Ostensibly, Tim Burton’s latest stop-motion animated feature Frankenweenie may not have looked like the most fitting choice to open yesterday’s 56th BFI London Film Festival, but this Disney co-production is very much a UK-led venture. It was filmed at the 3 Mills Studios in East London by a team of talented home-grown artists and primarily brought to life via the fevered imagination of an iconic filmmaker who now counts the city as his permanent domicile.

A typically crisp autumn evening awaited the film’s cast members as they walked the red carpet last night. The director himself was accompanied by long-time partner Helena Bonham Carter (who will be making a return trip with the festival’s closing film, Great Expectations) alongside most of Frankenweenie’s principal voice artists – Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and the legendary Martin Landau.

Inside the Odeon, opening speeches were made by Amanda Nevill, Chief Executive of the BFI and new Festival Director Clare Stewart, before Burton and his team were ushered on stage. Stewart talked briefly about some of the changes she has implemented this year, which sees the festival expand beyond its central hub, offering cinema lovers more opportunity and scope. This idea of broadening the festival was very much apparent last night with the decision to simultaneously screen Frankenweenie in 30 cinemas across the country.

The film itself is a welcome return to form for Burton. Loaded with some imaginatively staged homages to beloved horror films from the past, Frankenweenie delivers that perfect blend of dark humour and wide-eyed innocence evident in the director’s best work. Burton’s decision to use a now antiquated animation model lends the film much of its charm, and the audience’s ecstatic response at last night’s screening was proof that the choice was a shrewd one.

Following the screening, Wapping’s Tobacco Dock offered an appropriately atmospheric after party venue with its cavernous vaults and gothic Victorian brickwork, and all in all, this was a tremendously enjoyable start to a festival which promises many more delights to come.

Frankenweenie is on general release from October 17, our review is here and the LFF runs from now until October 21.

American Express is the headline sponsor of the 56th BFI London Film Festival, one of the handpicked events that make up the 2012 American Express Preferred Seating programme. For more information visit amex.co.uk/potential

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