The parents of timid Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) aren't poor, having come into money, but neither are they rich enough to have an entry into in polite society, so when the chance arrives to marry their only son into a wealthy family they are delighted. The family are the Everglots, and their only daughter is Victoria (Emily Watson) who is understandably nervous about being engaged to a man she has never met. Both sets of the couple's parents think little of marrying for love, but when Victor and Victoria happen to meet just before the wedding rehearsal, Victoria attracted by his piano playing, they might be lucky enough to be right for each other. However, there will be an intervention to their happiness - from beyond the grave...
Director and producer Tim Burton's previous animated film was The Nightmare Before Christmas, which turned out to have staying power and is still thought of as a cult classic today. For a follow up in the same vein but without the same characters, a similarly Gothic tale was concocted by scriptwriters John August, Pamela Pettler and Caroline Thompson, and enjoyed a similar level of success. It is just as beautifully rendered as the Hallowe'en movie, with an excellent voice cast of mostly British actors, all bringing distinction to puppets already full of personality.
The village we see Victor and Victoria living in is drab and grey, much like their lives, but could they bring a little light into each other's gloomy existences? Well, they could if Victor managed to remember his wedding vows, so after the rehearsal goes disastrously wrong he wanders off into the forest to go over his ilines. It so happens that while he meanders through the twisted trees he gets it right, just as he slips the wedding ring onto what he thinks is a branch. But it's not a branch - its the skeletal finger of the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) and she is very pleased to see him.
Why? Because after hearing the vows, she now believes that she and Victor are married. The Corpse Bride (we never hear her real name) then escorts the terrified Victor down, down, down to the land of the dead which ironically is far more vibrant than the land of the living. There's a lot ironic about the story, as it's plain to see that the newlyweds would be perfect for each other if it weren't for the unfortunate fact that one spouse is dead. Danny Elfman's lively score provides the ideal soundtrack for both worlds, with the sombre village and forest contrasted with a land of the dead that resembles one of those blithely spooky cartoons from the nineteen twenties or thirties thanks in great part to his tunes.
The Corpse Bride was denied a proper marriage due to dying prematurely, and turns out to be a rather needy woman who desperately clings to the keen to escape Victor. Meanwhile, Victoria has troubles of her own when they both visit her to impart the news of the betrothal and she is considered mad by her family and locked away. To top it all, an arrogant suitor, Mr Bittern (Richard E. Grant) looms to marry her now that Victor is spoken for - how can it all end happily now? While never hilarious, the film is consistently amusing and innovative in its imagery, with Victor's childhood pet dog making a return in skeleton form, or Corpse Bride having a Jiminy Cricket-style maggot (Enn Reitel) in her skull to impart wisdom in a Peter Lorre voice. But really, this tale is as delicate as the undead bride's broken heart and just as beguiling in its eccentrically solemn way.
American director, producer and writer, frequently of Gothic flavoured fantasy who has acquired a cult following in spite of the huge mainstream success of many of his projects. He began as an animator at Disney, who allowed him to work on his own projects while animating the likes of The Fox and the Hound, which garnered the attention of Paul Reubens to direct Pee Wee's Big Adventure.