SAN DIEGO - Back in the day, Tim Burton remembers critics finding his take on Batman rather gloomy.
Burton's Dark Knight looked as though he was having fun in the sun compared to where the current Batman series has taken the comic-book vigilante on the big-screen.
"I recall at the time, people worried about our version being too dark," Burton said of his 1989 "Batman" and the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns." ''It's like, well, it looks like a lighthearted romp in comparison. 'Batman on Ice.'"
Opening next week, "The Dark Knight Rises" wraps up director Christopher Nolan's trilogy that launched with 2005's "Batman Begins" and continued with 2008's "The Dark Knight."
Nolan elevated the superhero genre to grand proportions, with Christian Bale's Batman becoming a haunted wreck and a hunted fugitive unjustly condemned by the city which he gave his all to protect.
Burton's Batman, played by Michael Keaton, was a dark soul, too, but the films had a levity and a campier quality that has diminished as today's stream of superhero flicks take their idols and action more seriously.
"The great thing about what comics have done is that you can take something and look at it in different ways," Burton said in an interview at the Comic-Con fan convention, where he showed off footage of his animated comedy "Frankenweenie," due out Oct. 7.
"It's like a folk tale or fairy tale. You can kind of revisit things and show things in a different way."
Burton, whose biggest commercial success began a decade after his Batman movies with such blockbusters as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Alice in Wonderland," is revisiting one of his own early stories with "Frankenweenie."
The tale of a boy who resurrects his dead dog, Frankenstein-style, started at a live-action short film Burton directed in 1984. He has expanded on the story to create a feature-length black-and-white update using stop-motion animation, in which puppets are moved and photographed meticulously one frame at a time.
"I felt quite grateful that I got to do the original in live action, because I was, A., a bad animator, and B., not very communicative, so it really forced me to talk," said Burton, whose "Frankenweenie" voice cast includes past collaborators such as Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short. "If I'd done stop-motion at the time, which I don't think would have happened, I probably wouldn't have been able to move into live-action like I did."
"So all these years later, to come back and to do it in I think its more pure form, stop-motion, exploring other kids, other monsters, weird teachers, things related to the story that were kind of rattling around, made it feel like it was a new thing. I didn't feel like I was just revisiting something. It felt like it was a whole new project."