it.”

What advice would you give to youngsters who want to pursue a career in acting? 

You need to treat this like a business and not take things personally. As a young actor, I remember going on auditions and thinking, ‘I nailed it… I nailed it.’ And then you don’t get the job and you think, ‘What? I’m confused.’ After that, you realize that it wasn’t about whether you’re good or bad at acting, but the actress is 6 foot 7 and you’re a midget. That pairing doesn’t work together on screen. There can be many other elements, too. You’re too old or you’re too young or you’re not famous enough. There can be many reasons behind any decision, so don’t take anything personally.

Frankenweenie is out on DVD & Blu-ray 25th February


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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