Australian Council on Children and the Media

Frankenweenie

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Not recommended under 9, PG to 13 (Violence; Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Frankenweenie
  • a review of Frankenweenie completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 October 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 9 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children aged 9-12 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, scary and disturbing scenes and themes.
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Frankenweenie
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Scary scenes and infrequent mild coarse language
Length 87 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) is a highly intelligent and creative young boy, who is very passionate about making films and inventing things.  Victor is a loner and unpopular at school, and his only friend and companion is his pet dog Sparky (voice of Frank Welker). Victor’s favourite teacher is his science teacher Mr. Rzkruski (voice of Martin Landau), who teaches him about lightning and electricity. When Mr Rzkruski sets the class a science project with a major prize, competition between classmates is fierce.

Disaster strikes when Sparky is run over and killed by a car during a baseball game, leaving Victor devastated and despondent - until he comes up with a plan to reanimate Sparky’s corpse. Victor goes to the Pet Cemetery, digs up Sparky’s corpse and takes it home.  Using all of the knowledge about electricity gained from Mr. Rzykruskin’s science classes, Victor invents a machine which he uses during an electrical storm to reanimate Sparky’s corpse. At first all goes well with Victor deciding to keep Sparky’s reanimation a secret, but when one of Victor’s class mates Edgar ‘E’ Gore (voice of Atticus Shaffer) discovers Victor’s secret, Victor’s world quickly begins to spin out of control.


Edgar blackmails Victor into telling how he reanimated Sparky and tells several of his class mates of Victor’s discovery. Intent on winning the science competition, Edgar and several other students dig up their long dead pets and reanimate them with devastating consequences. By the end of the film Victor manages to put all back in order, but not without personal cost.   

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a pet; reanimation; intolerance

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Frankenweenie contains some rather macabre animated violence mainly inflicted upon animals. At times the violence depicted has a comical intent or is presented in a slapstick manner but the film also contains scenes of violence combined with peril involving animals and children. Examples include: 

  • A man snaps hedge sheers in a threatening manner at a young boy’s face.
  • At a park during a baseball game, Victor hit a baseball which his dog Sparky chases. The dog runs onto the road and we hear a thud and a car come to a sudden stop (we do not see the car hit the dog). Victor shouts out “Noooo” and his parents restrain him. We hear that the dog was killed and see Victor distraught, with tears running down his cheeks.
  • A young boy wearing roller skates stands on a rooftop with a number of large fizzy drink bottles strapped to his back. A second boy simultaneously pulls all of the corks from the bottle and we see the boy propelled along the roof and falling to the ground screaming. Later we see the boy with his arm in a sling and hear that he broke his arm.
  • A giant turtle-like monster goes rampaging through a town, and we see the monster stamping on a police car crushing it with the monster continuing on to cause damage to a number of buildings. The monster stamps on and kills a reanimated hamster and then pick up a phone booth in it mouth. Victor’s parents are in the phone booth but they escape uninjured. The monster picks up a young boy in its mouth and the boy escapes uninjured when the monster is electrocuted and reverts back to a small harmless turtle. 
  • A giant rat terrorises a gym teacher, chasing her through the town’s streets.
  • A band of reanimated sea monkeys chase after and terrorise a young boy and townspeople.     
  • In a scene reminiscent of the 1930’s Frankenstein film, an angry mob of town’s people, who are carrying flaming torches, shout out “Kill the monster” and chase Sparky and Victor. The mob chases the pair into a windmill which is accidentally set on fire. The windmill is engulfed in flames and Victor, a young girl and Sparky are trapped at the top of the windmill. The girl manages to swing to safety while Sparky drags an unconscious Victor from the burning building. Sparky is dragged back inside of the burning windmill by a reanimated cat/bat creature and later we see a fireman carrying Sparky’s corpse from the burnt-out windmill.  
  • A cat/bat creature is killed when it is speared through the back by a falling burning stake.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Many of the characters resemble those from a host of classic horror films. For example, Edgar E Gore has a grotesque appearance complete with hunchback and buck teeth and speaks in a stereotypical slurring creepy voice. Another young child resembles the Frankenstein monster with a flat topped head.
  • In several scenes resembling the original film of Frankenstein we see a Victor go to a cemetery, dig up the remains of his dead dog Sparky, take him home and rebuild him. After stitching him up, Victor screws large bolts into the neck of his dead dog and then attaches electrical cables. He brings the dog to life by exposing him to a thunder storm.
  • After Sparky is reanimated he is a miss-matched patchwork of sewn together parts. At times various parts of Sparky’s anatomy fall off including his tail and an ear; no blood and gore are depicted.
  • A group of young children reanimate a number of their dead pets, with the pets taking on monstrous characteristics.  A cat and a bat are transformed into a single vicious, scary-looking creature with a mouth full of sharp fangs. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also very likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be scared by some of the above mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

OK for this age group

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains occasional mild flirting. Examples include:

  • Victor’s parents kiss briefly.
  • Sparky and a female dog sniff each in a mildly flirtatious manner. Later they touch noses and an electrical charge occurs between them.
  • A young girl show a romantic interest in Victor, who tries to avoid her.   

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Glasses of red wine seen on a dinner table.
  • A gang of gremlin-like creatures pour beer from a keg and drink it leaving a large puddle of beer of the ground.

Coarse language

The film contains some mild coarse language and name calling. Examples include:

  • “I have to pee”, “crazy”, “weird girl”, “insane”, “stupid”, “ignorant”, and “menace”.
  • Some stereotypical references relating to: children, parents, teachers, scientists, foreigners, suburban housewives, overweight people and Asian people.  

In a nutshell

Frankenweenie is an animated, horror comedy by Tim Burton. The film contains numerous references and similarities to classic old horror films such as Frankenstein and Dracula. As a result, the film contains scary images and frightening scenes which make it unsuitable for under 9s but also contains some clever humour and tender moments that are likely to be enjoyed by older children and adults.        

The main message from this movie is that science can be used for both good and evil purposes; it is up to the individual to make the choice.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Love of pets: Victor displays great love and affection for his pet dog Sparky. It is this love that inspires Victor to reanimate Sparky and, as a result, Sparky’s reanimation is a success. The other children who reanimate their dead animals do so for selfish reasons, resulting in their pets reanimating as monsters.
  • Parental love and support: Throughout the film Victor’s parents demonstrate their love for their son in a variety of ways.

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