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'Frankenweenie's' Charile Tahan Explains What It's Like To Be Directed By Tim Burton

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Charlie Tahan plays Victor Frankenstein in Tim Burton's
Charlie Tahan plays Victor Frankenstein in Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie"

Charlie Tahan wasn't like most preschoolers. The 14-year-old star of "Frankenweenie" was into Monty Python and Tim Burton when he was 3, a far cry from people like me, who enjoyed "Sesame Street," "The Electric Company" and, sometimes, "Zoom" at that same age.

In "Frankenweenie," Tahan voices Victor, a young boy who discovers a way to bring his dog, Sparky, back to life after a traffic accident. Unfortunately, this has unexpected repercussions, something that Victor -- along with his parents (voiced by Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara) -- are charged with resolving. Here, Tahan explains what it was like to be directed by his childhood idol and why he wasn't scared by another movie that he was in, "I Am Legend."

I've always wondered this: When you audition for an animated film, how to you beat out others when everyone is just trying to sound "like a kid"?
Well, I used my normal voice. It was three years ago when I auditioned in 2009. And I don't know if they knew or not for sure, but they said they didn't know if it would be live-action or animated. But I knew it was a Tim Burton movie and I've been a fan of him since I was really little -- at 3 or 4 years old I was obsessed with "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

How is that possible? How do you understand a Tim Burton movie at 3 years old?
I don't know. I also thought "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" was funny. I mean, I didn't prepare for it really that much. I don't try and be competitive with auditions. When I go on one, I kind of just forget about it.

So you did the voice work three years ago?
Oh, no. I had the audition three years ago. My last session was only two months ago, actually. And I actually only worked 10 days on the entire movie over the course of three years. Like, actually hearing my voice in the movie -- I mean, nobody else is going to watch it and say, "Oh, that kid's voice changed." But I notice it a little bit -- not drastically.

When I spoke to Martin Short for "Madagascar 3," he mentioned that he got to record dialogue for "Frankenweenie" with the rest of the cast.
Nobody was together for this.

Oh, really?
I actually think Martin recorded sometimes with Catherine O'Hara. I didn't record with anyone any of the time.

It's interesting that Winona Ryder voices a love interest of sorts, but she's not 14.
Well, I don't think it's like a love interest. I don't think it's specified. The kids are supposed to be 10. They just sort of understood each other more than like liked each other.

Obviously it's a Tim Burton movie, but there are some intense imagery in "Frankenweenie." Dog parts often fall off of Sparky.
I think when his parts are falling off, that's sort of meant to be funny.

There is a scene at the end that I won't spoil, but I was shocked what happens to one of the animals that we have come to know.
Yeah, that was the one part that I was like, "Oh my God." It didn't even cross my mind the first time I saw it. And the second time I was like, "Really?" But it's not really like a horror movie -- it has references to horror movies and stuff -- but to some kids ... I mean, it's not out to actually scare people. I had adult family friends from L.A. who have had dogs that have died in the past, and the part where you see him die, that's the one part that people actually are, not scared by, but most emotional.

What kid of direction does Tim Burton give when you're doing voice work?
He has a pretty clear vision of what he wants. Especially because "Frankenweenie" is sort of like a personal project, because it's sort of loosely based on his childhood, I guess.

And it was a short film, too.
Yeah. So, obviously, the "Frankenweenie" idea has been in his mind since the '80s. Since he made the short film, it's always been an idea. So he's probably thought about it a lot. He knows what he wants. And besides from giving direction, he's a cool guy -- he's surprisingly more normal than what people would picture.

Did you get to keep any of the stop-motion characters?
I did. I got to keep a Victor doll and it's upstairs in my room right now.

Did it come with a Sparky?
No. It's just Victor. It's still cool. I had no idea but my mom knew months in advance. They didn't tell me, they just showed up with him. I was like, "Oh my God."

You were in "I Am Legend." Did you get to see that movie when it came out? Or was it too intense when you were that age?
My dad is into movies and they let me watch movies. I was obsessed with Monty Python when I was in preschool -- I don't know why. So I wasn't really scared.

Monty Python? Really? I was obsessed with "Sesame Street" when I was in preschool.
[Laughs] No, I also did love "Sesame Street"! But I wasn't ever like scared by movies, really. I started watching actual movies when I was pretty young. So, I didn't think about it at the time when "I Am Legend" came out. I just watched it.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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