Tim Burton's Corpse Bride online

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride web site reminds us that Flash can still provide an undeniably superior user experience.

As standards enthusiasts, I think that we are often guilty of a little navel gazing when it comes to web design. In many open discussions on WSA or Style Gala, the conversation can often turn to the importance of semantics and validation and sometimes (not always) the achievements of a particular design can be overlooked.

While many might agree that all Flash sites are seldom the most appropriate ways of delivering content and are rarely the technology of choice for the purpose, I believe that there are some situations where all Flash sites deliver exactly the right user experience. Movie tie-in sites are one such area, and no where is this better demonstrated than on the site created to support Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (HTML intro)

Markup from beyond the grave

Interestingly, while the main Warner Bros web site remains firmly stuck in the dark ages when it comes to it's code, the entry page for Tim Burton's Corpse Bride makes some attempt at least at a standards based implementation. While I can't compliment the developers on their code, I should compliment them on their attempt. I'm not going to forgive them for their overuse of Macromedia JavaScript, non-semantic XHTML or infuriating pop-up windows. I am going to forget it however as the reason for writing about this site is not standards, but Flash.

The life and soul

To designers and developers who create sites entirely in Flash, I am one of those infuriating people who clicks Back within a second of seeing a Flash Loading widget. Sites created entirely in Flash are rarely appropriate (unless of course the site is the online portfolio of a Flash developer) and for many reasons which are now well documented, they present visitors with a poorer experience rather than an enhanced one.

We often read the phrase an appropriate use of Flash referring to sites which subtley embed Flash content within a properly formed page and which use the technology to provide enhanced content or functionality in a way not possible with XHTML, CSS or JavaScript. But rarely do we think of sites created entirely in Flash as being appropriate.

I would argue that sites created to support movies and video games are perhaps one of the only instances where complete Flash sites provide a near perfect experience. One which gives visitors not only content related to the movie, but an overall experience as close to seeing the movie as is possible in the browser. The Corpse Bride Flash site is a perfect example.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (Flash site)



  1. #1 On October 16, 2005 01:35 AM Laura Zucchetti said:

    I totally agree with you on the full flash websites for games and movies. It's a great way to showcase products of this nature as they do benefit from the interactive experience that flash allows. However I would like to see how it could work to have a html based site that can cleverly include flash interaction yet allow the user to turn flash off and just offer the same content in a non enhanced environment. As much as these sites can be really visually and interactively simulating, sometimes I do not have the time or the patience to learn how I can access all the content or wait for heavy downloads.

    Tonight however I had some time, and enjoyed playing the small tune on the scary piano! :D

  2. #2 On October 16, 2005 02:04 AM Abdelrahman osama said:

    The web standards concern the content. It's all about giving the content more meaning and letting it be more accessible and easy to find and navigate.

    But in a movie or game sites there isn't much content there the most important thing is the theme and the experience.

    I agree with you.

  3. #3 On October 16, 2005 02:12 AM Ara Pehlivanian said:

    As much as it's a nice experience, it would still be better if the underlying data were accessible. SVG holds that promise but is unfortunately a looooong way off.

    BTW, full flash sites on really old computers such as mine are unbearably slow. :-(

  4. #4 On October 16, 2005 03:05 AM Glen C. said:

    Eh, it's nicely designed but it's kind of hard to use. I don't know where to go to find stuff. In terms of design for design's sake it's cool, but design is supposed to enhance the usability of the site.

    It is fun to click around, though.

  5. #5 On October 16, 2005 03:30 AM Patrick Bouchard said:

    Flash is the best user experience tool for sure, but it have a lot of possibilities for the content too. We can present the content in a particular way in flash. I still think that if you want to just present content, standards is your solution, but if you want to put the "wow!" effect in your presentation, take the flash way. For the Corpse Bride web site its absolutely Wow! :o)

  6. #6 On October 16, 2005 02:17 PM Jon Henshaw said:

    Flash and Accessibility are diametrically opposed. If a web designer creates an all Flash website, then they automatically lock out users with accessibility issues. This is also true of websites that use Flash just for their navigation. It essentially locks some users out from even navigating the website, especially if Flash isn't working, or they have an older out-of-date version.

    There's a reason why search engines like Google penalize Flash-based websites in their SERPs. Google is trying to deliver good original content to everyone. In general, Flash-based websites don't achieve that (for the reasons stated above).

    IMHO, the best use of Flash is for animations. For example, using Flash to add an interesting image to a home page, or using it for distance learning educational examples is a great use for Flash. However, using Flash for navigation, or using it for the entire website, like the Corpse Bride website, may look cool, but isn�t truly considered usable and accessible.

  7. #7 On October 16, 2005 03:14 PM Matt Robin said:

    That Flash site is gorgeous....to achieve the same effects in web standards-based xhtml and css would be...well...#thinks #....it can't be done!
    Sure - accessibility issues might be screwed because of the use of Flash, but that site (and similar ones for movies) is looking damned impressive on my monitor from where I'm sitting!
    Sites like this one (The Corpses Bride) and others, used for promoting movies, are ideal for the use of Flash...to show-off what it can do (and it's doing it really well).

    So, with the particular criteria:
    A website promoting an animated movie, with numerous dynamic features, that will really impress anyone who looks at it and hopefully keep them entertained for a bit...Flash is in its element. Parts of this movie web site could certainly be made in conventional xhtml/css (with tonnes of code bloat!)...but only certain parts...and not all of it. The entire site built in Flash being a good thing? Well if it's going to have as many dynamic features as this site then...yes!
    I still think there are many flash sites that a) Don't use Flash properly and b) Shouldn't have used Flash at all....but movie promotional sites like this one are great examples of why Flash 'should' be around and 'how' it should be used effectively.

    Good article Andy (and quite a departure in theme for you from your regular posts).

  8. #8 On October 16, 2005 05:20 PM le fleau said:

    Where did they copy-pasted this from: "transistional.dtd"?
    And why the hell do they use this Netscape-favicon - if there is a individual one on the Warner Bros. site?

  9. #9 On October 16, 2005 07:28 PM Matt Wilcox said:

    "I am one of those infuriating people who clicks Back within a second of seeing a Flash Loading widget". I'm not the only person who does that? Oh, good.

    It's a nice site that creates a nice atmosphere - but try finding content you want to find, rather than just exploring. For me, its prettyness and music doesn't compensate for the frustration of using it. Especially when (having eventually found them) the wallpapers don't load in Firefox (though that might be AdBlocks fault).

  10. #10 On October 16, 2005 08:27 PM Chris Neale said:

    Netscape favicon probably indicates that the site is running on a Netscape webserver.

    According to http://uptime.netcraft.com :

    Netscape-Enterprise/4.1 on Solaris


    Aren't we all missing something fundamental - the skeletal arm of Helena Bonham Carter's character changes sides between the poster and the stills shown on the site.

  11. #11 On October 18, 2005 01:37 AM mrjay said:

    Ok - it's good stuff and I'm sold on the movie, but it's not a site I'd visit twice. How would you set about doing the site using standards and nice markup? Lots more content, interviews, peeks into the production process and behind the scenes stuff I'd wager.

    Flash is still to the web what powerpoint is to presentations. (excepting noscope.com and all those animated shorts and the like - they're ace)

  12. #12 On October 18, 2005 04:29 PM Nice Paul said:

    You're right that Flash can be an ideal medium for movie and video game websites - I'd like to add that they work well for band websites too. The music sites I've created for Sony BMG have often been Flash-centric, but I was pleasantly surprised that they don't ignore Web Standards and accessibility is a concern of theirs.

    In fact, despite its flaws, in my opinion Flash is best suited to any promotional site for an entertainment product, where a user should feel immersed in an environment which reflects the style of the product.

    Unfortunate, then, that even on broadband the Corpse Bride website has some quite bad 'loading' pauses which jerk the user out of that immersed state of mind. My betting is that when this site was shown to it's commissioners, it was hosted locally so there was no pause for a loading screen at all.


  13. #13 On October 19, 2005 09:29 PM Fredrik said:

    Accessability isn't screwed just because of Flash.

    Flash MX 2004 has a built-in accessability panel. You can define labels, tabs, keys and anchors inside the flash movie. The anchors can work just like HTML anchors and jump to a certain part of the movie.

    According to Macromedia, all text in Flash set to Dynamic instantly becomes accessible and can be read aloud. I believe that when I hear it, but never the less, Macromedia obviously makes sure to adhere to section 508.

    Also, Flash opens up for something else. There's a fair amount of dyslectics, poor sighted and minorly disabled who haven't gone about to set up the right tools for them. Flash to the rescue. You can create your own little Zoom Widgets. You, yourself, can create a function to read the text aload, and speak in all your text. Now that should be something, no busted screen readers or other services: You, the audience, your voice.

    There's also a fair amount of methods to present alternative content, and with XML you don't really have to maintain two websites either.

    Ok, I realise I'm really promoting Flash here. But there's still browser issues with Anchors. There's not really much testing done on the area that I know off and well, it still sounds wrong that Flash can be made accessible.

    Still, I'm not 100% against flash anymore. For the right purpose, I'm all for it (such as interactive elements on a website). For entire websites; it can be made to work.

    Ooh, and regarding Flash for movie pages, this acctually was a discovery I made myself: Blind people visit the theatres as well...

  14. #14 On October 20, 2005 01:23 PM Gazzer said:

    Basically I agree with the principal that Flash is great if used properly and appropriately. However, I don't agree that the Corpse Bride is a good example. It is painful to use, even on a quick connection, and the pay-off is not worth the wait.

    I got bored very quickly and abandoned the visit after visiting only three sections. I am interested in the film and I want to know things, but this site does little to help.