Tim Burton’s successful career spans over two decades and boasts such hits as Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands. His latest project, Alice in Wonderland is a live action, CGI animated adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In the film, he reunites with frequent collaborators Johnny Depp, who stars as The Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter who plays The Red Queen to expose a new generation to the classic tale.
Alice in Wonderland has been “Burtonized” with its heavy Gothic elements, and its visual detail. Like most films these days, it’s in 3D and utilizes a lot of CGI. When the director appeared at the official press conference for the movie he discussed the controversial reasoning behind why he shot the film in 2D and converted it later. Plus, he let us in on the changes he made to the story that will make his version of the film stick out. He doesn’t heavily alter the material, he just modernizes it in a way that only Tim Burton could.
Like most people, when we found out that Burton was directing a new feature version of Alice in Wonderland we weren’t sure what to make of it. He’s extremely talented, but his ideals and the story didn’t seem to mesh. As a guy born and raised in California, he discussed how the story was exposed to him much later in life.
Well I’m from Burbank, so we never heard about Alice in Wonderland except for the Disney cartoon, Tom Petty video, or Jefferson Airplane. It was interesting because that’s what made me realize the power of it. I got my introduction to it much more from other illustrators and music and culture and writers — the imagery would come up in work. Then when you start to delve into it and realize just how powerful that is, it’s why it sort of remains that way.
He also doesn’t see the story as black and white, one or the other. This isn’t so much a remake as it is an interpretation of the story that he would like and enjoy.
There have been so many versions and for me, I’d never seen a version that I really liked. So I didn’t feel like there was a definitive version to me that we were fighting against. And also, I liked what Linda [Woolverton] did with the script. She almost treated this story like how the Alice material has affected us, at least for me. It’s a story about somebody using this kind of imagery and this kind of world to figure out problems and things in their own life, and what’s fantasy and reality and dreams and reality — how they are not separate things, that they’re one thing. It’s how we use those things to deal with our issues in life.
After he decided to tackle the film and work with Disney, we wanted to know why he went for 3D. There are too many movies to count that are being released in the same format and at this point it’s seen as a marketing gimmick more than anything else, but Burton thinks the story of Alice in Wonderland naturally calls for it.
It just seemed like the world that Lewis Carroll created, just the kind of trippiness, and the size/spatial element — Then I started thinking about the world of Lewis Carroll and thinking not so much about the films and things, but I knew more about it from listening to music and bands and other illustrators and artists that would incorporate that imagery in their work. It just made me realize just how powerful the material was. Like if it were written today, it would be mind-blowing today. So the combination of the medium and the material just seemed really right.
Unlike James Cameron who shot his movie Avatar completely in 3D, Burton filmed in the traditional 2D format and converted it later. He explained his reasoning behind the decision to do it in post production as opposed to during the shoot.
Just because all the techniques we were using, there’s no point shooting in 3D when there’s nothing to shoot. So we were using so many different techniques. We didn’t go motion capture, we had live action, we had animation, we had virtual sets — a little bit of sets. So I looked from when we did the conversion from Nightmare, Ken Ralston and I looked at things that were shot in 3D and shot in 2D conversion and it’s like anything. All of these tools, you can see good 3D, bad 3D, good conversions, bad conversions. We always knew it was 3D, so we did all the proper planning so when we got to that stage — when we got the elements finally together– it was just another piece of the technology. In fact, that was probably more some of the easier technology than the other elements that we were dealing with.
The film is visually stunning and you can see that the director made good use of the technology he had on hand. But it makes you wonder if there was anything Burton wanted to do but couldn’t.
We were just using all the different technology. They’re all out there. People go purely motion capture, purely animation, different forms of animation. Everything’s a new tool. You always have limitations. You can do more. It’s all great, but I never try to focus too much on the technology. The fun of it for us is the artistic thing of it and feeling like making a movie and stuff and not get overly too involved, in love with the technology.
Alice in Wonderland debuts in theaters on Friday, March 5, 2010.