Quick Review: Frankenweenie

Music composed by Danny Elfman
Orchestrated by: Steven Bartek, Edgardo Simone, Dave Slonaker
Addition Music/Programing by: TJ Lindgren
Additional Arrangements by: Helene Muddiman
Conducted by: Rick Wentworth
Recorded at AIR Lyndurst, London
Album time: 51 minutes
Available on Walt Disney Records

After this year's Dark Shadows, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman regroup for Frankenweenie.  The film is based on the 1984 short by Burton (which featured music by Michael Covertino and David Newman).  With another Gothic themed film and with stop-motion animation, we already have a vague clue as to what the score will sound like.    

The album begins with the Frankenweenie Disney Logo (this being the first time on an album if I'm correct).  Of course the logo's music has a Frankenweenie variation.  An interesting add to the album.  The Main Titles have the great qualities of an Elfman main title sequence.  We get the introduction of Sparky's theme, and the track is nicely lighthearted.  Mr. Burgmeister/Noses Meet sets up some of the original vintage Elfman sounds and incorporates Sparky's theme.  Within the harp/woodwind sound of Game of Death, we get bits of theremin.  Later the strings and choir enter, reminiscent of his score to Spider-Man.  The Funeral is a sentimental cue, with the solo piano taking over and the choir joining in.  Overall, a nice track.  

With Electricity, the score takes off.  We get an introduction of the Mad Scientist motif, first used in the latter half of the Disney Logo.  Victor's bittersweet theme turns up in the track, played with cellos.  As in this track, the theme is also intermingled many times in the album with the Sparky theme.  Re-Animation builds to a large crescendo in the middle of the track with shrieking strings and theremin.  Sparky's theme gets a sweet reprise at the end of the track.  Sparky's Day Out is a fun track, combining the lighthearted themes and the darker edge of the score.  

Dad's Talk is a short cue featuring the nice harp/celeste combination.  The dark fun continues in The Bride/Edgar Knows.  The ominous hints might remind you of Dark Shadows.  The organ starts off Invisible Fish/Search for Sparky and returns with the choir later, also including the Mad Scientist motif and Victor's theme.  The theremin and celeste play an important role in Premonition.  We hear more celeste solos like in Dad's Talk, and as the cue speeds up we hear a return of Sparky's theme.  Another Dark Shadows-sounding motif is the main melody of The Speech.  

Mom's Discovery/Farewell begins with a loud stinger and throws in fragments of past themes and their variations.  Getting Ready features another organ moment, and has a throwback to Elfman's Batman theme (that's on purpose, right??)  The cue chugs along, in vintage-Elfman mode.  Making Monsters is the longest track on the album, with full Gothic sound.  The full orchestra makes many large appearances, with many menacing low string/low brass combinations.  The Mad Scientist motif returns, and a few recurrences of the Batman-like motif.  The track changes moods a few times, and always builds back up.  The best part of the track occurs right before the end as the orchestra whips into a frenzy.

The action picks up where we left off in Pool Monsters Attack - and it's full of choir/organ mayhem.  Mad Monster Party is a bunch of fun, with more frenzied orchestra and the organ busting in.  Even a bit of Psycho-like strings make an appearance.  Final Confrontation (my favorite of Elfman titles) uses some past themes and even a lovely snippet of Victor's theme.  Just as the track gets overly dramatic, the action shifts and the sweeter side of the score returns in Happy Ending.  It's a very sweet and emotion-filled track.  

We also get two bonus tracks on the album - the first being Alternate Main Titles.  The alternate titles feature slightly different renditions of Victor and Sparky's themes, a little more subdued with a piano solo.  The other bonus track is Over the Fence.  The track is full of the low woodwinds, tremolo strings and really doesn't add much to the score, but is nice to have.            

This is a great score for those that enjoy the vintage Elfman sounds of Edward Scissorhands and Nightmare Before Christmas.  The instrumentation is pretty standard for an Elfman score - heavy tremolo strings, string harmonics, choir and plenty of harp and celeste.  It doesn't have the thematic constructs of some of his other scores, but provide a great backdrop for the semi-macabre story.  The lighthearted aspects of the score mix nicely with the melodramatic monster moments.  

Obviously a completely different film - but it's much more accessible than Dark Shadows, and a far more enjoyable listening experience.  I think the score is fun, fits the film nicely and returns Elfman to what he is so known for.    

(Side note: not to be confused with the "songs inspired by" album Frankenweenie Unleashed.  For those interested: The song Praise Be New Holland is written by Danny Elfman and screenwriter John August and performed in the film by Winona Ryder.)  

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