Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is an outcast in the sleepy community of New Holland, where he lives with his parents (Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara).
His only friend is the family’s bull terrier Sparky, who has a crush on Persephone, the pampered black poodle that lives next door with Victor’s classmate Elsa Van Helsing (Ryder).
When tragedy strikes and Sparky is laid to rest in the pet cemetery, Victor is plunged into despair.
Then teacher Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau) plants the seed of an outlandish idea.
“Science is not good or bad, Victor, but it can be used both ways,” counsels Mr Rzykruski.
In the dead of night, the boy digs up Sparky, constructs a machine to harness lightning and the dog is reborn.
Once classmates Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao), Bob (Robert Capron) and Edgar (Atticus Shaffer) discover Victor’s breakthrough, they plot similar experiments with their pets.
Writer-director Tim Burton has dealt with the pain of grief and solitude before, most powerfully in Edward Scissorhands - another haunting fable about a misfit out of step with his off-kilter surroundings.
John August’s script tugs the heartstrings without ever being cloying and the grand finale is orchestrated at a brilliant, breathless pace.