The 1968 Children’s Film That Inspired Tim Burton’s Iconic Style

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Mad Monster Party is a 1968 Halloween-themed children’s film created by the Rankin/Bass animation house and starring Universal Monsters icon Boris Karloff. It centres on Dr Frankenstein, who decides to retire from the monster-making business and calls an international roster of monsters to a creepy convention to elect his successor. Classic monster movies were enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the late 1960s along with humorous monsters like The Addams Family and The Munsters, so this campy animation was probably released at the perfect time.

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Rankin/Bass were famous for their stop motion Christmas favorites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the SnowmanMad Magazine creator Harvey Kurtzman penned the script and Mad artist Jack Davis designed many of the characters. Davis was a natural for the job, being famous both for his humor work and his monster stories in the pages of EC Comics. It has long been rumored that Forrest J. Ackerman had a hand in the script, but while the dialogue is rife with Famous Monsters of Filmland-like puns, Ackerman’s involvement has never been confirmed and his name never appeared in the on-screen credits or in original promotion for the film at the time of its release.

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So where does all this fit in to Tim Burton? Mad Monster Party was very influential on the directors short film Vincent. It’s influence can also be seen in his most famous work The Nightmare Before Christmas, particularly with regard to the musical skeletons. Burton made reference to the film’s influence on his early work in his book Burton on Burton“I had seen other stop-motion animated features, and they were either not engaging or they’re just too bizarre. There was one I liked when I was a kid called Mad Monster Party. People thought Nightmare was the first stop-motion animated monster musical, but that was.” 

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Mad Monster Party was one of several children’s projects Karloff lent his voice to in his final years. It was his final involvement in a production connected to the Frankenstein mythos that had propelled him to stardom some 36 years earlier.

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