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Alice in Wonderland

Comic-Con 2009: Tim Burton Interview

by Mali Elfman
July 24, 2009

Tim Burton was nice enough to come down to Comic-Con for the first time ever to show audiences and press clips and talk about his upcoming film Alice in Wonderland. Sitting in a room, surrounded by sweaty press who all seemed very excited to talk to the Director, he seemed happy to promote his film, although eager to get back to finishing it. He seemed in good spirits, and after he was joined for a brief moment during the panel by Johnny Depp, he continued to talk about how he found Depp just walking around Comic-Con in a pirate outfit and their collaboration together on their upcoming movie.

Check out the full interview from the Alice in Wonderland press conference . . .

It seems be the perfect marriage, Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton seem to be the perfect marriage. What is it about this particular book that you felt through your unique responsibilities/sensibilities as a filmmaker?

Tim Burton: It wasn’t only the books, it was, you know, growing up and you hear this kind of imagery and music and songs. I don’t know, just something about the kind of imagery that he created that sort of throughout lots of different generations, it still plays in people’s minds. I think any kind of thing that has strong dream-like imagery that stays with you is just, you know, important to your subconscious and thinking and creative mind. I just felt like, you know, try to do it a different way ‘cause I had never seen a lot, any movie version that I really liked, so, they attempt was to take that imagery and try to make it into a movie.

Seeing how the movie suits you. What’s your emotional connection to it?

Well, emotional connection is that, it came from the fact from seeing other movie versions of it, that it never, I never felt an emotional connection to it. There was always a silly girl wondering around from one crazy character to another, and I never really felt a real emotional connection so it was an attempt, to really try and give it some framework and emotional grounding that I felt I hadn’t seen in any version before. That was the challenge to me, to take it, and every character is weird but to try and give their own specific weirdness so that they are all different, you know. I think all of those characters serve, indicate some type of mental weirdness that everybody goes through so, but the real attempt was to make Alice feel more like a story as opposed to a series of events.

What did Alice mean to you when you were brought up, you said it was about somebody on a weird journey trying to deal with her problems in her mind, in which way do you relate to that?

Well, it’s a fairly universal concept, of these kinds of stories, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, it’s an internal journey, I mean these characters represent things inside the human psyche. I think that’s what every child does, you try to work out your problems as you go on, same thing as an adult. Some people get therapy, some people get to make movies, you know, there are different ways of getting this sort of thing worked out.

You were described as a comic-con virgin and I wonder what is your opinion on this circus, what is it about comic con that has attracted so many people, also how did you arrange for Johnny Depp to be in that round table conversation for the public?

He was just happened to be in the neighborhood, we saw him wandering around outside dressed as Jack Sparrow . . . No, it was just nice, he came to support the movie. I’m sorry what was the question?

About the Comic Con.

Yeah, Comic Con, right. Well, I hadn’t been here, I came when I was a student. It was a few people, with a bad slideshow. This is a whole amazing, different thing. One thing that was always true about it, that people love, passion about this kind of stuff, so it always had a good feeling that way, and you know, it’s always nice to see people dressed up, I mean, I love, Halloween is my favorite time of year. This sort of extends that whole extra weekend, seeing great costumes and stuff. It’s got a great spirit to it.

Mr. Burton, looking at your canon of films, is there a certain evolution that you noticed in the last couple films?

No, I mean, I don’t know. It takes a while. It’s easier to look at things in retrospect and kind of see where you were at mentally, at the time you’re doing things, you are in that zone of in the present and all, so I think it takes time to kind of see where things lie in terms of that kind of thing. And I never try to think too much about it, just move on, try to keep moving on.

Tim, a couple weeks ago Johnny Depp mentioned that you guys compared sketches for The Mad Hatter and they were pretty much alike. Can you talk about this character and the importance of The Mad Hatter to the story?

Well, I mean, it is an iconic character, and again it’s been portrayed in animation and live action and like I said, I think with Johnny too he tries to find a grounding to the character, something that you feel other than just being mad. Again, in a lot of versions it’s a very one note kind of character and his goal was to bring out, like I said, a human side to the strangeness of the character and a, for many years, that’s all, anytime I’ve worked with him that’s what he tries to do with something, this was no exception.

Talk about your first time experiencing Alice in Wonderland, the book, the movie, the when and what was your experience?

Well, I’ve seen the imagery, and the movies I’ve seen, I’ve never like “Oh, Alice in Wonderland.” I’ve seen the Disney cartoon probably, maybe that was the first one but there’s like the 1930’s version, there’s other TV versions, like I said, I never really got into them so that was the goal, to try and make something to make sense of the characters.

Did you read the book? At what age did you read the book?

Oh, yeah. Well, I was about, in school so maybe about 8-10 or whatever. But you know, I have a weird connection, because I bought the house, I don’t know if you know the illustrator Arthur Rackham, I work, live, work out of his studio and he did, like in 1905, did some amazing versions of Alice in Wonderland and Sleepy Hollow and things that were in en vue. So felt there was a real connection between me and the material and the life and that always helps somehow.

When you were working on, pretty much building how you wanted to this in terms of how much you wanted to practically do with make-up and how much you wanted break with the effects, what are your thoughts and how might that split be and then the technology you wanted to impark?

Well, as you know, and as you can probably see here today there are so many different techniques, you know. I mean, there’s pure mocap kind of thing, and then animation, or live action, mixture of them. I just, for my own personal reasons, I just wanted to, I didn’t want to do the whole mocap thing, ‘cause I’m not personally so much into that. So I just went more with the pure animation and then live action but then try tried to warp the live action to fit into the world. So I mean all the techniques have been done before, this is sort of a new kind of mixture of them that way. So you know, it remains, still working on it so it remains to be seen how it all turns out. But the goal was, when we had actors, is to use them, and not, you know, put green dots all over them and not use them. But I mean I know it’s all, all these mediums are valid. It’s not like there’s one I think is not any better than, you just try to, whatever your project is, you use the one that works best for that project.

I’m a big fan. Just got to ask, is this more of a sequel or re-imagined?

I wouldn’t call it it’s not a sequel. There are so many stories in Alice in Wonderland, books. So its goal was to take this randomness of the books, so it’s just taking elements of the books and making itself a story. Like I said, a lot of it is based on this jabberwocky poem in one of the stories, so it’s not like, and that’s not a big part of the story but we’re just using the elements of all the books because that’s the nature, they don’t really follow a specific structure. You can go back to your planet now, thank you. [Laughter]

-- donated by AnaMaria

-- photos added by Zone editors