After watching Frankenweenie for the first time at its Fantastic Fest premiere last night (read our review), it's not hard to walk away from it without immediately recalling Tim Burton's earlier films, most notably Beetlejuice. There are a lot of similarities between Frankenweenie and Beetlejuice -- from a camera-obsessed kid, to the mysterious (and ghoulish) happenings in the upstairs attic, it certainly feels like Burton tapped in to pieces of his earlier works (the suburban landscape felt very Edward Scissorhands-ish) while conjuring up the world of Frankenweenie, itself based on an earlier live-action short Burton made four years before Beetlejuice.
This also seems to be the case with Winona Ryder's character, Elsa. Not only does she resemble a younger version of Lydia from Beetlejuice physically, but Elsa is also a quiet loner with a goth look (like Lydia) who observes her odd next door neighbor Victor and his filmmaking obsession from a distance. So is it possible that Elsa is actually Lydia, and that Frankenweenie is really a Beetlejuice prequel detailing the events that took place when Lydia was a little girl?
Well, not quite. The two films definitely share similarities in look and feel, but that's as far as it goes. What's interesting to note, though, is that while performing the role of Elsa, Ryder admitted to reaching back and imagining a younger version of her character from Beetlejuice. During a press conference promoting Frankenweenie, she said [via Movieline], "I drew a little bit on my character Lydia from Beetlejuice. I imagined her as a little girl — and also I imagined what Tim was like at that age, sort of shy but super creative.” She added, "Tim actually used some of the same direction and same words that he used the first time on Beetlejuice, which was just to keep it very real.”
Considering all that, perhaps it's fair to say that Frankenweenie is a Beetlejuice prequel... in spirit (wink). Okay, so if it's not a prequel, then will we get that Beetlejuice sequel? “A writer’s writing it,” Burton noted at the press conference, “but I just said ‘Surprise me, so I don’t know when it’s coming, if it’s going to be any good, whatever.'”