Monday, July 1, 2013

Beetlejuly: Vincent

Tim Burton grew up in Burbank, California and throughout most of his youth, he enjoyed making short films in his backyard as well as drawing and painting. Another hobby of Burton's was watching monster movies and one of his childhood heroes was Vincent Price, a famous actor who appeared in many horror movies throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s. Burton went on to attend CalArts, an art school founded by Walt Disney in 1961 and his short animated film, Stalk of the Celery Monster earned him an apprenticeship at Disney studios where he worked as an animator, concept artist and storyboard artist. Some of the films Burton worked on were The Fox and the Hound, Tron, and the colossal flop, The Black Cauldron. However, as Burton would later recall, he was not very good at drawing in Disney's signature style, joking that when he worked on The Fox and the Hound, all his foxes looked like they had been hit by cars. Because of his differences, Burton went on to make solo films for the company and his first solo film was a stop motion animated salute to Vincent Price, fittingly entitled Vincent. Running in at a little over 6 minutes, it's a short little treat, but not by any means a waste of time. It shows the birth of Burton's dark, twisted trademark style and in many ways is a short autobiographical film of Burton himself and what his childhood days were like. It also has Vincent Price himself narrating and when you hear his empowering voice, you get shivers, but good shivers. Vincent Price has gone on to say that this film was "the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortality, better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard".

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! 

1 comment:


    What is the meaning of calling on the name of the Lord? Many assume that believing in Jesus and saying a form of a sinner's prayer constitutes, calling on the name of the Lord. The problem with that theory is none of the conversions under the New Covenant support that assumption. Not one time is anyone ever told to believe and say the sinner's prayer in order to be saved.

    The apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost quoted the prophet Joel, Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (NKJV)

    The apostle Peter preached the first gospel sermon under the New Covenant. Peter did not tell the 3000 converts to believe and say the sinner's prayer.

    Peter preached the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He preached Jesus as both Lord and Christ. When they heard this they asked Peter and the rest of the brethren what they should do?(Acts 2:22-37) Peter told them what to do. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.(NKJV)

    How did the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost call on the name of the Lord and become saved?
    1. They believed that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.
    2. They believed that God raised Jesus from the grave.
    3. They repented. Repentance is a change of heart. Repentance means to be converted so that God may forgive your sins. Repentance is to make the intellectual commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God. (Acts 3:19, Acts 2:38)
    4. They were immersed in water (baptized) so that their sins could be forgiven.

    How did the 3000 on the Day of Pentecost not call on the name of the Lord?
    1. They did not say a sinner's prayer.
    2. Not one person was asked to pray for forgiveness.
    3. Not one single man was told to be baptized as a testimony of his faith.
    4. No one was told that water baptism was a just an act of obedience.
    5. No one was informed they were saved the very minute they believed.
    6. Not one person was told that water baptism was not essential for the forgiveness of sins.
    7. Not one person was told to be baptized so they could join a denominational church.

    Jesus said he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16"16) Jesus did not say he who believes and says a sinner's prayer shall be saved.

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    Posted by Steve Finnell at 9:07 AM No comments: