Friday, March 26, 2010
The new documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty is now in select cinemas in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. The film examines the "renaissance" of Disney feature animation in the 1980s and 1990s, and features numerous people who have affected the world of animation today, including a young Tim Burton.
Here is the trailer:
Cartoon Brew had these details for people in New York City and Los Angeles:
Don Hahn will make Q&A appearances in L.A. after the following showings this weekend:
Friday, March 26 — Q&A following the 7:45pm showing at AMC Century City
Saturday, Marcy 27 — Q&A following 1210p-150p show at the AMC Burbank 16, 125 East Palm Ave
Saturday, March 27 — Q&A following 7:55-9:35p show at the AMC Burbank 16, 125 East Palm Ave
[Producer] Peter Schneider will make Q&A appearances this weekend in NYC after the following showings at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinemas on Houston Street:
Friday, March 26 — Q&A following the 5pm and 7:15pm showings.
Saturday, Marcy 27 — Q&A following the 12 noon, 2:30pm, 5pm and 7:15pm showings.
Saturday, March 27 — Q&A following the 12 noon, 2:30pm and 5pm showings.
Here's an exclusive clip from Cartoon Brew's YouTube channel:
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Hollywood Reporter has said that Linda Woolverton -- who wrote the screenplay for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland -- is attached as the screenwriter for Maleficent, an upcoming fantasy film from Disney that intends to tell the classic "Sleeping Beauty" story from the villain's perspective.
The studio has attached Tim Burton as a potential director of the project, but the hiring of Woolverton is only the first concrete step in making this project a reality. Burton is circling numerous forthcoming projects, and there has been no word on his involvement with Maleficent since the idea first spread online in January.
Disney has not made an official comment on this development yet.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Ain't It Cool News caught Don Hahn down at the SXSW festival during a Q&A for his new documentary, Waking Sleeping Beauty (which looks at the Disney renaissance of the 1980s and early 1990s, and features Tim Burton as a young animator). Hahn will be an executive producer for Tim Burton's forthcoming Frankenweenie, and mentioned the animated film.
Harry Knowles paraphrases Don Hahn, who said that "the puppets are ready, the script is done and now that Tim Burton is clear of Alice in Wonderland... he's set to helm Frankenweenie in 3D."
Tim Burton has been wanting to adapt his live-action short film Frankenweenie for over 25 years. The stop-motion version will be released in either 2011 or 2012. Filming will take place in London.
Friday, March 19, 2010
There has been a lot of talk of Tim Burton approaching various film projects, either as a director or producer. The latest of these reports were of Burton directing a 3D, stop-motion adaptation of The Addams Family.
MTV News decided to reach out to Burton's people, but they stated the following after directly contacting the filmmaker:
"There is no truth to the story. Tim has not lined up any of his upcoming projects."
Perhaps Burton was merely pitched by the studio as a possible candidate to direct a new version of The Addams Family. But for now, nothing official has been made, and there is no substance to the claims.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Deadline.com has stated that Tim Burton might be directing a 3D, stop-motion animated adaptation of Charles Addams comics, The Addams Family.
Illumination Entertainment, the Universal-based family film unit headed by Chris Meledandri (who has produced Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who, and is producing the forthcoming Despicable Me and Flanimals), has acquired the underlying rights of the Addams drawings, once a staple of The New Yorker magazine. Burton is reportedly being considered as a director by the studio.
Meladandri will produce the film. Kevin Miserocchi of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation will be executive producer. A writer will be hired shortly.
If these plans come to fruition, this new Addams Family movie will be the second stop-motion feature coming from Tim Burton. Burton is still directing his feature-length animated adaptation of Frankenweenie.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Director Tim Burton went to Paris this Monday to be inducted into France's National Order of Arts and Letters alongside Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard.
France's Cultural Minister Frederic Mitterand named Burton an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters and Cotillard a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters at the ceremony held at the Cultural Ministry.
Burton called the award "one of the biggest honors I've ever received."
"From the beginning of my career, I always felt a very special place in my heart (for) France," he told the crowd of journalists and fans. "Because whether or not you liked the movies, I always felt that the French were looking for the poetry, looking for the meaning, looking for the things I was trying to do.
"France has such a special place in my heart and I feel much more at home here than I do in my own country, and I always have," he said, adding: "I thank you very much."
Burton will head back to France in May to serve as jury president at this year's Festival de Cannes. Cotillard thanked Burton. She said that Burton "in a way opened the doors to American cinema to me," thanks to her role in his 2003 film, Big Fish, "and has always been my idol," she said.
Burton's latest film, Alice in Wonderland, will have its French premiere on Monday, before hitting Gallic screens on March 24th.
All photos: AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The store is also featuring Wonderland-inspired clothing to buy inside.
Helena Bonham Carter on Johnny Depp's futterwaken:
Helena Bonham Carter on her favorite villain:
Anne Hathaway on women's roles:
Matt Lucas may now be best known to people outside of the UK as Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice in Wonderland (this is his first American film). But for playing such rotund "fat boys" (as the Red Queen describes them), Lucas looks different, says the Los Angeles Times.
“I’ve lost 50 pounds since I made the movie,” said Lucas as he declined a free bucket of buttery popcorn at the world premiere. “No popcorn for me.”
Lucas admits that he isn't exactly Hollywood's vision of pretty, but that doesn't stop him.
“I adore watching people like Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill but I wouldn’t necessarily cast myself in those roles,” Lucas said. “They are people that audiences can easily identify with. I don’t play so easily the regular guy. I might be more like a Wallace Shawn who always plays the quirky guy, the eccentric characters.”
For Tweedles, Lucas went for “corpulent boys, both childish and child-like, juvenile in the extreme.” To help Lucas pull off twin duty, actor Ethan Cohn was brought in as a double to stand in as the “other brother” while Lucas was doing his lines. Cohn became fast friends with Lucas and says it’s been hard to watch him suffer in the wake of McGee’s death.
“God knows how someone deals with what he went through, but he’s gone about it in a very smart and logical way,” Cohn said. “He’s grieving and he’s going through the emotions that people go through, but he is always moving forward.”Lucas said he likes Los Angeles – “Some people think it’s a cynical place but I admire its ambitions” – and he was dazzled by working on a film with such a strong cast and director.
“You get warmth in spades from Johnny and Tim [Burton]. You get briefly included in their warm friendship. In Johnny’s trailer, and this betrays a confidence perhaps but I hope he will forgive me, on the refrigerator there's a drawing of the Mad Hatter by Johnny’s kids. And it said, ‘Good Luck Dad.’ I found that so wonderful.”
Making Wonderland was a complicated process. But even with a picture with a budget of over $200 million and stuck in a sea of green screen, Lucas admired Tim Burton's professionalism, and the trust he invested in his cast and crew, many of which he has collaborated with before.
“He employs people he likes then he really trusts them to build the character and the performance,” Lucas said. “I was surprised that the first take is always the actors’ take. With all the money invested into the project and how little time people have to make the movie. He let actors have the first take and then work with them to craft – keep that, turn that bit down, try for this. He gave a lot of guidance and I was grateful for that, but it came with trust.”
Lucas was less enamored with the green-screen set. “It can be grueling to be in a large green room where everything is just…green; Consistently, constantly, undeniable, unashamedly green; and not even different shades of green at that. It’s a snot room. The booger world.”
Some of the actors found the green screen nauseating and difficult, but Lucas worked through it by imagining the world that would appear on the screens when the project was completed.“It was very notional,” Lucas said. “You have to imagine there are trees and castles and the ground. And instead of the Bandersnatch there’s a man holding a stick with a cross on the end of it made out of masking tape, which you have to imagine is the most terrifying thing you’ve ever seen. And I don’t have stick phobia. Masking tape, however, makes me cringe. And weep. You have to use your imagination quite a lot but that happens in television, too. You need to pretend there isn’t an old man in the corner chewing his gum and checking his watch and waiting for you to finish the take and give a very emotional performance.”
Lucas said he hopes to work with Burton again, especially since the filmmaker works in worlds where eccentric characters are at every turn. He also said he hopes to absorb some of Burton’s sense of wonder.
“He brings with him the enthusiasm of someone making their first film,” Lucas said. “You have the expertise of someone who has been doing it a long, long time but there is still something boyish in his excitement. I think the same can be said of Johnny Depp. It was just ambition on display and enthusiasm and excitement and craft. They seemed pleased to be there. I know I was.”
Click here for the entire Matt Lucas article from the Los Angeles Times. Lucas goes on to describe his career and ambitions beyond Wonderland and more.
How did actor Michael Sheen prepare for his role as the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland?
“I lived with a family of rabbits,” Sheen deadpanned when asked about his preparation for the role. “It was a very grueling process. All that nibbling.”
But really, he said, there was very minimal preparation for the role.
“In a way, the good thing about something like this is that you don’t have to do a huge amount of research for it,” Sheen said. “Not for me, anyway. The research is the relationship you’ve had with the story all your life. And it’s probably the most famous story in the world … next to the Bible. I think I knew the characters well before I knew they were in a book.”
The 41-year-old actor went on to say how Lewis Carroll's story left an impression on him.“It’s just one of those things where it’s sort of ingrained in your consciousness,” Sheen said. “It’s so much a part of the fabric of our culture. And then there are the films. I think the first full-length version of the story I saw was the  Disney film. And as lovely as that was, there was something sort of disturbing about it. I think that was sort of the appeal of it. You can’t categorize it. You can never quite sort of feel the edge of it … that’s sort of what drew me back to it again and again.”
“After so many versions and portrayals, I just tried to check and listen to what the character sounded like in my head,” Sheen said. “I tried not to give him too many embellishments. I just tried to be simple with him.”
To deliver his lines with enough spunk and neurotic quivering, Sheen was highly expressive in both his vocal performance and physical mannerisms behind the microphone.
“Talking to the actors, it was like there was no set for them either,” Sheen said. “I don’t think anyone really had a sense of what it was going to be like; how it would all come together. It was just a real journey of imagination for everyone.”
But Sheen said he would've enjoyed working on the set with Tim Burton, too.
“I would have given anything to put on a rabbit suit and go out there with the rest of them,” he said. “But that’s just not what was needed. Plus, I would have looked rather silly … still, anything is possible with Tim.”
Sheen went on to explain what working with the director was like.
“I sort of expected him to have an axe flying around his head or something … maybe some lightning and strange creatures floating around,” Sheen said. “But he was disappointingly and reassuringly normal.”
Burton, meanwhile, said the quality he wanted most in his clock-watching bunny was a twitchiness.
"In any incarnation of the [White Rabbit] through the years, there's that sort of nervousness of a rabbit," the filmmaker said. "All of these animal characters have humanistic traits, of course, since they're talking, but we wanted the animal traits to stay in there. Michael is a great actor and he also brought that accent, which I really wanted since 'Alice' is British in its roots."Burton's film is not a direct adaptation of the original books. Rather, it is inspired by the stories by Carroll, in the form of a pseudo-sequel. But Sheen said die-hard fans don't need to worry -- in fact, there's more to the film because it's an expansion, and has similarities to other fantasy epics.
“When I did read the script, I thought there was a fascinating take on it,” Sheen said. “It brought it slightly closer to another classic: Peter Pan. The events of Peter Pan take place on the night that Wendy is supposed to leave the nursery. The point in which she’s about to become a woman or that in-between place where she’s not a child anymore. And she sort of finds herself in this fantastical world in Neverland. And Alice, in this movie, is sort of at the point. She’s about to move into maturity and then the White Rabbit appears and takes her back as if the world of her childhood is in some way in peril. It’s really gonna make fans of the story think.”
Sheen says he’s excited for those fans to finally see the film in its entirety.
“It’s just really lovely to be a part of something like this. Normally, about seven people come out to see the things that I do. This is epic.”
Film Music Magazine has an audio interview with Danny Elfman. The composer talks about how he has worked with his long-time collaborator Tim Burton, the score of their latest project, Alice in Wonderland, and more. You can hear the interview from the website or download it as an Mp3 here, but BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!
Gayle MacDonald of the Globe and Mail recently interviewed actor/filmmaker Crispin Glover. Glover -- who plays the Knave of Hearts, Ilosovic Stayne, in Alice in Wonderland -- discussed working with Tim Burton and the cast on Wonderland, dealing with the special effects and outrageous proportions, and his directorial debut:
Do you strive not to be a typical leading man – deliberately choosing parts and directors (like Stayne and Burton) that allow you to bring artistic expression to the role?
Much of my decision-making in the last decade has been in order to fund my own films. Luckily some of this has caused me to be in films that have done well financially and that has actually improved the sort of roles I am offered in higher budget films. When something comes along like playing a great role in a Tim Burton film it’s the best of both worlds – he is someone who has both a strong artistic expression and wants to let everyone he’s working with have a strong artistic impact. In doing that, the people that are working with him (including myself) want to fulfill what his vision as a filmmaker is.
This is the third time you've worked with Johnny Depp. What do you admire about the guy - personally and in his acting?
I have known Johnny Depp, I believe, since 1983 – and met him the day after he got his first acting job. It was a number of years before I acted with him. What I admire about his acting is that he’s been able to maintain a genuine eccentric interest in his choices, yet excel in financial successes.
In her role as The Red Queen, Helena Bonham Carter looks like a bulbous-headed freak. Was it hard to keep a straight face filming some of the scenes?
Working with Helena Bonham Carter was simply great. Her head was enlarged in the post-production process. She had the makeup as in the film, but a normal-sized head. She’s an excellent actress and laughing was the furthest thing from my mind – I was very concerned about supporting her fine performance and what came to mind for my character was to be diplomatic.
Which aspect of the special effects was most challenging for you as the Knave of Hearts?
I was wearing stilts in a green suit that was later made to look like I had an elongated body.
Your directorial debut was What Is It? – a film in which you appeared alongside a cast that consisted mostly of actors with Down Syndrome. What inspired the feature?
I always make it clear when I discuss my first feature film that it’s not about Down Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in filmmaking – specifically, anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. This is damaging to the culture because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair, looks up at the screen and thinks: “Is this right, what I am watching? Is this wrong, what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?” ... I would like for people to think for themselves.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Audiences clamored to see Alice in Wonderland (2010) as if they were late for an important date, delivering a $116.1 million opening weekend. That's more in just three days than the total gross of any other 2010 release. Alice's corpulent start drove the highest-grossing March weekend ever: overall business boomed 69 percent over the same timeframe last year, when Watchmen debuted.
Showing on approximately 7,400 screens at 3,728 sites, Alice in Wonderland's opening stands as not only the all time biggest for the month of March, but as the highest-grossing ever for a movie released outside of May, July or November and sixth overall. It's a career best for director Tim Burton, surpassing Planet of the Apes (2001)'s $68.5 million, and second best for top-billed actor Johnny Depp, behind the second Pirates of the Caribbean. Alice marks the seventh collaboration between Mr. Burton and Mr. Depp, and its debut handily eclipsed their previous high together, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($56.2 million).
Around 70 percent or over $80 million of Alice in Wonderland's opening was viewed through the 3D looking glass, topping Avatar's $55 million as the biggest 3D launch ever. Alice played at a record 2,251 3D sites, compared to Avatar's 2,038. Alice also set a new opening milestone for IMAX, grossing an estimated $11.9 million at 188 sites (included in the totals). The previous benchmark was Avatar's $9.5 million at 178 sites. Combined, the 3D and IMAX ticket premiums over normal prices appear to have added about $22 million to Alice's gross.
To hit $116.1 million out-of-the-gate, Alice in Wonderland benefitted from a combination of factors, including the involvement of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, who are among Hollywood's few bankable name talents, batting in their quirky wheelhouse, and the good will built up by Avatar for 3D events. Distributor Walt Disney Pictures' marketing campaign was not only omnipresent but spot on in its presentation: it first grabbed people's attention with a flashy entre into Wonderland through Mad Hatter, Red Queen and other wacky characters, then it lured audiences further by grounding the fantasy with Alice and presenting her adventure story.
All told, Alice in Wonderland appealed well beyond the family crowd suggested by its Disney branding and Lewis Caroll's famous literary source. According to Disney's exit polling, 39 percent of the audience was parents and their children, while 36 percent was couples. The basic gender and age demographics came in at 55 percent female and 54 percent under 25 years old.
At the foreign box office, shiny and new Alice in Wonderland unseated reigning stalwart Avatar, debuting to an estimated $94 million from 40 territories or around 60 percent of the overseas market. Add in the domestic take, and Alice's worldwide weekend was an estimated $210.1 million, ranking as the 14th biggest worldwide launch ever. The United Kingdom was Alice's top foreign market with an estimated $16.8 million (the highest non-sequel start ever there), followed by Italy ($13.9 million, also a non-sequel record), Russia ($12.3 million) and Australia ($9.2 million). Meanwhile, Avatar was off 42 percent, generating $22.8 million and bringing its total to $1.88 billion.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Friday, March 05, 2010
What appeals to you about this story?
In any fairy tale land there is good and bad. What I liked about Underland is that everything is slightly off, even the good people. That, to me, is something different. It's so much a part of the culture. So whether you've read the story or not, you'll know certain images or have certain ideas about it. It's such a popular story. The reason we did something with it is that it's captured the imagination of people for a very long time.
Why do you think Alice in Wonderland is still popular, more than 140 years after its publication?
It somehow taps a subconscious thing. That's why all those great stories stay around because they tap into the things that people probably aren't even aware of on a conscious level. There's definitely something about those images. That's why there have been so many versions of it. As a movie, it's always been about a passive little girl wandering around a series of adventures with weird characters. There's never any kind of gravity to it. The attempt with this was to take the idea of those stories and shape them into something that's not literal from the book but keeps the spirit of it.
How old were you when you first read the books?
I was in school, maybe like 8 or 10 years old. I have a weird connection with the books. The house where I live in London was owned by Arthur Rackham [famous English book illustrator who created the iconic color plates for the 1907 edition of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland]. I live and work out of the studio where he did some amazing versions of Alice in Wonderland. So I felt there was a connection to the material and me. And that always helps, somehow.
When you were first approached to direct, what was your reaction?
They gave me a script and they said 3D. And even before I read it, I thought, that's intriguing, and what I liked about Linda's script was she made it a story, gave it a shape for a movie that's not necessarily the book. So all those elements seemed exciting to me. What I liked about this take on the story is Alice is at an age where you're between a kid and an adult, when you're crossing over as a person. A lot of young people with old souls aren't so popular in their own culture and their own time. Alice is somebody who doesn't quite fit into that Victorian structure and society. She's more internal.
Why did you decide to make this particular version of the story?
Well, there are so many stories. It's not like it's a new story. If you read the books, there are all of these weird little adventures. So I think the goal of Linda Woolverton, the writer, was just to have the story and use the characters. Look, there are so many things — there is always going to be a character that is somebody's favorite. Someone will miss the Lobster, or whatever. You have the Red Queen and the White Queen, the March Hare and the White Rabbit — there were iconic ones that we knew we had to have in there. But then, we thought, let's just let the story play and see.
Which characters in Alice appealed to you more?
I like them all. And that's the thing with these. I think this material suffered in the past because all of the characters are just weird. Okay, Hatter's weird. Cat's weird. Rabbit's weird. We tried to give each one their own particular quirks, so that they each have their own character.
Growing up, did you have a favorite children's book?
I was a Dr. Seuss fan. It was easy to read. I liked his drawings. But, the reason I wanted to do Alice is that it was a really interesting challenge. I didn't feel personally, like I might on another project, like, oh, there is one great version out there, so to try and do another one, might be a problem. But with Alice, there are some interesting ones, but I don't know if any are completely successful.
What was your approach to the film?
I was much more fascinated by the iconic images — I think people are always surprised when they go back and read the stories, because they don't have that Lord of the Rings sweeping narrative. They're absurdist, surreal. But those characters are in our dreams, our tales. Those things that stay in your brain. Why do all these musicians write songs about it? Illustrators are recalling it all the time. You see it in other imagery. It was key to try to make that world. The things that I felt were unique to Alice, they're unique because they're so different. Like the bizarre size changes? And where you have some animals that talk, some don't. It seems quite random in what Carroll did. But, at the same time, it's not. There's something very deep. Things that seem random maybe aren't? The goal is just to try and capture that.
What do you like about this version of the story?
What I like about this is that it's more of a personal journey. These are the things that are actually the most important in life. That moment where you make that important choice. Maybe it happens to everybody. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it does a couple of different times in your life, where you learn something, you grow. You know, it's like you've got two sides of yourself in conflict. Emotionally conflicted. And then, when you make that personal growth, it's quite an amazing thing. Quite a strong thing. It's reconciling within yourself who you are, becoming the person you're going to be, a human being. It sounds light, but it's important.
Why couldn't you do a re-telling of the books?
The thing that fascinated me about Alice is that its iconic images have been absorbed by our culture. I probably knew more about Alice from listening to bands and songs — so much of the story's imagery comes into play. So, that's the thing that was always strong about Alice. It was never the plot points of the story, because they were absurdist tales — they didn't really have a certain narrative dynamic. I think that's why those other versions, to me, were always lacking, because there was this little girl observing things and saying, oh, that's weird. There was one weird character after another, without much of a context to it. So, we tried to ground each of the Alice in Wonderland characters. We tried to give them it a bit more depth, and to give her a story. There's such a mystique about Alice in Wonderland. I just felt that it would be more appropriate if we tried to be true to the spirit of what those characters were, and then, just give it all a bit more of a foundation.
Why did you make Alice 19?
That age just seems to me to be a crossroads. There, I think you're entering a culture where you're pressured into society, or getting married, or some other thing. And she just seems to me to be at that point where you're at an emotional crossroads. I just felt like Alice is an interesting character, because she's at that age, and she's got both a young person's and an old person's soul. There's a dynamic — at odds feeling both the young and the old, and then reconciling those two things. It just seemed like the classic structure of fantasy — go back to The Wizard of Oz. Or any of a number of fairy or folk tales — these adventures are always to work out the character's emotional problems. That's why I've always been intrigued by the poetry and the purpose of such stories — myths and things. They mean something. And, so, her adventures are her coming to terms with who she is and gaining her personal strength. Those are the journeys that are made in these stories, but they're quite private, too. It seemed like the right age to explore that dynamic of somebody, at a moment of change.
What is Johnny Depp's approach to playing such a vivid character as The Mad Hatter?
It is an iconic character and it's been portrayed in animation, in live-action. I think Johnny tried to find grounding with the character, something you can feel, as opposed to him just being 'mad.' With a lot of versions, it's just a one-note character, and his goal was to bring out a human side to the strangeness of the character. I've worked with him for many years, and he always tries to do something like that, and this time was no exception.
Do you consider Johnny Depp as a muse?
Nah, he's just a piece of meat [LAUGHS]. All these actors were great, because they weren't dealing with a lot of stuff — sets, props, other actors. So, a lot of it had to be inside of each person's mind. You can't really work with method actors too much on a movie like this. You need people to go out on a limb and just go for it, without a lot of material. So, yeah, Johnny's good at that. And I was lucky with these other actors, that they kind of went for it, too. And, you know, for me, too, I think it was really hard, because I'd never really done a movie like this. And it's quite eye-opening. It's a whole different process. I would think for an actor, it's really challenging.
How close do you work with Johnny in creating his characters?
Well, I'll do a little sketch, he'll do a little sketch. We'll talk. It always is different. With him, we use references, but they're never specific references. Because he never wants to feel like he's doing just one thing. So, we use a lot of abstract references. But I'm always excited to see what's gonna come out it.
Do you let him go as far as he can and then reel him back in?
Yeah, but he's pretty good. You never wanna go so far that you're missing some emotional beats. So, we've tried to make the Hatter mad, of course, but also give him a certain emotional quality under the surface. Johnny's pretty good about trying to find the reality of something unreal.
Can you talk about why you chose Mia Wasikowska for Alice?
She has both a young quality and an old quality. Very grounded — some people are just all over the place. But some people, they have that old soul quality. And that's what we felt was important for this Alice. But, at the same time, to be young — there are people with old souls who are also naïve at the same time. There's a certain slight passiveness to Alice that's always in the material. So we wanted to give her more of a quiet strength, which Mia has herself — just as a person. I just liked her quality. I always like it when I sense people have that old-soul quality to them. Because you're witnessing this whole thing through her eyes, it needed somebody who can subtly portray that.
How did Mia, as a relatively new actress, handle the role?
Well, she's great. This'll probably be the most abstract movie that she will ever do, let's hope. Like I said, it was new for me. In dealing with all the green screen and obstacles she had to deal with, she took it all in stride. She always was trying to remember the character and just go back to that place within herself. That was helpful, because it could be a nightmarish process. It goes against all of your instincts, I would imagine, as an actor — you have nothing to work with. The guy standing there with a green stick is not really that inspiring, you know.
You go way back with Crispin Glover [who plays the Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland], right?
I first met him in the early '80s. He's a very unique individual. He's a real Renaissance man. There are not many people who do movies and then do their own films and do their own art and live their own lives in the way that he does. But he's great. He's got such a pleasant visual presence.
Your cast is full of British character actors, performers who can disappear into the character.
I love working with people like Matt Lucas, who do characters, because I think they're great actors. They're fun to watch. Matt did one character then slipped into another; that to me is the sign of a good actor, and it was really great to work with him. Also, it was important to me to have a real, heavy British flavor. There are lots of people I've always admired. I wanted to try and make the animated voices not overly animated, so they all felt like they were in the same world. I didn't want them to feel like live-action characters in a completely animated world, so I tried to make the live-action a bit more extreme, and then with the animation, I tried to bring it back. I was lucky enough to get really great actors who — if they had done it as humans would have been great — brought the animated characters up to the level of the live-action.
How did you get your actors into character?
Well, it's difficult when you don't have a lot of sets and you are dealing with a lot of technology. I tried to keep it as lively as possible and as fast as possible, so that they could interact with each other as much as possible. So speed and energy were important. You just try to keep moving and grooving.
How did the actors in Alice in Wonderland approach the dialogue?
The kind of actors I like to work with bring something to it — like if there was a line or something from the book that they want to be in the script. If an actor connects to something or feels passionate about something, that's always nice, and you might get something better from them — it's something meaningful that they can grasp.
Is it Underland or Wonderland? What does it look like in this film?
It is Underland and has always been Underland, but according to the film version, when Alice visited as a child, she misheard the name and called it Wonderland. Everybody's got an image of Underland. I think in people's minds, it's always a very bright, cartoony place. We thought if Alice had had this adventure as a little girl and now she's going back, perhaps it's been a little bit depressed since she's left. It's got a slightly haunted quality to it.
Are you taking a unique approach to technology with this film?
Well, [senior visual effects supervisor] Ken Ralston's done this. I haven't done this before. It's a puzzle, and the movie doesn't materialize until the end. What's been the most difficult thing is, after production ends, you usually have a movie — you see the shots and then you spend six months to a year cutting it. This doesn't work that way. It's a very Alice in Wonderland-like process. It's a little backwards.
How did you incorporate available technology into this film?
Our approach to this was a bit more organic, in the sense that Ken Ralston and I discussed what we liked and didn't like about animation, live-action and other technologies. We had that conversation. We decided on a mix — we'll have real people, but also animate characters, and then manipulate them. So, we just tried to pick and choose what we used with each situation. That's the thing about technology. There are so many ways to use it.
How did you come up with the concept for the design of this world?
We looked at a lot of great artists on this one. In some ways, it ended up being more like an animated movie, in terms of the structure and how it got done. We had lots of designers. Everybody chipped in. It's been a really organic building process.
What inspired you most in terms of the visuals?
We didn't choose just one thing — there are so many different things. We looked at pictures of trees. We'd get some good concept work that we liked and then latch onto that. The goal at the end of it all was to be true to the essence of the story and make it feel new. Make it feel like it's a different thing. But yet, there's a reason why I like the Cheshire Cat or the Caterpillar or the Mad Hatter — those characters are in people's consciousness because they're strong images. It was key to do that justice.
Why did you choose to make the film in 3D?
Well, 3D is not a fad. It's here to stay. It doesn't mean that every movie's going to be made in 3D. But at the same time, Alice in 3D, just because of the material, it seemed to fit. So, instead of it just being a given, we tried to treat it as though it was a part of Wonderland. Matching the medium with the material.
Did you shoot in 3D or was it part of the process after filming had finished?
We didn't do it with the 3D cable. With the techniques we were using — the pure animation, live-action and manipulating that — shooting it traditionally gave us more freedom to get into the depth, the layers, that we wanted in the time that we were dealing with. And also, I can't really see the difference. I'm sure that there are people who say 'it's more pure this way or that way…' But this seemed like the right approach. After seeing the conversion job that was done on The Nightmare Before Christmas, I found no reason to do it any other way. We were trying to do it faster and at the end of the day, I didn't see any difference in quality.
Does using 3D affect the story?
In the old days you'd put the glasses on and walk out of the theatre with a splitting headache. And that's no longer the case, it's a much more pleasant experience. And I'm personally not out to make a gimmick, so I believe that it enhances the film. It puts you into that world. And with the Alice material — the growing and shrinking of characters for instance — and the special spaces and places that you're in, it just helps with the experience. Obviously, these films not only have to work in 3D, but they have to look good as a movie that you'd want to see. I think the gimmick element of 3D is falling by the wayside, and it's more about an experience that puts you into the film. When Nightmare was converted to 3D, I felt it was the way it should have been. You felt the texture of the puppets more, you actually felt like you were on the set. And I think that enhances the experience. This seemed like the right kind of story to do in 3D. I always try to say, 'Is it the right medium for this?' and not just do it because it's a gimmick or it's fashionable now, and it did feel like it was the right kind of material. So seeing it come to life in 3D supports the material. It gives you that kind of 'out-there' feeling that was a very crucial element to the film.
Where do you see the future of movies going, now that you have this mixture of 3D and live-action?
I was in animation several years ago. It was pronounced dead, and then they stopped doing hand drawn. So, the good news is that there are more forms for everything, which is great. There should be 3D, drawn animation, computer animation, stop-motion. It's all valid. It's all great. And it's better now than it's ever been. I was struggling for 10 years to get a stop-motion movie made. Now, you can do it — no problem.
Are you fascinated with special effects?
I'm not a special-effects-just-for-special-effects kind of filmmaker. I try not to treat it like that. Even with all the stuff in this movie, we always tried to go back to the simplicity of it being one person's journey. It's Alice's journey. And that's it. It's a very simple thing — and that's what we always tried to keep it.
So, apparently, that Tim Burton guy has this new movie out. I think it's Alice in the Looking Glass, or something. I haven't heard much about it, so I dunno. Anyway, I saw this one commercial, and it said you can see it in theaters in, like, 3D, and IMAX, and IMAX 3D, and normal 2D. Oh, and Johnny Depp's in it, too.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
"What part of it wasn't a challenge? All the characters in the film, all the weird combination of effects, and the always-lovely fact of too little time to finish everything -- all of it was a giant challenge. To think of one thing that was bigger or more difficult than the rest, I can't do it. It was one giant challenge."
Ralston has a thoroughly impressive resume in working in special effects. His credits include Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Cocoon, Return of the Jedi, and Forrest Gump, among others. This is Ralston's first time collaborating with director Tim Burton. The connection was made by producer Richard D. Zanuck, who produced Cocoon in 1985.
All of Alice in Wonderland was one immense challenge because of all of the components interacting at once -- live-action, animation, and motion-capture -- all starting with a sea of green screen and eventually converted into 3D.
"The great challenge of it was the fact that every shot in the movie and every scene is filled with a variety of techniques and ideas, so you can't just plug something in and run with it," Ralston said. "This is no one-trick pony, it's a 1,000-trick pony. It's all scattered around in weird ways. The huge challenge to make it all feel like the same world, to have smoothness to it so that Alice -- who is normal, except for size-changing throughout the movie -- is surrounded by Red Queen, the Mad Hatter and Knave -- who are versions of humanoids -- and then on top of that all the animal characters who are animated."
Ralston said that was only the first part of the puzzle -- then came the sculpting required to make those disparate pieces mesh without bumps and breakdowns.
"On top of all that, all three groups are for the most part in computer-graphic environments that are surrounding them. What's entailed in making that feel like a unified moment, where they're all on the screen and interacting with each other in a believable way, well, that was more than a little tricky. That's really all it took to make 'Wonderland.'"
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
You can also watch the video on YouTube.
Tim Burton and Danny Elfman have worked together for 25 years, making one of the most memorable director-composer duos in film history. Wired spoke with the acclaimed composer, and discussed the connections and common influences Elfman and Burton share, Elfman's earliest (and traumatic) encounters with Alice in Wonderland, and the pair's long working relationship, working on thirteen feature films from Pee-wee's Big Adventure in 1985 to Alice in Wonderland opening this weekend.
Danny Elfman recalled that his first encounters with Alice in Wonderland occurred at the tender age of three -- and left quite a dramatic effect on him.
"We had it on the bookshelf," Elfman recalls. "There was a picture of Alice with her neck distended very long. It scared me and actually began what became a lifelong obsession with physical anomalies. I had many nightmares about this girl with an incredibly long neck."
Many years later, Elfman was to compose the score for a cinematic adaptation of the bizarre Lewis Carroll stories. After watching a rough cut of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Elfman realized that the zany, off-the-wall characters and scenarios would be easy to write for -- it was Alice who came back to haunt him, as the most difficult part to score.
“My score was not going to be about the Mad Hatter or the Red Queen,” Elfman says. “The ‘falling down a hole’ music is going to be wild, crazy falling-down-a-hole music. Two armies meeting — I can almost write that automatically. That’s the easy part. The hard part is Alice’s trajectory. I needed the music to tie it all together as she goes from this kind of confused child to a bewildered young lady to becoming Alice as a hero who finds herself in the center of this big story where she has a huge part to play.”
Although they've been working together for 25 years, Elfman still finds presenting new themes to his director Tim Burton "nerve-wracking." Luckily, they have a lot of similar aesthetic sensibilities and tastes, having connected back in the 1980s, after Burton saw Elfman perform in his wacky avant-rock band Oingo Boingo.
“When we met we had a lot in common because we both grew up on the same kinds of movies,” Elfman says. “We’re both huge fans of Roger Corman and ‘Hammer Horror.’ My idol was Peter Lorre, Tim’s idol was Vincent Price. We were both kind of odd kids who gravitated toward certain subcultural films and imagery.”
At an early age, Danny Elfman found a fondness in spectacular, fantastical film scores. Some of his favorite composers include Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, and his idol, Bernard Herrmann. It was the striking musical compositions of Herrmann mixed with the fantastic stop-motion wizardy of acclaimed animator Ray Harryhausen that made Elfman fascinated by the cinema, in such films as Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
“The magic combination for me was Herrmann and Harryhausen,” Elfman says. “If a movie had those two names on it, it was going to be my favorite film of the year.”
A scene from Jason and the Argonauts -- a mutual favorite of both Elfman and Burton.
Even in his comfortable Malibu, California home with his wife Bridget Fonda, Danny Elfman still retains his appreciation of the off-beat and macabre.
“In the foyer of my home I have a painting by Mark Ryden of this little girl with blood pouring out of her eyes, and there are two stuffed baboon heads from the 19th century used as paperweights,” Elfman says. “That’s just my way of saying, ‘If this bothers you, please don’t step further in.’”
After Alice in Wonderland, Elfman's upcoming film scores include The Green Hornet (directed by Michel Gondry and starring Seth Rogen) and Forbidden Zone 2: The Forbidden Galaxy.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov have reunited to produce a film about Abraham Lincoln -- but with an appropriately macabre twist.
On Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010, New York Times bestselling author Seth Grahame-Smith released his newest novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Grahame-Smith also wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a gory reinterpretation of the Jane Austen classic, and will adapt the Abraham Lincoln screenplay.
Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov (director of Wanted and Night Watch) recently produced the independent animated feature 9, which was released last year in 2009. Jim Lemley, another producer of 9, will also produce the Abe Lincoln alternative history.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter warps history by telling the story of the 16th president's secret battle with the undead -- a battle that began during Lincoln's childhood as a way to avenge his mother's murder.
Here's the trailer for the book:
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Helena Bonham Carter recalled how her partner Tim Burton proposed the role of the Red Queen to her.
"He was so polite about it, and there were so many hesitations," Bonham Carter said. "He said, 'Would you consider, um, possibly, perhaps -- but only if you want to -- um, anyway, would you play the Red Queen?'"
"It was like a proposal of marriage," said the 43-year-old actress. Bonham is routinely misidentified as Burton's wife. They have two children and have had a nine-year romance together.
"I was doing 'Terminator Salvation' at the time, and when he asked me, I was really flattered. It was a complete surprise! I know people think it's disingenuous when I say that, but it's true. They won't understand this, but each time [he has a film], I truly don't expect Tim to ever want to work with me again."
"I personally find it especially flattering that he tends to deform me in every movie," Bonham Carter said. "But my mother and everyone asks me, 'What is it with you and him?' But that's the point of acting isn't it? It's all dress-up."
For the record, though, Burton didn't tell Bonham Carter what her deformity would be in Alice in Wonderland. "I learned that when I read it in the script," Bonham Carter said with mock distress. "Oh, a huge head? I see, lovely."
The Red Queen's gigantic head was not a small detail while making the film. "The queen's head was something we had to be careful to account for all the time," visual-effects supervisor Ken Ralston said. "We had to remind people to back away from Helena in their scenes to give her head enough room."
Linda Woolverton, the screenwriter for "Alice," says the Red Queen grew up with a tumor in her head, which, in Wonderland's version of physiology, made her head vast. "Linda told me it also made the queen emotionally volatile and arrested in her development," Bonham Carter said with something close to sympathy. "We have a 2-year-old daughter, Nell. There are some similarities."
There have been numerous incarnations of Lewis Carroll's stories to film, and Bonham Carter suggested to viewers that they shouldn't expect a strict adaptation. "Tim has changed things, and some purists will just slit their wrists when they see it," she said, chuckling at her own gruesome imagery. "It's all very invented, very new with this film and with good reason. The original Carroll stories are in fact very episodic -- there isn't a lot of huge narrative or dramatic drive. The story that Linda Woolverton invented is a mixture, it's stolen from both [books by Carroll] but given a real context and a story and a purpose for the whole dream to occur."
Bonham Carter didn't remember exactly when she was introduced to Alice and her world. "She's so been around," Bonham Carter said. "She's definitely mythic. I can't really remember how I first came to the story. I've always just had random impressions of it, the symbols and imagery, they're just stuck with me. They've always entranced me -- like the door and the keyhole and the 'drink me' potion and the 'eat me' cake.
"What is it about Alice? Why do we respond to it, and why does it still captivate us?"
The actress explained gave her opinions. "She knows she's in a dream, and we all know that feeling," the actress said. "And the changing of size, there's something in that too, the way children feel in an adult world or the way they fantasize about growing large and visible or to shrink away and be away from it."
Helena Bonham Carter has worked in myriad of different kinds of films, but this is her first venture into 3D. The actress stated how she hopes that the new stereoscopic technology stays as an enhancement for story-telling, and not a flashy, superficial alternative to it.
"I haven't seen too many 3D movies, for instance, and I don't think they all work that well, but I think with this one, with 'Alice,' it's a perfect marriage of 3D and subject matter. I think with a lot of the 3D films, it's a bit gratuitous. But with this story, you have all the shrinking and changing of size so there's an opportunity to use the technology in an interesting way."
Danny Elfman's score for Alice in Wonderland and the album Almost Alice are now available to purchase. Click the highlighted links above to get the soundtracks from Amazon.
Here's the Almost Alice tracklist:
1. Alice (Underground) Performed by Avril Lavigne
2. The Poison Performed by The All-American Rejects
3. The Technicolor Phase Performed by Owl City (previously released)
4. Her Name Is Alice Performed by Shinedown
5. Painting Flowers Performed by All Time Low
6. Where's My Angel Performed by Metro Station
7. Strange Performed by Tokio Hotel and Kerli
8. Follow Me Down Performed by 3OH!3 featuring Neon Hitch
9. Very Good Advice Performed by Robert Smith
10. In Transit Performed by Mark Hoppus with Pete Wentz
11. Welcome to Mystery Performed by Plain White T’s
12. Tea Party Performed by Kerli
13. The Lobster Quadrille Performed by Franz Ferdinand
14. Running Out of Time Performed by Motion City Soundtrack
15. Fell Down a Hole Performed by Wolfmother
16. White Rabbit Performed by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals