What makes this shortie great is something I can't put my finger on, but I think it's because it's short, simple and to the point. Burton could have made a longer film, elaborating on many more of Vincent's hobbies and passions, but he didn't. He picks a few, showcases them in all their glory and gets the message out pretty clear. Vincent Malloy is a 7 year old boy who wants to be like Vincent Price. He dreams of things like dipping his aunt in wax for his wax museum and experimenting on his dog, Abercrombie in hopes of creating a terrible zombie. These are things that harken back to films Price was in like House of Wax and The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Vincent also reads the works of Edgar Allan Poe and gets sucked into them, particularly Poe's most well known work, The Raven. Of course Vincent Price was also in many Poe based films directed by Roger Corman like The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher and Tales of Terror. As Vincent gets sucked into the poems, he believes himself to be the characters in the poems like the man in The Raven who dreams of his lost Lenore. Vincent also sees the things around him morph into horribly grotesque abominations which haunt him to the utter point of insanity. At the end, Vincent slums to the floor, believing himself to be dead and the closing lines of The Raven are said (Shall be lifted, nevermore). It's a pretty intense ending to an already intense short film, so intense that Disney never knew what to do with the film once it was finished. Sure it appeared at film festivals to critical acclaim but Disney was unsure how to release this film of gothic horror to the public, so it was put in the Disney vaults for several years. It wasn't until The Nightmare Before Christmas was released on DVD a few years ago that the film was added as a bonus feature.
And while watching this film, you can't help but see the seed that eventually grew into The Nightmare Before Christmas. The stop motion animation is fluent and nice to look at and the black and white coloring really makes this film feel old fashion, similar to Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. The design of the characters is also something worth praise. I can't help but feel that Victor from Frankenweenie, Victor from Corpse Bride and even Jack Skellington were partly inspired by Vincent and his stylized movements throughout the film. In fact, an early form of Jack Skellington makes a cameo in the film, although this was back in the day when the character wasn't fully developed yet. Vincent also bares a striking resemblance to Tim Burton himself, again implying that this is somewhat of an autobiographical film. I also like the look of Abercrombie and the monsters and ghouls seen later in the film. The fact that some of the characters are seen in shadow and some of the scenery is warped also brings German expressionism to mind. But Vincent Price's narration is brilliant and you can really tell by the way he narrates the piece that he enjoyed doing it and really took the film seriously. Of course, Price and Burton would later reunite for Edward Scissorhands which was sadly one of Price's last roles in a motion picture.
Nevertheless, Vincent is a grim, ghoulish, yet fun and exciting piece of Burton history and if this film wasn't made, then it could very well be that The Nightmare Before Christmas wouldn't have been made either. It pioneered Tim Burton's gift for the macabre and led to his trademark stop motion segments in films like Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and of course Nightmare. It also showcased Burton's passions like Poe and classic horror films and paid tribute to a cinema legend, a legend who thought the short film was "legend". If you haven't seen it, then give it a watch. You can find it on Youtube and similar video hosting sites, or if you really want to, buy The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD to see the film full force on your television. If you are in the mood for something out of the ordinary and dark, check it out.
Tune in next time and we'll have a look at another Burton short film, a short film that was recently remade in stop motion by the company that didn't want to release the original at all. See you then!