WAMG Talks To ATTICUS SHAFFER And CHARLIE TAHAN At The FRANKENWEENIE Press Day
With the release of FRANKENWEENIE just a few days away, I was invited to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA to talk with stars Charlie Tahan (voice of “Victor”), and Atticus Shaffer(voice of “Edgar “E” Gore”).
From creative genius Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”) comes FRANKENWEENIE, a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new leash on life can be monstrous.
Several members of the press, including myself, sat down with the young actors to talk about their experiences on set. Check out our roundtable discussion below.
Atticus, would you talk a little bit about… I love the voice that you used for this. Was this all of Tim’s direction or did you have something in mind or talk about coming up with that voice.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: Well, uh, during the audition process which was about a year long audition process, in that first audition they just said, “Well he’s kind of like the Igor character.” And I kinda knew how to play that off in his mannerisms and whatnot. And then, uh, the second or third audition in they said, “Is it possible to do a Peter Lorry impression?” And I love doing impressions. I love doing accents at home and everything. And so, um, I… it was almost like challenge accepted type of thing.
ATTICUS SHAFFER (Cont): And so, um, my mom like the home schooling mom that she is, uh, just went off and was able to, uh, rent the Maltese Falcon. We already had Casablanca and I just sat down and… and studied Peter Lorry’s voice and his accent and his emotions and everything. And… and formed what I formed.
Is it hard doing it in such a confined space where you’re just kind of in a room with Tim doing the acting or is… does that come kind of easily to you guys to imagine everything that’s…
CHARLIE TAHAN: I… I think, yeah, I actually in the voiceovers like maybe like a little easier than like doing live. I mean just ‘cause you don’t have to like it’s easier than live action ‘cause you don’t have to worry about like or stand or blocking or like hair and makeup. I don’t… but, um, mostly just focus on like just like your… your voice. And as far as like not having anybody else with you. Like I met Atticus yesterday for the first time and like the rest of the cast like a couple days ago. And, um, yeah, we nev… like it was always just us alone.
And, um, and…
ATTICUS SHAFFER: An… and especially with the fact of… of you have to have in live action… you have to worry about wardrobe. You have to worry about makeup. Memorizing lines. Acting out the lines. Being where you need to be when this line is supposed to be. Then you have to worry about other things like the camera running out of film. You need to reload it. Then positioning of the camera and everything. And it adds up to this huge large chunk of time. Whereas in voiceover you arrive in shorts and a tee shirt. Uh, and… and you don’t need to memorize your lines. You just focus all your energy into your voice and how the character is supposed to be. And then they only… they can record an endless amount of dialogue.
What did you guys think of your characters? What was your impression when you first met them?
CHARLIE TAHAN: Uh, Victor’s obvious… which not like crazy like Tim Burton-y like character or anything. And Tim just told me to be like a normal kid because I think it’s like Victor was kinda loosely based on like Tim’s childhood a little bit. Um, yeah, so he just told me to be like… like a real like… Tim’s yeah, like I said. I didn’t have to put on like a crazy voice obviously. But he’s, uh, he’s just like a real kid. So.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: And then for me, just being able to… ‘cause normally the roles I do I’ve never really done impressions or accents in… in television or movies before. And when I am in my TV series, uh, I’m just very calm. I’m usually like the kinda the centered type of person. Eye of the storm. And… and, uh, kind of knows how to figure out problems. Well in this one being able to just kind of go off in this crazy semi-villain with a good heart aspect it’s just so much fun and… and different to branch out and… and test my abilities that way.
What was your guys’s favorite scene to see on screen?
CHARLIE TAHAN: The, uh, I like the scene just when Victor like first brought Sparky back to life the first time. That was just visually really cool because like all the robots and stuff was like all like this big mad scientist lab. I thought that just looks cool.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: And then for me, I… I really loved the… the scene where all of the monsters are coming out while… while, uh, Elsa is singing in the Dutch Days festival. And they all kind of come out and be formed. And then I’ll create chaos and havoc throughout the New Holland. And, uh, I thought that that was so cool because it’s… it’s chaos, but it was so choreographed that it’s just m… like beautiful chaos in a way. So.
Did you get to go on set and look at the, uh, some of the puppets?
CHARLIE TAHAN: The… we… I… well I was in New York for like the whole filming. And, uh, I think he was in L.A. So and the animation studio was in London. So Tim was like not there for some of the time like when we were actually filming. But, um, we no like, uh,they showed us like they brought in some of the actual puppets. And we got to take home puppets when we were done with the movie. And like they showed us like sketches and stuff. So we knew like what was going on. We didn’t see it like in action.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: Their imagery was. And then obviously as we were getting closer and closer to where they were filming more, and they were able to show us like stop motion test footage of how the characters walk or run or jump or whatnot.
Atticus, did you have to… did you record your voices while you were doing your TV show? Was it during hiatus or…
ATTICUS SHAFFER: No. Actually it was… it was… it was, uh, it was a bit of both which was… which was very nice. I’m really happy that the… that the studio allowed me to do that. Is… is the first recording session I ever did was actually on the lot where we — where we film the show. And, um, it was actually very crazy because I… I… I… I told everyone I’m like, “Hey, guys. I’m in a Tim Burton movie and I’m going to record after I’m done with work today.” So at seven o’clock at night, I… I… er… er… six or seven o’clock at night I would leave work. Drive down for two minutes. And then at the other end of the lots and it’s like, alright here I am at my other job that I could spend four hours at. Like it here a little bit better. So, [LAUGHTER] uh, but no. And then… and then after that we did go, uh, it… it was mostly on hiatuses like big summer hiatuses. So I was able to go and, um, do… do them at the actually Disney, uh, Studios.
So Halloween’s coming up. What are you guys gonna be for Halloween and are you guys gonna get a chance to get on rides and which rides do you guys wanna get on?
CHARLIE TAHAN: I went on some rides last night for a little bit. And, um, Halloween’s like a big… well my family’s not like religious at all. So Halloween’s like our holiday I guess. I… I don’t know what I’m gonna be yet. But . . .
ATTICUS SHAFFER: For me I… OK. So, so where I live it’s right on the verge of ghetto. It’s kinda the redneck trailer park that’s near the ghetto. [LAUGHTER] So pretty much we’re gonna be protecting our property. And I’ll probably dress up as… as a crazy marauder to protect the property. [LAUGHTER] If they are trick or treaters, I’ll get candy that way. So. [LAUGHTER]
What’s it like meeting everybody else in the cast who did voices and being here with Tim Burton?
CHARLIE TAHAN: Yeah, it was cool ‘cause we… I met the rest of the cast like a couple days ago and Atticus yesterday. Um, you know, ‘cause it was weird. I… it was like I was skeptical because I didn’t know how… I guess Tim knows like how the other people said the lines that he wanted t choose. But, yeah, because I didn’t know like how ‘cause since, uh, we had done no recording sessions with anybody else. I was just by myself for — I only worked like ten days on the whole movie though. Um, yeah, it was cool.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: Yeah. And… and then for me being able to meet all these legends… all these… all these people that are following in… in… in Tim Burton’s legacy not only just Tim Burton himself, but Martin Landau and Catherine O’Hara. And… and everyone. Winona Ryder. Everything. It… it… it’s just this combination of all these people. That I… I admire to. And…and, um, uh, I… I hope to follow in the… in the legacy of what they are leaving behind.
Favorite Tim Burton movies, obviously besides this one?
ATTICUS SHAFFER: Yes.
Before coming to the project.
CHARLIE TAHAN: Nightmare Before Christmas. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure probably.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: An… and for me I love Corpse Bride. That was the first Tim Burton film I had seen start to finish ‘cause I had seen, you know, Nightmare Before Christmas in bits and pieces. And Edward Scissorhands in bits and pieces. But, uh, uh, Corpse Bride was one I saw from start to finish. And when — when I saw that I fell in love because it’s just this different mindset — this d– and away from the stereotypical view of things. And just having it all come together and — and be so amazing and mesmerizing in this different world that he creates. That it’s from his own mind. And he’s… again he’s formed this new world. And — and to be a part of that is just… it… it’s amazing.
What was your initial reaction like when you saw it for the first time on the big screen?
CHARLIE TAHAN: Of this… this?
Yeah. Like your voices…
CHARLIE TAHAN: Uh, the weirdest part was because Tim likes to actually film the actors while they’re, um, like while they’re actually like in their recording sessions. So the animators can like match up like the facial movements and the eye stuff. So to like make it more realistic. So I don’t even lo… look like Victor at all. But like he just sort of reminded me of myself.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: And if you’ve seen the images of Edgar, yes, I look a lot like Edgar, don’t I? [LAUGHTER] No, no, well, no, but I mean, uh, being a part of it or being able to be Edgar and seeing it for the first time ‘cause, uh, normally I… it’ll either be myself or it’ll just be my voice if it’s an animation project. So I know, oh yeah, that’s definitely me. I can see that’s definitely me. I hear my voice. I know it’s me. But being able to be on this thing where I… I’m… I’m so distorted but it’s distorted in a good way. And then having this different voice, different persona it’s like it’s… it’s an alternate version of me in this different universe. It’s something that I’ve created. It’s not necessarily me. And so to be able to see that for the first time, it… it… it’s… it’s wonderful because it’s like an artist who… who paints a picture. Paint is what you put onto the canvas. And then you have the… the… the person who’s hands kind of gives it movement. And then the… the person who gives part of their voice to give it, uh, have it be able to talk. And then the set designers built this world where it… where it lives in. It… it all comes together and creates this… this place that our own little monsters are able to be in a sense.
And it’s also, Charlie for your character… I mean you got some really emotional scenes to play. What were… what was that like? How did you kind of prepare for that yourself?
CHARLIE TAHAN: Uh, the real… like the only like emotional scenes really were just with like me and Sparky. And because like… like, uh, I’m… like I had scenes obviously with like other people. But like half my scenes were just like just with me and Sparky. So I have a dog of my own. So I just kind of imagined that my dog was there. So, um, [LAUGHS]
And what does it feel like for you guys when you get to see this with an audience and you see the reaction? I mean… people cry. There was a lot of laughing going on too. You were a big part of creating that. How does that feel for you?
ATTICUS SHAFFER: It… it definitely for me I… I… it feels so much closer to home because, um, after recording and before going, uh, to see the screening, um, our dog that we had for six years had passed away. And so I really was able to bond and feel what Victor felt. And… and my mom was… was, uh, tears were being shed in our… in our role. And so it definitely became closer in that sense.
CHARLIE TAHAN: And I… I mean like I… like I said I’ve been… Tim Burton’s like was my favorite director… or is one of my favorite directors since I was like first started acting. I was like three or four. And, uh, no, it’s just cool to see it all come together I guess.
Are there any other directors that you’d love to work with?
CHARLIE TAHAN: Oh, they’re like speci… I mean I… I… I’ll work with anyone. Like I just worked with like Woody Allen like a couple weeks ago just I only had like two months. But they’re still cool. I mean…
ATTICUS SHAFFER: An… and for me I would love to… I would also love to work with James Cameron because he is another, uh, ground-breaking type of person. I mean with the Terminator movies and… and Titanic and Avatar and everything. It just… they all come together and they’re some of my favorite movies of all time.
Was there anything about working with Tim that kind of surprised you? Anything about his process or him as a guy?
ATTICUS SHAFFER: For me it’s… it’s… it’s definitely because of the fact that he knows exactly what he wants. It’s… it’s not in a sense of a di… of a dictator or anything like that. No. But being able to have this person who does whatever he wants, he’s not being cryptic about it and trying… trying to, uh, or… or make you guess at it. No. He’s just… he’s very this is exactly how I want it. And then us as actors we like information is conveyed to us. It is OK, I know exactly what you mean now. I can at that out and play the part.
CHARLIE TAHAN: Yeah, I use — like what Atticus said like he knows like how he wanted the scenes especially because Frankenweenie’s like about… about like, sort of about his childhood I guess. So yeah, he knows how like he wants the characters to be and how he wants scenes to be. And he was surprisingly normal. I mean not I didn’t expect him to be some like crazy like ahhh guy. [LAUGHTER] But I don’t know, he’s just like just a normal guy.
Yeah, I think that would be real surprising for a lot of people because he has such a specific vision and it is so different and everything is edgy. I mean even Hero is, you know, is dark…
ATTICUS SHAFFER: Dark. Yeah, it is. Yeah.
In that world so it’s sorta like a lot of people wouldn’t picture that he’d be a guy, you know, sitting down and eating apple pie or something like that.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: That’s still not true. Yeah.
What genres have you decided to work in like sci-fi, adventure…
CHARLIE TAHAN: I’ve… I’ve done like I… I feel like I’m always like the little like kid and like distraught. I… I’ve never done like an actual like comedy. Like I’m always like hoooo, like I don’t know. I’ve never done like an actual comedy in movies. Just kinda been like I’ve b– I’ve been in like dramas and like some action I guess. Yeah, I… I… I’ve never done like an action… but I guess there’s no like real like roles for like a fourteen year old boy. Like a good comedy.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: And for me I mean I love… I love… love comedy. That’s what I… I normally do. But being a part of like a dark comedy like this in a sense, it really is cool and different. I would love to do more Tim Burton and stuff if I’m able to. Uh, but also, uh, uh, being able to work on… on my favorite genres are like action and… and whatnot. And in sci fi I’m big like… I’m pretty much a big nerd. And I love all that stuff. Um, and so being on something like that or being on, uh, being on a film, probably a dramatic film with Liam Neeson or Russell Crowe would be, uh, a dream come true for me.
Atticus, do you think Brick and Edgar would hang out at school?
ATTICUS SHAFFER: I think they would. I really think they would. Brick might be a little freaked out at first. But… but as a… as a… as a crossover I think that’d be a very in… very interesting thing. And probably very similarities because they both wear striped shirts. So I think they could bond on that. [LAUGHTER]
You guys are both so young and you’ve had so much success already. I’m curious, do you remember back to making the decision you wanted to be an actor?
CHARLIE TAHAN: I didn’t even like… it wasn’t like I was like oh I wanna be an actor. Like I don’t know. When I was like really little like my dad always showed me like the Monty Python when I was like three. And, uh, I like… like… I got dressed like Peter Pan from like preschool to like second grade. And, um, and I… I took like acting classes at the Y. And we had like family friends that like their kids were kind of in the business. And I did like a commercial for like… for a summer. And no, I never stopped.
ATTICUS SHAFFER: And for me just because of my condition, osteo-genesis-imperfecta, I was the, uh, that’s not the reason why, but, uh, at my… at the hospital I would always go to I… I became the poster child. And, um, I would have to go to banquets and make speeches and whatnot. And I was… I wasn’t really too afraid of being in front of people or… or nervousness or stage fright or anything. I didn’t get that to like, uh, a very r… really large degree. And so, um, uh, the other thing… I got distracted. Someone came in, sorry. [LAUGHS] Uh, no, but ahhh-ahhh. [LAUGHTER] Hey, hi. No. Um, no, but and then backtracking a little bit too, uh, my mom and I… we would just always read stories out loud. We would do like little character voices and whatnot. We would just that– that’s what we did. We… it wasn’t like we’re gonna make my son a star! [LAUGHTER] No, it was never that. It was never that. No, we’re… we were very simple. My mom just… my mom even still to this day she’s not like this big, you know, gets all these clothes and whatnot. She just… she prefers to read a book or… or be in her garden and garden. But, um, we would all just read out loud. Read character voices together. And, um, and… and, uh, after going to the banquets and whatnot, uh, she just said, “You know, it be… wouldn’t it be the cutest thing if he was, uh, uh, a cartoon character or a book on tape reader or something like that?” And, um, uh, my dad at his job and a friend of his came up and said, “Hey, this is my son in this magazine right here.” Just for a picture for like, you know, Target Super Saver deal or something. Um, and my dad just was asking, you know, how did he get into it? And so he kind of just saying how… how, uh, how it was to… that he got into the business. And, um, through the course of time just kind of looking into it a little bit more, people kept saying, “Oh, why don’t you try theatrical as well? Like I’ll send you out for voiceover, but why don’t you try theatrical as well?” And we thought about it. And so we kinda just signed up. And it was actually even an accident I went on a theatrical audition. And I booked it. And, uh, and so it kinda of snowballed from there.
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