Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter and Martin Landau graced the red carpet as the festival launched with style at the glitzy premiere of Frankenweenie.
Rodney Appleyard

15 Oct 2012 - 1:08 PM  UPDATED 15 Oct 2012 - 1:08 PM

Tim Burton never ceases to surprise audiences with his movies and Frankenweenie is no exception to the rule. His latest 3D stop motion animation masterpiece, which was stylishly shot this time in black and white, provided a real treat for the spectators at Leicester Square's Odeon.

Unlike many other 3D movies, which sometimes overawe audiences with excessively elaborate animations, Burton has stripped back the technology deliberately to focus on the personalities of the handmade puppets. As a result, these creations appear more life-like than they would in colour.

Five minutes into the movie, it is easy to forget you are watching a 3D film. Instead, the experience feels more like peering through a magical looking glass into a mesmerising world of mind-boggling characters and monsters.

The story behind this movie follows the life of a young boy called Victor who lives in a fictional suburban town in the US called "New Holland" (which is actually based on where Burton grew up in Burbank). Everything is normal with this boy's life, until his lovable dog Sparky gets tragically run over by a car.

Deeply saddened by the loss of his best friend, he embarks on an uncompromising mission to bring Sparky back to life via unorthodox science methods learnt at school.

However, once his friends get wind of his actions, things start to go monstrously wrong. It is not long before a number of other creatures in the area also fall victim to this domestic experiment.

Although at first glance this movie will not appeal to everybody because it is being promoted as a children's story, it should be a huge hit with horror fans and film lovers who study the craft of movie-making.

Without doubt, this movie has been put together with exceptional expertise. Burton keeps the audience engaged by constantly speeding up the pace throughout the film.

He also cleverly combines his creepy brand of humour with his life-long appreciation for monsters from the best horror movies in history. And through the use of the stop motion animation, he has skillfully recreated classic creatures like Godzilla, Frankenstein and The Gremlins with a slight twist in their tails to spice things up for the audience.

Burton says he thrived on the challenge of breathing new life into the stop motion animation art form."The idea of seeing a 3D, black and white, stop motion animation movie was an exciting prospect for me. The black and white technique was a crucial element in the making of the movie because it made the film feel more emotional for the audience. The 3D element also enabled me to showcase the artistic detail that went into these stop motion animations.

"When you look at these puppets in real life and you experience the tactile nature of the hand-made creations, you really get to appreciate the process that these artists go through," enthuses Burton.

In previous years, Pixar has been the leading light for creating digital animation in Hollywood, so Burton is delighted that Disney has decided to take a step back and spark fresh interest in this format.

Although Burton always likes to do things his way and does not often care about what the studios think or box office ratings, he hopes this movie will signal a new way of thinking inside Hollywood.

"From my point of view, I hope that all forms of animation are still viable. When Pixar took off and computer animation became popular they said they weren't going to make any more hand drawn movies. When I heard that I thought: 'Oh gosh! That's really unfortunate'.

"But basically they have changed their minds and I hope this is now the same for stop motion. It's a beautiful art-form and you just hope that all forms of animation can flourish in the future."

After five decades of working in the industry, Burton's star continues to rise and his achievements will be honoured at the festival when he is awarded with a BFI Fellowship – the highest honour offered by the BFI. Frankenweenie is definitely another shining example of his ability to set new standards in filmmaking around the world.

Frankenweenie will be released in cinemas on October 25th.

Pictured: Festival Director Clare Stewart and Tim Burton.