The Evolution of Disney: Frankenweenie Part II

Last time we explored Frankenweenie’s puppets and animation process behind the scenes. This time it’s all about the overall design — the production and costume design that is, which will give you an idea of just how extensive a stop animation feature is to make.


The look of Frankenweenie, like the story, was inspired by Tim Burton’s childhood, specifically the town of Burbank, CA where he grew up, as well as old horror movies and common Gothic motifs. Frankenweenie takes place in the town of New Holland which shares characteristics of Burbank around the 1970s with its classic cookie cutter idea of suburbia. Executive producer Don Hahn refers to the style as ” Transylvania meets Burbank”.

The production design was spearheaded by Rick Henrichs, who has worked previously with Burton on other films; he and his team studied 1970s architecture of the southwest, featuring tract-house style homes and other post-war periods to bring Burton’s vision of New Holland to life. The designer also based the fictional world on the original live-action short borrowing the expressionistic style and Gothic style of the black and white film to expand upon the look of New Holland.

After massive research, the designing began in November of 2009 in an L.A. studio before moving to the London studio to actually begin the long process of constructing the models, props, sets, and other decor.

The main challenge with stop motion or any feature using miniatures is finding the proper scale for the characters and sets they inhabit.  Out of all the sets, New Holland presented the biggest challenge for designers having to construct a whole town from scratch and Victor’s lab which required a lot mechanical wiring and hand lighting installations.

In total, about 200 sets were created for the film and the overall color scheme was a black and white to grayscale monochromatic look.

While you will notice the film uses many classic horror motifs such as the Windmill on the hill — which also had to be hand engineered — and the cemetery.


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Frankenweenie set (Walt Disney Pictures)
















Costumes and hair are a completely different beast in stop-motion, not only because of the scale but because like the sets — you have to create everything from scratch.  You can’t buy or rent clothes for production and hair can’t be styled or wigs purchased. Instead, it is a highly detailed process done by hand. For example to create the hair for each puppet someone must push individual strands of hair with a special needle into the puppet’s head to create a full wig. While the process of the costumes involves selecting fabrics and then making mockups for approval by the director before being hand sewn to size for each character.



Of course when your working with that many objects on such a small scale repeatedly things are likely to receive some wear and tear between shots. That’s why on set there is a “hospital” where it is someone’s job to make the puppets or sets brand new again. Kind of cool.


Here’s also a look at some of the concept art and sketches from the film.


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For more art and behind the scenes check out the visual companion book

( Images copyright of Walt Disney Pictures)


The Great Gatsby’s Enchantment









Have you ever wondered what 1920s New York City might have been like with bustling cars, spurring new industries, American moguls, and fashionable day – players partying the night away on the edges of the city — if so The Great Gatsby might be the answer you crave.

Set in the spring of 1922 in New York City and Long Island, The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway’s pursuit of the American Dream and his encounter with a mysterious neighbor named Gatsby, whose ambition eventually leads to tragedy.

The Great Gatsby, originally written by author F.  Scott Fitzgerald,  has received an impressive makeover in this modern film adaptation by production designer and costume designer Catherine Martin, who creates a mesmerizing look into the world of Gatsby, filled with color, pizzazz, and refined taste; illuminating the elusive wonder of men, time, and place. The design recalls to mind other visually stunning and dreamy films like American Beauty, Pleasantville, Moulin Rouge, Big Fish, and Dick Tracy.

The designer uses bold and pastel color palettes, in favor of standard sepia or black and white depictions of the Jazz Age to realize the true vibrancy and energy of the period.

Additionally, The Great Gatsby was filmed entirely in Australia and built from the ground up, 42 sets were designed on location or on nearby sound stages, and each was created with a contrasting unique flair to represent the diverse array of characters in the film.






















The main centerpiece of it all– Gatsby’s mansion was envisioned as an “adult Disneyland” castle with all the trimmings. Inspired by numerous sources, including art deco, a Miami hotel, and original New York architecture like the Oheka Castle and Beacon Towers, it’s the grandest undertaking and re-imaging of all the sets created; every room has  a life of its own, filled with opulence where no detail is overlooked, from the staircases to the furnishings. Gatsby’s ambitious home is modeled specifically on St. Patrick’s in Australia. While on the contrasting end the Buchanan’s house is based on the Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island.

Although both mansions are quite amazing, Maguire’s character cottage house offers a sweet, quaint, and charming appeal that is irresistible and the New York City apartment briefly shown is bursting with fun patterns.

But it is the spectacular visual effects used to compliment the production design of The Great Gatsby; all of which were designed by Animal Logic, who spent 18 months helping to bring Director Baz Luhrmann’s vision to life, that really raises the bar.

Meanwhile, words can only capture so much and this grand design can only truly be appreciated by the pictures, so I’ll let them do the talking.








Overall The Great Gatsby has a visionary style that is captivating, dream worthy, and a visual masterpiece that enhances every frame and one I hope you take the time to enjoy.


The Great Gatsby – Animal Logic


(All Images copyrighted and courtesy of Warner Bros.)