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The masterminds behind Frankenweenie

Jessie Brown

Ahead of Tim Burton’s film Frankenweenie’s release on DVD we caught up with production designer Rick Heinrichs to talk dark themes, Disney and how to make it in the film industry.

The masterminds behind Frankenweenie

Love ... Nothing comes between a boy and his dog, not even death.

THE Disney film Frankenweenie successfully opened the London Film Festival and is set to be released on DVD on 25th February. Its dark themes are very out of character for a Disney film as it follows the story of a boy who brings his dead dog back to life just as Doctor Frankenstein did in Mary Shelley’s horror novel. In fact the film was first a short piece done by Burton and the team in 1984 and then revisited as an extended version for the film. But it is the look of the film which has caught the attention of audiences and critics alike. It is done in black and white with many throw-backs to horror films from the past. One of the many faces behind the film, production designer Rick Heinrichs, caught up with us to explain how Disney became so dark all of a sudden.

“They [Disney] had seen the live action version from 1984 and ultimately supported it as a black and white film which is unique and seemingly un-Disney,” he said.

“Originally we had a live dog but it was limited in terms of what it could do. It was critical with the stop-motion that we put in the effort and attention to make it feel as real as possible but with a stylised design.”

It seems the attention to detail from the stop-motion team paid off with the film up for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. But it hasn’t always been red carpets and Oscar nominations for Rick. He started building his skills at university, just like you.

He spent four years studying at an arts college in Boston honing his cartooning and animation skills. When we asked him why he chose a career in the arts his answer was simple…”I’m not good at anything else”.

“I always loved drawing, cartooning and animation,” he said. “I got to where I am because I followed my nose and what intrigued me.”

In fact he was intrigued by sculpture which combined nicely with his talents in drawing, animation and cartooning to make the ideal CV for someone interested in production design. His top tips for people who also want to get into the film or television production business are:

  • Learn other things
  • Practice good communication
  • Persuade people of your passion and vision
  • Learn practical skills such as budgeting

“Take advantage of the benefits of being in school where you can develop within a bubble,” he said.

“When going to school or college you can feel disconnected from the reality of earning a living, but this is the best time to practice and learn new training so make the most of it.”

Checkout Rick’s film Frankenweenie on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD, released on 25th February 2013.

RICK HEINRICHS (Production Designer) is an artist, creating alternate worlds entirely appropriate to his film’s stories. Heinrichs designed the production of “Captain America: The First Avenger” for director Joe Johnston, with whom he also worked on “The Wolfman,” and designed the monumental sets and ships for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” both directed by Gore Verbinski. 

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