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Section Header
Frankenweenie
(2012)
Composed and Produced by:
Danny Elfman

Conducted by:
Rick Wentworth

Orchestrated by:
Steve Bartek
Edgardo Simone
David Sloanaker

Additional Music by:
TJ Lindgren

Label:
Walt Disney Records

Release Date:
September 25th, 2012

Also See:
Dark Shadows
Alice in Wonderland
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Corpse Bride
Edward Scissorhands

Audio Clips:
1. Frankenweenie Disney Logo (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

7. Re-Animation (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

15. Getting Ready (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

20. Happy Ending (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Availability:
Regular U.S. release. Unlike the companion song compilation, which features no score material and varies in its bonus songs depending upon where you purchase it, the score-only album is identical in its physical and download presentations.

Awards:
  None.









Frankenweenie
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Buy it... if you are consistently engaged by Danny Elfman's mastery of gothic storytelling, his themes and narrative in this work a showcase of the composer's reliable fantasy and drama modes.

Avoid it... if you expect Elfman's thematic identities, despite their tender and raucous range and entertaining execution, to be original enough to consider this score transcendent in the composer's career.



Elfman
Frankenweenie: (Danny Elfman) Redemption couldn't come much sweeter for director Tim Burton than the feature-length 2012 remake of his 1984 live-action short film, Frankenweenie. Disney fired Burton after the completion of the original version of the parody tale, claiming that the director had misused some of his $1 million budget and created a movie too scary for the studio's intended audience. In the mid-2000's, Burton sought to revisit the topic in his now famous stop-motion format of storytelling, and when Disney signed him to direct the reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, the subsequent remake of Frankenweenie, complete with $35 million budget, was attached to the deal. Some critics have lamented Burton's tired, recycled art direction for his characters and scenery (after all, his morbid designs all do relate), though a solid story of humor and affection results in the black-and-white 2012 resurrection of Frankenweenie. A young Victor Frankenstein in the peaceful town of New Holland is a science enthusiast, as one would expect, with the awkward relationships that have come to define Burton's films. When Victor's beloved dog Sparky is killed in an accident, some inspiration from the boy's science teacher helps him develop his soon-to-be-famous technologies to harness electricity and bring the stitched-up dog back to life. Neighbors are horrified, naturally, and chaos in the town is inevitable. Unlike the movie's stylistic predecessors, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, there was no attempt to force Frankenweenie into a musical format, instead utilizing the director's collaboration with Danny Elfman to yield a straight-forward orchestral and choral underscore. This marks the 15th work together for Burton and Elfman, and they are at the top of their game here, the resulting score emulating some of the best characteristics of the projects that have come before. While The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride experienced issues with narrative continuity at times, mostly in relation to the genres of music influencing the former and a lack of gravity in the latter, Frankenweenie is as solid a score in terms of flow and development as Edward Scissorhands, but without the majestic expansiveness. While there is plenty of fantasy to be heard, there's also a strong dose of drama, connecting Elfman's monster movie homage to scores like Charlotte's Web and Alice in Wonderland.

The personable portions of Frankenweenie clearly resemble early (and popular) Elfman techniques while the overblown gothic elements need not look further back than Dark Shadows to draw many comparisons. This is purely vintage Elfman at is core, however, and the instrumental ingredients for Frankenweenie are standard to the composer's most sensitive fantasy and drama modes while also toying with obvious nods to the scores of classic monster movies in its latter half. The London orchestra has the usual emphasis on solo woodwinds and tingling percussion for loving encounters and deep bass strings and brass for ballsy action cues. The choir is the predictable accent to the sappy relational portions, cooing away with blissful harmony on many occasions, though it also expresses dread in the lower ranks during the reanimation scenes. Absent is Elfman's array of contemporary instrumentation, replaced in the synthetic realm by a theremine effect that is very tastefully and surprisingly sparingly integrated into the mix. A booming organ is a logical choice as well, resounding with force in several later cues. In Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows, Elfman showed a willingness to fully embrace a return to the orchestral fantasy elements that made his early years on the big Hollywood stage so fruitful, and his enthusiasts will be thrilled to hear more of the same substantive exploration of that realm in Frankenweenie. The personality of the score is extremely engaging, the symphonic performances crisply balanced and expressing the parody aspect of the score without ever becoming cute or obnoxious (the obvious exception being the false logo music at the start of the score, which actually qualifies as a highlight of the entire score). Part of the success of Frankenweenie in retaining your attention is due to its very well developed thematic core, the usage of the four main themes so tightly woven that the narrative is never in doubt. On the hand, the themes are also arguably the only true weakness of the score, their basic progressions reminiscent of prior identities and too simplistic to truly stand apart in Elfman's career. That said, his execution of these ideas is so intelligent that Frankenweenie still stands as a superior overall effort. The thematic identities are divided equally between the basic concepts of the "good" and the "bad" while also reflecting those sides of both main characters, resulting in alter-ego themes of a sort for each. Elfman predictably collides these identities in sonic battle as the monstrous electricity starts to flow.

On the upbeat side of Frankenweenie, Victor and Sparky receive their own heartfelt themes, the idea for Sparky seemingly doubling as a representation of pleasant suburbia. The Sparky theme begins with bubbly enthusiasm in "Main Titles" and progressively becomes tinged with sadness as the score progresses. In its first, perky performances, there are progressions and rhythms reminiscent of vintage James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith light children's drama music. After several bright renditions in the early cues, including some rowdy, intentionally soaring performances in the fateful "Game of Death," Elfman boils the theme down to solo piano in "The Funeral" and fragments its progressions in "Electricity" before a tender reference at the end of that cue. After Sparky is resurrected, the theme is appropriately tortured in its brighter renditions to suggest something is awry, its shadow at the end of "Sparky's Day Out" a sad reminder of better times. In "Dad's Talk" and "The Bride/Edgar Knows," the piano solos and faintly bouncing versions attempt to re-establish themselves, "A Premonition" building out of fragmentary usage to allow a full return to glee at the end. The theme occupies moments of reflection and struggling disbelief in the first thirty seconds of "Mom's Discovery/Farewell" and at 4:33 into "Making Monsters." During the closing cues, Elfman forces the idea through false resolutions in "Final Confrontation" before returning to the bliss of early performances in several soft and heartfelt performances in "Happy Ending." In the score-only album's two bonus cues, the "Alternate Main Titles" still features this theme prominently, but with softer tones in the middle section, and the somewhat useless suspense cue "Over the Fence" features slight hints of the theme. Countering the Sparky/suburbia identity is the representation of Victor and his love for the animal. The two themes are at times appropriately heard together, eventually merging as one as "Happy Ending" progresses. This Victor theme, the teary expression of wonder in Frankenweenie, is terribly derivative for Elfman, its series of descending four notes reminiscent of countless similar applications in prior scores for the composer. Typically performed with the soothing choir, however, it's difficult not to remain appreciative of how well this motif continues to function for the composer. It connects this work firmly with Elfman's fantasy past, and, like Sparky's bright theme, you can hear its nearly mystical personality float about the relational sequences in the first four major cues.

The true magic of the pretty theme for Victor and his affection for Sparky in Frankenweenie begins to make sense in "Electricity," in which plaintive cellos handle the identity at 1:55 before handing it off to the tender choir again at 2:44. After the resurrection is complete in "Re-Animation," Victor's successful endeavors allow a bittersweet but still lovely rendition of the theme at the end of the cue. A caring celesta performance in "Dad's Talk" and continued choral closure at the end of "Invisible Fish/Search for Sparky" are continuing reminders of Victor's persistence. Similar treatment at the conclusion of "Mom's Discovery/Farewell" firmly lends the element of sadness to the story, though after the monster-fest portion of the score, Elfman is sure to express the idea with the necessary grandeur in "Happy Ending." The usage of the theme in the notable bonus track, "Alternate Main Titles," is much the same as in the other version. Where the score for Frankenweenie really becomes a delightful listening experience is in the darker identities for these two characters, producing gothic explosions of force that are never scary but do have a resounding impact on their cues. Starting in "Electricity," Elfman starts teasing out these two themes, one for the mad scientist element on Victor's behalf and the other serving the creation side for Sparky. These ideas play off of each other well in the score, overlapping at times and each receiving grandiose brass and organ statements of wicked triumph that are the composer's clear and deserved nod to the monster movies of the classic era. Interestingly, Elfman's development of these two ideas on the album doesn't entirely clarify which theme belongs with which character, however, for they would be easily interchangeable in terms of personality and application. Interrupting the "When You Wish Upon a Star" Disney logo cue is the 6-note theme of Dark Shadows resemblance that could be the representation of Victor's mad scientist and monster elements. It's introduced properly at 1:24 into "Electricity" before an emphatic series of expressions in the middle of "Re-Animation" leading up to a theremine-aided crescendo at 3:15 into that cue. After an ominous reminder in full at 1:14 into "Sparky's Day Out," Elfman keenly adapts the idea into several variants in "Invisible Fish/Search for Sparky," including a quirky rendition on woodwinds at 1:42, an organ blast at 3:14, and a lead-in to the Victor affection theme at the end. Continued fragments on organ in "Making Monsters" and even less obvious informing of "Pool Monsters Attack" precede more concentrated references to frequently whip up a frenzy in "Mad Monster Party."

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After one last brass fanfare version of the mad scientist theme at 0:35 into "Final Confrontation," the theme's repetition dies off as necessary in that cue. The other dark theme in Frankenweenie is arguably more frequently referenced, likely the romping monster version of Sparky's thematic representation. This five-note idea, sometimes truncated to four, is frightfully simple in progression, though its performances, as mentioned before, do compensate. Introduced on deep brass at 2:05 into "Electricity," this monster Sparky identity develops throughout "Re-Animation," building momentum from 1:06 into that cue to a full rendition at 2:12. In "Sparky's Day Out," the theme exists under the playful romping material as a clue that something is truly wrong with the picture. More obvious ominous reminders return at 1:16 into "The Bride/Edgar Knows" before "Invisible Fish/Search for Sparky" allows for several massive organ statements (along with the other dark theme). A brief and sad, but resolute statement is made at 0:49 into "Mom's Discovery/Farewell." The theme's most coherent and entertaining usage comes in "Getting Ready" (and this is where the attribution suggests that it might represent more of the mad scientist element than Sparky's resurrected form), in which several organ bursts accompany the application of the theme as a repetitious and propulsive device of action. The brass and organ likewise raise hair with this theme at the start of "Making Monsters," transferring the idea to Elfman's standard low woodwinds later in the cue. In "Final Confrontation," the theme supplants the bright Sparky/suburbia theme at the start and again turns into a rhythmic tool, a huge organ statement interrupting a false happy ending to close the cue. Outside of these four main themes, Elfman does occasionally throw in a unique motif worth mentioning. For instance, a morbid deep cello identity in the middle of "The Speech" is a diversion. A mischief motif harking back to The Nightmare Before Christmas graces the last thirty seconds of "Electricity." Likewise, a snippet of Dark Shadows is seemingly jokingly referenced for the resurrection activities in the first forty seconds of "Re-Animation." Overall, Frankenweenie is extremely entertaining in nearly of its ranks, despite some regurgitation and simplistic themes from Elfman. The parody material, from the opening logo to the monster-fest at the climax, is tremendous fun. The "Electricity" and "Re-Animation" duo is equally engaging. As surprising as this may seem, it's the lighter two themes that, while very pleasant, fail to carry the same ingenuity and memorable character. Still, this is a very solid score that is pure Elfman magic at its heart, and, as a superior companion piece to Dark Shadows, it reaffirms the composer's mastery of gothic storytelling. ****   Amazon.com Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Danny Elfman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.18 (in 62 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.23 (in 117,027 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.





 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  


Regular Average: 3.33 Stars
Smart Average: 3.21 Stars*
***** 82 
**** 94 
*** 91 
** 67 
* 34 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Budget is actually $39M *nm* *NM*
  ddddeeee -- 10/6/12 (12:45 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 55:58


• 1. Frankenweenie Disney Logo (0:37)
• 2. Main Titles (2:20)
• 3. Mr. Burgermeister/Noses Meet (2:17)
• 4. Game of Death (2:21)
• 5. The Funeral (2:38)
• 6. Electricity (3:27)
• 7. Re-Animation (5:17)
• 8. Sparky's Day Out (1:53)
• 9. Dad's Talk (0:50)
• 10. The Bride/Edgar Knows (2:19)
• 11. Invisible Fish/Search for Sparky (4:42)
• 12. A Premonition (1:25)
• 13. The Speech (1:20)
• 14. Mom's Discovery/Farewell (1:29)
• 15. Getting Ready (2:40)
• 16. Making Monsters (6:44)
• 17. Pool Monsters Attack (1:50)
• 18. Mad Monster Party (1:59)
• 19. Final Confrontation (2:57)
• 20. Happy Ending (3:31)

Bonus Tracks:
• 21. Alternate Main Titles (2:20)
• 22. Over the Fence (1:15)




 Notes and Quotes:  


The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.





   
  All artwork and sound clips from Frankenweenie are Copyright © 2012, Walt Disney Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/4/12 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2012-2013, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.