Monday, July 20, 2009

Tim Burton Assembles 'Mysterious Puzzle' For 'Alice In Wonderland'

First-look photos of the newest, nuttiest "Alice in Wonderland" movie — Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter with squiggles of orange hair leaping like flames from his head, Anne Hathaway's White Queen sealing shut her blood-red lips — popped out of the rabbit hole that is Tim Burton's wacked-out mind in June.

Actual footage of the big-screen version of Lewis Carroll's famed children's story, though, has not yet surfaced. But at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, Alice and her troupe of wackadoodle creatures will move among us — albeit on Disney Digital 3-D.

Before heading to that altar of movie geekdom, Burton spoke with MTV News about the flaws of earlier "Alice" adaptations, what it takes to make an unforgettable Mad Hatter, and the technological challenges inherent in a boundary-pushing cinematic adventure.

"There's pure [motion-capture] stuff, and then there's stuff that has mixed animation and live-action — it kind of blurs the lines," Burton said. "It's a strange process we're dealing with. We're using a mix of techniques. If you picked them apart, each technique has been done before. We're mixing them up, in a way. ... It's a real mysterious puzzle that's frightening and exciting at the same time."

Burton's version picks up with Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as a 17-year-old, after she's forgotten her maiden Wonderland voyage and accidentally falls, once again, down the rabbit hole. For Burton, the decision to update the story stemmed from the disjointed storytelling in previous "Alice" movies.

"It's a series of stories," he explained. "For me, that's always been a problem with the movie versions of it. It's always been a girl going from one weird adventure to another, and for me it didn't have much of an impact in the versions I'd seen before. Everyone's crazy. We tried to take the 'Alice' mythology and characters and make a story out of it and be true to the spirit of what 'Alice' is about. The other versions for me suffer because there's no movement to it. It's just one weird event after another. We're trying to ground it a little a bit."

That emphasis on grounding the story extended to Depp's take on the Hatter. "When you look at most interpretations, everything is pretty one-note," Burton said. "With him, we are always trying to find a subtext and layer to it, so it's rooted in humanity to some degree — something deeper than just being nuts."

While the film isn't scheduled for release until early next year, Burton is working night and day sorting out the various technological obstacles of seamlessly integrating motion-capture, animation and live-action. It's an undertaking that has become all-consuming.

"I have to spend every waking moment on it. There's a lot to be done in a very short period of time," he admitted, just days before he'll travel to the Con to show off some of what he's accomplished thus far.

Check out everything we've got on "Alice in Wonderland."

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