Released in 2005, ‘Corpse Bride,’ also known as ‘Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride,’ is a magical British-American stop-motion animated film co-directed by Mike Johnson and the visionary Tim Burton. Set in a fictional Victorian-era European village, the tale unfolds with Victor, brought to life by the talents of Johnny Depp, and Emily, the titular character given voice by the enchanting Helena Bonham Carter. ‘Corpse Bride’ marks Burton’s third venture into the world of stop-motion animation and his directorial debut in this style, following the critically acclaimed ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ both directed by Henry Selick. Notably, this cinematic gem, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, is a heartfelt dedication to Joe Ranft, a beloved figure who sadly passed away during its production.
In a nod to its brilliance, ‘Corpse Bride’ earned a prestigious nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 78th Academy Awards. However, it was pipped to the post by the charming ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,’ a film that also featured the talents of Helena Bonham Carter. This marked a fascinating twist in the animated film world. Notably, ‘Corpse Bride’ brought a technological shift to Tim Burton’s stop-motion repertoire. Unlike his previous masterpiece, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’ which employed 35mm film cameras, ‘Corpse Bride’ embraced innovation, using Canon EOS-1D Mark II digital SLR cameras to capture its enchanting world.
In the enchanting world of ‘Corpse Bride,’ young Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson) find themselves at the mercy of their families’ plans for an arranged marriage.
Surprisingly, the two like each other, yet Victor can’t shake his wedding jitters. As he practices his wedding vows deep in the eerie woods, an unexpected twist of fate unfolds.
A seemingly ordinary tree branch transforms into a spectral hand, snatching Victor away to the ethereal land of the dead. There, he meets Emily, a charming yet tragic figure, who was unjustly murdered after daring to elope with her love.
And now, Emily longs to make Victor her eternal groom. With time running out, Victor must find a way to return to the world of the living before his beloved Victoria marries the wicked and conniving Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant).
‘Corpse Bride’ weaves a tale of love, loyalty, and the supernatural in a way only Tim Burton can.
13 Fun facts about Corpse Bride:
(1) The puppets used precision crafted clockwork heads, adjusted by hidden keys, rather than industry standards of replaceable heads (as seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas) or replaceable mouths (as seen in Aardman Studios’ The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). This allowed for unprecedented subtlety, but it appears to have been even more time-consuming than the already notoriously difficult animation. One animator even claimed to have nightmares about adjusting his own facial expression in this manner.
(2) The puppets were 25-28 cm tall and some of the stages were so large that animators could actually fit through the set doors with minimal crouching.
(3) The maggot’s voice, mannerisms and facial appearance are an impersonation of Peter Lorre.
(4) This is the first original stop motion animated film Tim Burton has directed or produced since The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
(5) Multiple, identical puppets had to be created so that more scenes could be accomplished in a shorter period of time. In all, fourteen puppets of the Bride and Victor were created, and thirteen were created of Victoria.
(6) Danny Elfman originally wrote the part of BoneJangles looking for another musician to sing it, but after failing to find a voice that fit, Tim Burton asked Elfman if he would sing it himself. The result was so brutal on his vocal chords that Elfman was left hoarse whenever he had to voice the character.
(7) When Victor plays the piano, he leans back and the nameplate says “Harryhausen”, a reference to stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen.
(8) Had a 55-week shoot, during which 109,440 individually animated frames had to be set up and filmed.
(9) There is a character named “Elder Gutknecht.” Translated from German to English, his name means “Elder Good Servant.”
(10) The puppets were made from stainless steel armatures covered with silicone skin.
(11) Bonejangles and his skeleton band are partly inspired by the cartoon The Skeleton Dance (1929) but are also heavily influenced by Cab Calloway and his band as they appeared in rotoscoped form in several Betty Boop cartoons. The piano player wears shades like Ray Charles, and his movements are based on Charles’ mannerisms. The character BoneJangles is based on the famous dancer Bill Robinson who was called “Bojangles.”
(12) The film is dedicated to the memory of Joe Ranft, American screenwriter and animation.
(13) When Bonejangles is telling Emily’s story, his shadow appears on the wall as the shadow of Emily’s groom. The shadow has Lord Barkis’ profile.