If it weren’t for Tim Burton, stop-motion puppetry (as opposed to Chicken Run-style Claymation) might be altogether, well, dead. The director-producer last resurrected the medium with 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, a Disney musical that did reasonable business before the dawn of CG features (and spawned an ongoing line of Goth-friendly merchandise). Warner greenlit Corpse Bride before gearing up for Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…and Bride may be the riskier proposition. It’s a tortured romance, not a kid-friendly fable: Bumbling aesthete Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp) accidentally betroths himself to a dead-and-buried woman (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, Burton’s real-life wife) while rehearsing vows meant for an earthly mate (voiced by Emily Watson). Furious when Victor balks, the undead aspirant takes consolation from a little green worm pal who lives inside her head and pops out of her eye socket now and again.
Did anybody at Warner think such touches were a bit ghoulish for a movie that cost something close to $40 million (admittedly much cheaper than Pixar’s CG movies) and needs to draw a family audience? ”There really hasn’t been much studio interference,” says codirector Mike Johnson (TV’s The PJs). ”They trust Tim, and I guess they look on it as kind of his pet project. As long as he’s happy with it, they don’t question it too much.”