By: Lynn Barker
Remember Dr. Frankenstein who brought a cobbled-together dead guy to life? Director Tim Burton wondered what would happen if a smart, creative, science geek kid faced the death of his beloved dog. What would you do in his place?
Kidzworld is getting the info from 14-year-olds Charlie Tahan who voices lead kid Victor Frankenstein and Atticus Shaffer, the voice of his weird classmate Edgar “E” Gore in the film. Tim Burton chose Charlie for this, his first voice role and Atticus, who co-stars in the TV show “The Middle” has voiced roles in TV’s “Fish Hooks” and “The Penguins of Madagascar”.
Kidzworld: What do you like about each of your characters?
- Charlie: I think Victor sticks out because he’s a real kid. Other characters are funny or Tim Burtony but Victor reminds me of myself. Tim films the actors in the recording sessions; their facial expressions and gestures and tries to match it up to how he animates the puppets so, although Victor didn’t look like me, it reminded me of myself.
- Atticus: In my other roles I’m calm and the semi-smart character of the show. To be able to take it all the away and go all out in a semi villain, lunatic state was a lot of fun.
Kidzworld: In the movie Victor’s dog dies. Have either of you lost a pet?
- Atticus: I’ve actually become a lot closer to this film because of the fact that, over the summer, after recording, before I saw a screening of the film, my dog that I had for six years passed away so I really became bonded with the film.
- Charlie: I’m down to one pet now. I have a dog but I’ve had hamsters and rabbits and lizards and stuff die.
Kidzworld: Was it cool to work with Tim Burton? He has worked with some great stars over and over again.
- Atticus: We have our little speck in the legacy. Absolutely. For me, being hired after the defibrillator woke me up (because I was so shocked), it was just amazing. It was just a flood of emotions. “You’re gonna meet Tim Burton and be in a Tim Burton movie!” and I get to do an impression too? That’s so awesome!
- Charlie: Yeah. I know Tim re-uses people a lot like obviously Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. It would be cool to work on something else with him.
Kidzworld: Were you guys fans of Tim Burton before this project?
- Atticus: Absolutely.
- Charlie: Yeah, definitely. He was one of my favorite directors when I was really young. I was like three or four and obsessed with Nightmare Before Christmas. I didn’t even know it was a Tim Burton movie but also Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Loved that movie.
- Atticus: And, for me, Corpse Bride because that was the first Tim Burton film I’ve seen start to finish. I’d seen parts of Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands but Corpse Bride made me fall in love with Tim Burton, his mindset and everything because he’s just so creative and groundbreaking. He wants to do things that are outside the box, not the stereotyped, usual way. I watched Alice in Wonderland and didn’t understand too much then watched it a second time and now it’s one of my favorite movies.
Sparky (later Frankenweenie) and Victor
Kidzworld: About your impression, had you heard (classic movie star) Peter Lorre’s voice before? Did they just tell you to sound like him? He had a pretty weird voice.
- Atticus: The very first audition, they just said have it be like Igore. Have an Igore feel to him. I kind of knew how to play that. Then the second and third audition, they said “If possible, do a Peter Lorre impression” and the home-schoolers that me and my mom are, we went and rented The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca and I just sat down and really worked hard on the emotion in his voice and put it into the character.
Kidzworld: You guys are modern teens and part of the whole techno age so how do you feel about this film being done in black and white?
- Charlie: I thought it was cool. It was the first black and white 3-D animated feature film ever. I feel like he had to make it black and white because of all the old (film) references to like Gamorra and Gremlins and stuff and other references to the monster movies.
- Atticus: Plus it is a tribute to all the old black and white films made, all the classics, all the original ideas, not the spoofs and spinoffs. It’s this original concept and brought together as a tribute to them. Also, the fact that it will, hopefully, inspire a new generation, to say “Hey, this film was in black and white, maybe I should watch the older black and white classic films”.
Victor (Charlie), family and dog watch a 3-D film
Kidzworld: Because the Victor character was close to Tim’s own upbringing, Charlie, did he give you any specific advice on how to play him and did you base your character on Tim a little bit?
- Charlie: He didn’t give me any really specific direction. He just told me that Victor is a real kid. It wasn’t just based on him. It wasn’t an autobiography but he wanted me to be myself, a normal kid. I didn’t have to put on a crazy voice. Victor is not a Tim Burtony, scary character. He’s a real kid. He didn’t want me to act like him.
- Atticus: Cutting in here, I was remembering that working on the animation, instead of saying “No. That’s not how it should be”, Tim would say “No, that’s not how it was”. So, I definitely think there were aspects of him and his past put into the film.
- Charlie: I guess I kind of reminded him of himself, maybe. He just told me if I just acted like myself I’d be more what he wanted.
Victor hopes his dog will live
Kidzworld: Atticus, you are an old hand at doing voice work. What is it about it that you like and did you have any tips for Charlie?
- Atticus: We just met yesterday (they recorded their voices separately). We’ve been doing this (publicity for the film) this entire weekend. We haven’t had time to talk. We’ve said “Hi, how are you?” but I love doing voice-over, impressions and accents. I originally got into acting to do voice-over and, along the way, I fell into theatrical film but I’ve always kept this close to heart. During voice-over, especially with something like this, I feel like (I’m creating something). In a (feature film) we’ve already been created and we’re putting on different make-up, different personas and that’s the character.
Something like this, everything is hand-made. You have the hand-made puppets (for stop-motion animation) and they are given movement by the animators, then they are given a voice by us as the actors. Then, they get a world to live in because of the set builders. It’s this whole team to create this one character’s world. Being able to create that world is absolutely fantastic.
Kidzworld: Do you think this is too scary for some kids? What is the age cut off?
- Charlie: It can be anything. It’s not like a horror movie. It has references to old horror movies but it’s not really scary. It’s a kids’ movie. If parents think their kids will be afraid of it, I guess don’t take them to see it.
- Atticus: Have parents exercise their judgment which is something I hope that people still do, not where I live.. not really, no never. But parents need to exercise their judgment. If they think it’s too scary, it’s too scary but if not, I think it has a great message and it can inspire that new generation.
Atticus with character statues
Kidzworld: I think adults sometimes underestimate the scary level that most kids can endure.
- Atticus: Now me, no! I could never deal with scary stuff. I was in one scary movie (The Unborn) and I’m still having nightmares about that. No scary movies for me but something like this is not designed to be a horror movie. It’s designed to be a tribute to the old horror movies which weren’t that scary. They were scary at the time, yes but looking at the now and having like Saw 15 out, they aren’t scary.
Kidzworld: So you don’t watch scary movies? Not even for Halloween?
- Atticus: No. At Halloween, where I live, you stay at home and protect your property. That’s Halloween at my house. Halloween’s not my favorite holiday. I do dress up because it’s an excuse (to do) that. But I’m probably staying home to protect the property.
Charlie and his character Victor
Kidzworld: Will there be a Halloween episode on your TV show “The Middle”?
- Atticus: There has been but not an in-depth one. The comment is being made that Halloween isn’t as fun anymore and I can see why with all the crazies out there.
Kidzworld: Charlie, how did you get started in acting?
- Charlie: When I was really little, like three, my dad was showing me Monty Python. I liked movies a lot and dressed up like Peter Pan until first grade every day. I took acting classes at the Y. We had family friends whose kids were in the business and I tried a commercial one summer and never stopped.
Kidzworld: What do you like about it?
- Charlie: It’s fun! There is no list of reasons of what I love about it, I just liked it.
Edgar Gore voiced by Atticus Shaffer
Kidzworld: Both of you, is there any particular type of role you would like to play that you haven’t gotten to play yet?
- Charlie: I feel like I always play the shy, sensitive kid in distress, like a zombie. I haven’t done a full-blown comedy but there aren’t any big comedy roles for a 14-year-old boy. That’s something I haven’t done at all.
- Atticus: I had such a good experience being on Frankenweenie, I would love to do another Tim Burton, either animation or a feature film where there is a dark take on things, a dark comedy at times or work on a dramatic film with either Liam Neeson or Russell Crowe.
Kidzworld: Do you want to continue acting?
- Charlie: Definitely.
- Atticus: I love acting. For me, acting is a way of being a story-teller. I love telling a story where I’m the character but my hope is to go to college and become a writer/director and be able to tell stories from a different point of view.
Kidzworld: Charlie, did you incorporate any of the old Frankenstein movies into your performance?
- Charlie: I was familiar with the stories. I like Young Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. I saw bits and pieces of the original ones but Tim didn’t want me to try to become Dr. Frankenstein; just be that real kid.
Little Frankenweenie in happy times
Kidzworld: What is your own phobia? What are you afraid of?
- Atticus: Oh, I’m deathly afraid of arachnids; centipedes and spiders and scorpions. I can’t play videogames like “Skyward” (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward) because they’ll be the giant, huge fancy-like versions like Frodo had to fight. I’m not brave like Frodo. I’m like “aaaaaaa”. I’ll see one in my house and I’m like “Mom, can you get that while you have your shoes on? You want me to use your flip-flop (to squash it)?”
- Charlie: I’m really afraid of stink bugs, these weird rectangle-shaped brown bugs and if you touch them they spray this evil, horrible stuff. It smells like poisonous socks (laughter). I’ve been sprayed by them like seven times and nobody in my family has gotten sprayed by them. I found them in my clothes. I live in New Jersey and they’re all around there. Apparently they came from China and they’re pretty scary.