Corpse Bride, often promoted as Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, is a 2005 stop-motion-animated fantasy musical film directed by Mike Johnson and Tim Burton. It is set in a fictional Victorian era village in Europe. Johnny Depp led an all-star cast as the voice of Victor, while Helena Bonham Carter (for whom the project was specially created) voiced Emily, the title character. Corpse Bride is the third stop-motion feature-film produced by Tim Burton (not including his short film Vincent), the first two being The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.
The film was nominated in the 78th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, but was bested by Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was shot with a battery of Canon EOS-1D Mark II digital SLRs, rather than the 35mm film cameras used for Burton's previous stop-motion film The Nightmare Before Christmas.
In an unnamed European village, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), the son of nouveau riche fish merchants, and Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson), the neglected daughter of hateful aristocrats, are preparing for their arranged marriage. Both have concerns about marrying someone they do not know, but they fall in love when they first meet. After the shy, clumsy Victor ruins the wedding rehearsal, he flees and practices his wedding vows in the nearby forest, placing the wedding ring on an upturned tree root.
The root turns out to be the finger of a dead young woman clad in a tattered bridal gown, who rises from the grave believing that she is now Victor's wife. Spirited away to the surprisingly festive Land of the Dead, the bewildered Victor learns the story of Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) his new “bride”, murdered years ago on the night of her elopement. Meanwhile, Victoria's parents hear that Victor has been seen in another woman's arms, and become suspicious.
Emily gives Victor a wedding present which after he opens it, believes to be full of bones much to his shock. However, the bones assemble themselves into the form of a playful dog, whom Victor recognizes as his old pet dog, Scraps, who he is delighted to see. Victor then comes up with an idea to trick Emily into taking him back to the Land of the Living by pretending he wants her to meet his parents. She agrees to this and takes him to see Elder Gutknecht (Michael Gough), the kindly ruler of the underworld, to send him and Emily temporarily to the Land of the Living. Once back home, Victor asks Emily to wait in the forest while he rushes off to see Victoria and confesses he wishes to marry her as soon as possible, and she too gladly returns his feelings. Emily soon arrives and sees the two of them together and feeling betrayed and hurt, she drags Victor back to the Land of the Dead and, after a brief argument, wanders off heartbroken.
Victoria tells her parents that Victor has been forcibly wed to a dead woman, but they believe she has lost her mind and lock her up in her bedroom. With Victor gone, Victoria's parents decide to marry her off to a presumably wealthy newcomer in town named Lord Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant), and do so against her will.
Victor comes to Emily's home where she is seen still heartbroken, playing the piano. Victor apologizes for lying to her and he plays the piano alongside her. The two share smiles after playing a duet and have reconciled. Then Victor's family coachman appears in the afterlife (having recently died) and informs Victor of Victoria's impending marriage to Lord Barkis. Victor frets about having lost his chance with Victoria, and overhears Elder Gutknecht state that the marriage between Victor and Emily is invalid as death has already parted them. Victor must die to make the vows valid. Emily feels awkward about this and says she could never ask him to die for her, but he enters the room and he agrees to do so despite Elder Gutknecht's warning that if he does he will never be able to return to the Land of the Living. All of the dead go “upstairs” to the Land of the Living to perform the ceremony. Upon their arrival, there is a temporary panic among the living until each side recognizes each other's loved ones and they have a joyous reunion under the bizarre circumstances.
After a quarrel with Lord Barkis, Victoria follows the procession of dead to the church. As Victor prepares to drink a cup of poison to kill himself, Emily notices Victoria and has second thoughts, realizing that she is denying Victoria her chance at happiness. Lord Barkis interrupts them, and Emily recognizes him as her former fiance, who murdered her for her dowry. Lord Barkis tries to kidnap Victoria at sword point, but Victor stops him and the two men duel. Emily intercedes to save Victor, and Lord Barkis mockingly proposes a toast to Emily, accidentally drinking the cup of poison. The dead drag the "new arrival" away to the Land of the Dead, presumably to punish him for his evil.
Emily sets Victor free of his vow to marry her, giving the wedding ring back to Victor and her wedding bouquet to Victoria before exiting the church. As she steps into the moonlight, she transforms into hundreds of butterflies, presumably finding her eternal rest, as Victor and Victoria look on.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Johnny Depp ... Victor Van Dort (voice)
Helena Bonham Carter ... Corpse Bride (voice)
Emily Watson ... Victoria Everglot (voice)
Tracey Ullman ... Nell Van Dort / Hildegarde (voice)
Paul Whitehouse ... William Van Dort / Mayhew / Paul The Head Waiter (voice)
Joanna Lumley ... Maudeline Everglot (voice)
Albert Finney ... Finis Everglot (voice)
Richard E. Grant ... Barkis Bittern (voice)
Christopher Lee ... Pastor Galswells (voice)
Michael Gough ... Elder Gutknecht (voice)
Jane Horrocks ... Black Widow Spider / Mrs. Plum (voice)
Enn Reitel ... Maggot / Town Crier (voice)
Deep Roy ... General Bonesapart (voice)
Danny Elfman ... Bonejangles (voice)
Stephen Ballantyne ... Emil (voice)
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Tim Burton
Screenplay by John August