Interview with Child Actors of Frankenweenie #DisneyMoviesEvent
Prior to the bloggers attending the premiere of Frankenweenie last week, we had the opportunity to do a group interview with the child actors starring in the movie. Charlie Tahan, age 14, plays Victor Frankenweenie. Some of his previous films include Charlie St. Cloud and The Other Woman. Atticus Shaffer, age 14, plays Edgar. Some of his previous films include The Unborn and Subject: I Love You. Robert Capron, age 14, plays Bob. Some of his previous films include Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Robert also won a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film (Ensemble Cast) for his work on Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Image Credit: WireImage
I was blown away about how smart and charming these boys were. They were well-spoken and passionate about their work on Frankenweenie. Plus, they were funny! Robert made me giggle when he talked about his character, Bob, and how gigantic he was! I haven’t seen any of their previous work, but am now going to make a point to check out more films they were in.
Photo Credit: WireImage
After seeing the movie, I can say that these boys are incredibly talented. They should be proud of the wonderful job they did!
Photo Credit: Marshall Weinbaum
Enjoy the interview and go see Frankenweenie on October 5th!
Were you a fan of Tim Burton’s before working with him on Frankenweenie?
Charlie Tahan: Tim has always been one of my favorite directors since before I started acting at the age three or four. I was obsessed with Nightmare Before Christmas and I didn’t even know it was a Tim Burton movie at the time.
Atticus Shaffer: And for me, my favorite was Batman. It was the first one I saw start to finish. I had seen bits and pieces of Nightmare Before Christmas and then I sat down and watched it from start to finish. I fell in love with it immediately. Tim Burton takes all these shapes and objects and then transforms them to create his own world. It was a year-long audition to get the part in Frankenweenie. When I was told I got the part, I was brimming over in emotion because I was going to be part of a Tim Burton legacy.
Robert Capron: I’m like Atticus because my favorite Tim Burton movie was also the original Batman. When I found out I got the part, I was like flipping out! When I first met Tim Burton, literally the like first thing I said to him was, “You directed Batman. That’s awesome.” It was really funny.
What was your favourite thing about your character?
Charlie Tahan: Victor is loosely based on Tim’s childhood. He’s one of my favorite directors so I was honored to be able to sort of play him.
Atticus Shaffer: The characters that I normally play are either my voice and they are the very calm eye in the storm characters. Some are smart and they know how to figure out problems. Then this character, he’s just so over the top.
He’s a semi-villain and loves everything bigger and over the top. Also being able to do the impression of Peter Lorre for the voice is just awesome for me. I love doing impressions, I love doing accents, and during the very first audition process, they just said, “All right, hey. He’s kind of like the Igor character”. The second or third audition they said if possible, do a Peter Lorre impression. This was so new for me and I thought it’s going to test my acting abilities and I want to do this.
So my mom and I being the homeschoolers that we are, rented a Maltese Falcon. We already had Casablanca and just sat down and really studied it. That alone was just such a thrill for me.
Robert Capron: The thing I like the most about Bob is that despite the fact that he’s a really big guy and could easily be a bully, he is actually a very nice person. That was one of the things I liked about his character.
Have any of you seen the original Frankenstein?
Charlie Tahan: I’ve seen bits and pieces or most of it or versions of it like Young Frankenstein and Barton Frankenstein. I knew all the references to all the horror monster movies I saw.
Atticus Shaffer: I was just such a big fan of any classic black and white film because that’s where the ideas originate from. They weren’t the spoofs, spinoffs or the parodies or anything. They were groundbreaking back then. That’s when it first started. I love those movies in that way. At night time, I will flip through Turner Classic Movies. I’ll watch any movie I can that’s a classic. And I fall in love with it.
Robert Capron: I haven’t seen the entire movie, but I have seen little bits and pieces of it and I read the original book. It was a good book.
What did you find challenging about working on Frakenweenie?
Charlie Tahan: This was my first voice over thing ever. I thought it was going to be a lot harder because I wasn’t going to be with the other cast to read with them. I think it was a little bit easier because half my scenes are with me and Sparky. Because I have a dog at home, I just imagined that my dog was there. You don’t have to worry about blocking or where to stand or hair and makeup. You can mostly focus all your energy into your voice so it’s a little bit easier.
Atticus Shaffer: Man, I love doing voice over. That’s the whole reason I got into the business in the first place because I love to play with my voice. I love telling stories, being able to put myself into these completely new characters. Also there is such a long list that you do have to worry about for theatrical because you have wardrobe, makeup, memorizing lines, choreography. Whereas you just have a small list for voiceover which is making sure that you know the character voice. You are able to take direction and put your soul into the character because you’re giving it the voice and especially in a Tim Burton animation. It’s stop motion animation so it’s not drawn up. These are things that you can move and touch with your hands. It’s almost as if the character has been built.
Then you give it a voice, and now it’s able to talk. And then you have the animators who are able to move it so now it has motion. Tim Burton and the set designers create this world that it’s in. So now it has its own earth. Its own fantasy world. In a way it is kind of creating your own little monsters in a sense.
Robert Capron: The thing that I like about voice over is that it’s significantly easier than like actually filming. It’s way easier because like Atticus and Charlie said, there’s so many different variables that go into filming. You need the lighting and you need to look good with the hair and makeup. This character is already made basically. So all you need to do is supply the voice. But like Charlie said, too, a challenging part of it was that you’re not actually recording with other actors. You’re just doing it by yourself. And that can be kind of weird because you’re talking to yourself, in a way. That may sound weird but usually somebody else will read the other lines first and that makes it easier.
What was it like to make the movie?
Charlie Tahan: It was a yearlong audition process. When I first started, I knew what the characters looked like basically, but they didn’t have the actual finished puppets or anything. They just had like sketches or like news versions of the puppets. Throughout the shooting they did the animation as they went along and they didn’t do it straight after voice recording. They showed us pictures of the animation studio in London and the- the finished puppets. So they gave me a better idea of what it was going to be like.
Atticus Shaffer: It’s almost as if each time that you go in for a recording session they almost have something new to help along the character. At first it would be some of Tim’s sketches, and then later it would be some model statues that they’ve made. Then later on,they’ll have some animation footage of the thing walking and jumping. Seeing how he walks or how he moves and behaves helps put you more and more into the character. And for me personally even though I’m not on camera and it’s just my voice, I still go into this world of making the fingers and and the strange teeth and the hunchback. I feel that puts me more into the character. And when you’re more attached to that character it will come out in your voice.
Robert Capron: For my first two recording sessions I hadn’t actually seen like anything from the film yet because they were still working with the puppets. But like Charlie, I’d seen a couple of sketches. And I remember the first time I actually saw my character for my first recording session, they just had the puppet there. They didn’t have any footage, but they just had the puppet. And the first thing I said when I saw the puppet was “Is it even possible for somebody to be that big?” My movie my character is ridiculously big and that’s one of the things I liked about it. When I was recording my lines, I would have to imagine what it would be like to be this ridiculously big kid and try and incorporate that into my voice.
Did they film you doing your part and base the animation on that?
All boys: Yes, they did.
Charlie Tahan: Victor or any of our characters didn’t actually look like ourselves.When I first saw the movie I was interested that Victor somehow reminded me of myself.
Atticus Shaffer: Because it is stop motion animation and it does take such a long time to film, they broke the script up into acts. You have act one is from the first recording session and then when you come back, you redo things for act one that fit into the storyline more. Then you record act two and then so forth until finally after act three, you come back to redo things from act three. Also sound effects or grunts that you need to make the characters seem more real.
How long is the process?
Charlie Tahan: It’s three years since we started filming. I only worked ten days on the whole movie, but it’s spread out like once every two months or so. It wasn’t like ten days in a row.
Atticus Shaffer: The thing that’s funny about working on a voiceover is that you may think you’re done with it and then like five months later, they’ll come back and say, “Oh we need like a couple extra grunts and some breathing noises”.
Charlie Tahan: Exactly. I had to go call one day and just laugh once and then I had to go home.
Robert Capron: One session I had to go into, I had to say one line and then scream.
Atticus Shaffer: Because it is voiceover and there’s simplicity to it, but yet such a complex world revolving around it. That when you do go in and you do record all these things, it’s a good solid three or four hour recording session. That’s just because it is just your voice. You have endless amounts of tape that you can use to record and find the right way of saying the line or the perfect grunt.
Talking about working with Tim Burton….
Charlie Tahan: He’s surprisingly normal. I didn’t expect him to be like a scary guy but he knows how he wants each scene to be. Frankenweenie is pretty personal to him, I think and it’s sort of about his childhood issue. I think that he knows exactly how he wants each shot or scene to go.
Atticus Shaffer: My favorite part of him in particular was the fact that he is so creative. He doesn’t want to follow the crowd or be a part of the big machine. He wants to do his own thing. He wants to be creative, groundbreaking and this film in particular is the first 3D black and white animation.
When he films things like Alice in Wonderland, it wasn’t the stereotypical view of how things were at that time. It was a darker tone and it was different. Being a part of his mindset and world was just phenomenal for me.
Robert Capron: The thing I liked about Tim was that he definitely had a specific idea of how he wanted like every line to be. That’s one of the things I like about a director is when they know like exactly what they want. I think that’s really cool for someone to just know what they’re doing.
Are there any particular actors that inspire you?
Charlie Tahan: I don’t have any specific actors that I try and model after. But there’s like movies that I like the actors’ performances and things, but I don’t really have like specific someone that I want to try and like model after.
Atticus Shaffer: I’m a big fan of, of Liam Neeson and Russell Crowe because they are so professional in their craft and they do voiceover along with actual theatrical.
Robert Capron: I don’t have an actor that I specifically model. My favorite actor for a while and probably still is one of my favorite actors, was Jimmy Stewart. The first really good movie I saw was Rear Window. I saw that when I was nine which is kind of creepy now that I think about it. When I saw the movie, I remember thinking that is awesome and I want to be in a movie like that.
Did any of you see the original Frankenweenie short?
Atticus Shaffer: Amazing. What was really cool for me is during the audition process, I was about the fifth kid called in. I’m there and everyone was still waiting and they hadn’t started the auditions yet. They put on the original Frankenweenie short. I was one of the few kids that while being there was able to sit down and watch it start to finish. Then I went in and I definitely feel that it helped to have it in the back of my mind to see how the original was done and how he is doing it now.
Charlie Tahan: I thought it was cool because it seemed like the original Frankenweenie was kind of like a sketch of this one. I feel like I read somewhere that it was a short that Tim tried to pitch to producers so they can produce it. I think he wanted to make it a feature film at first. He never was able to because people shut it down. That was one of the first things that he did. It’s cool to compare that one to this one because there’s so many more characters and it’s a lot more complex.
Atticus Shaffer: Something else that I found interesting when talking to Martin Landau, I learned that originally it was Edward Scissorhands and Frankenweenie that Tim wanted to make. He was rejected for both. Then coming back again, he had made the Frankenweenie 25 minute short and then made Edward Scissorhands. That’s where he met Johnny Depp. In hindsight, it does seem like things were meant to, to happen that way, because then he would have never met Johnny Depp and Frankenweenie may not have been able to be made into this stop motion. Because it is a black and white film and hopefully will inspire a new generation of kids to want to see the old classic films and see where the ideas originated from.
Robert Capron: The original short was definitely an outline of what this movie is. I find that really cool. Thanks to stop motion animation, Tim was able to expand on everything in the short.
What are your goals for the future?
Charlie Tahan: I don’t have any actual goals because if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be more sad. When I go on auditions, I don’t like to think about it that much. I forget about it seriously.
Atticus Shaffer: The whole point of me getting into the business was to be a storyteller. My mom and I would read books out loud together. We would do little character voices. Not for any thought of being in the business at all. It was just because it was fun and we love to read. And that’s just the way that we were. So being able to carry that and take it into adulthood and be a form of storyteller is phenomenal. Being in this business in particular, I am the character of the story. I can tell the story from that perspective. My hope is to go to college and learn how to become a director and a writer and then be able to tell stories from that point of view almost like the narrator.
Robert Capron: When I was four years old, I was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. I would memorize like every single episode and I would always like say it word for word to my family. I realize now that I like doing that kind of thing. I love acting, but I think in the future, I’d like to go into directing and writing as well.
Do you have a pet?
Atticus Shaffer: Yes a great many! I have chickens, two dogs, a rabbit and five cats. And actually over the course of being on the film, it’s grown closer. After we had finished recording and it was just before I went to see the screening of the film, a dog that we had for six years passed away. I became even closer to the film and I definitely knew how Victor must have felt and how a lot of people have felt.
I feel like this film is another way of tributing them because it does show that you can be that bonded to an animal or a person, or a thing. And you would go to whatever extent possible in your world to either honor them in memory or to bring them back.
Charlie Tahan: I have one pet left: Samantha the dog. I’ve had rabbits, a hamster and lizards before.
Robert Capron: I have three pets: a cat, a dog, and a rabbit.
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FRANKENWEENIE arrives in theatres everywhere on October 5th!
*I received an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles in order to participate in this event. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.*