DisneyDreaming.com has a thorough interview with two of the producers of Alice in Wonderland: Jennifer Todd and Suzanne Todd. The sisters answered fans' questions, and explain what their roles as producers entailed, what it was like for a producer to be on set and work with actors like Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp, the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of Alice, what it's like being a female producer in a mostly male-dominated industry, and much more. (The interview is in two parts at DisneyDreaming.com: Part One and Part Two):
Q: Suzanne, Are you planning to bring another other classical novel to the cinema in the near future?
A: Suzanne Todd – We do have a number of projects currently in development that are based on literary works – we are big fans of classic literature and have always been avid readers.
Q: Suzanne, Can you tell us about how you entered the project with Tim Burton?
A: Suzanne Todd – We had developed the project with the writer, Linda Woolverton, and had sent it to Tim to consider after the script had been written. Tim was a first choice, a dream choice, and we were thrilled when he decided to sign on for the project.
Q: Suzanne, I would like to know if the character that emerges from the film, that is an Alice/Jeanne d’Arc was the intention of the director or developed along the way…?
A: Suzanne Todd – Many people responded to the Joan of Arc style costume and liked the comparison.
Q: Jennifer, I would like to know if the character that emerges from the film, that is an Alice/Jeanne d’Arc was in the intentions of the director or developed along the way…
A: Jennifer Todd – Only in homage to her armor, not from a character point of view.
Q: Jennifer, Having both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (along with other talented cast and crew members) involved in the film, you literally struck gold. How was the experience working for both of you working with Burton and Depp?
A: Jennifer Todd – It was amazing – they are both ridiculously talented and watching their creativity – and their friendship- was very special.
Q: Jennifer, what would you say was the biggest challenge in producing this movie?
A: Jennifer Todd – The special effects were incredibly difficult. Combining Motion Capture, CG characters, animation, and 3D made this the most challenging film we’ve done.
Q: Suzanne, How did you manage the green screen-scenes? Did you give the actors something by the hand that they can act to something?
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes! We had green everything! Green props, tables, walls, teacups, platforms – so much green everywhere all over everything!
Q: Jennifer. .. Please talk about the decision to make the film in 3D and also your thoughts on the post-production conversion process versus shooting in 3D, from both a budgetary standpoint and an end-user standpoint.
A: Jennifer Todd – We chose not to shoot in 3D because of the difficulty of all the special effects we were doing. It was also more cost-effective for us to convert later.
Q: Suzanne, By any chance, did the both of you have to immerse yourself in the Lewis Carroll classic prior to working on the film?
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes, we all re-read the novels and we also reviewed all the many ways that works of Carroll have been seen in other movies, art, music videos and all forms of pop culture.
Q: Jennifer, How was the experience of working with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp?
A: Jennifer Todd – It was incredible. Their friendship is so unique and special and I think really adds so much to the creative process.
Q: Suzanne, How was it to work with Tim Burton? Did you ever have to force one point that differed from Burton’s vision?
A: Suzanne Todd – Working with Tim was literally a dream come true! He is truly a visionary, artist and genius! Plus, a really nice and funny guy.
Q: Jennifer, Team Todd has produced a good number of box office hits. But with “Alice in Wonderland”, it’s your first film that utilized special effects in such a grand scale, what was the most challenging part for each of you in producing the film?
A: Jennifer Todd – Definitely the special effects. We have worked with effects before but never at a scale like this. The combination of CG, animation, and motion capture – along with Alice’s character shrinking and growing made the filming very difficult and intense.
Q: Jennifer, How do you manage to work with relatives, sisters, in particular? Is it fun? Is it hard to separate family and the job?
A: Jennifer Todd – It’s a real gift to work with my sister. We obviously have such a shorthand communicating with each other, that it makes the process easier. And from growing up together and watching so many films together, we ended up with pretty similar taste.
Q: Suzanne… Please talk about the decision to make the film in 3D and also your thoughts on the post-production conversion process versus shooting in 3D, from both a budgetary standpoint and an end-user standpoint.
A: Suzanne Todd – Tim had the genius idea to make the movie in 3D and it’s been interesting to see how 3D has become so incredibly popular in the years it took us to make this movie. We did not have the time or money to actually shoot in 3D, but our film was planned for 3D release so there were lots of things built in along the way to make that movie going experience satisfying. From an end user standpoint, I think the planned shots in 3D movies like Avatar and ours will continue to be better received than 2D films that make a last minute decision to convert.
Q: Jennifer, Everybody knows what Burton can add to Alice’s history. But, what did Alice add to Burton’s filmography that we didn’t find before?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think Alice added a real female empowerment film to his filmography. I can’t think of another film he’s done with this great of a female hero, and with the theme of the film so strong. And Alice gave him his biggest hit ever!
Q: Suzanne, Why did Tim Burton adapt both Alice-stories, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking-Glass’?
A: Suzanne Todd – The writer, Linda Woolverton, had decided to use material from both books when she first came up with the pitch. The Carroll novels did not put forth a simple movie adaption and she found material in both books that would be helpful in crafting a linear three-act structure for the movie.
Q: Jennifer, At which point of the creation-process did you make the decision that the whole movie is going to be cgi-driven such as it is right now?
A: Jennifer Todd – Very early on. I believe it was in our first meeting with Tim, he talked about creating a world from scratch using today’s technology.
Q: Suzanne, What do you think Lewis Carroll would think if he saw the movie?
A: Suzanne Todd – I hope he would be entertained! He seems to have been an out-of-the-box thinker and this version pushes the Alice mythology to a new level of both technology and storytelling. In my fantasy mind, he would leap from his chair and Futterwacken!
Q: Jennifer, What do you think Lewis Carroll would think if he saw the movie?
A: Jennifer Todd – I would hope he would appreciate our interpretation of his work – and I would think the effects would be amazing for him to see! There has been so much art inspired by his work I think he would be touched by the world’s affection for his stories.
Q: Jennifer, What do you think this version of Alice in Wonderland bring new as compared to other productions?
A: Jennifer Todd – Obviously this version takes advantage of the most cutting edge technology that none of the other versions were privy to. Tim was able to create a world like none other. We also took creative license with the characters, making Alice older, and incorporating elements from both books.
Q: Suzanne – Do you see any reflection in your own sister-sister relationship and the one between the White and Red Queens?
A: Suzanne Todd – Absolutely! Anyone that has a sister knows the agony and ecstasy of that relationship. Anne had really looked to get in touch with the family roots of her character – and the darkness and light that both sisters share – as a means of portraying her character with depth and realism.
Q: Jennifer, same question, Do you see any reflection in your own sister-sister relationship and the one between the White and Red Queens?
A: Jennifer Todd – Jokingly yes. But thankfully no, I didn’t other than that I understand how beautiful and complicated the relationship of sisters can be.
Q: Suzanne, What is your favourite character in the movie? which was more fun to draw out?
A: Suzanne Todd – I love so many of the characters! I feel like a mother in the way you have love for all your children. But if I have to pick one, it would be Alice – for her strength and curiosity and bravery and compassion. The idea that a movie with a female teenage lead character could be this successful at the world wide box office is a testament to Alice and her muchness.
Q: Jennifer, Why write a different story of Alice?
A: Jennifer Todd – We wrote a different story to modernize it and to make it more universal. What’s wonderful about the book is that it magically wanders, and that’s what makes it hard as a film. It was also necessary to make her older, so she would have graver complications in her life.
Q: Jennifer, How do you choose your movie projects, do you prefer a movie because of the script, the actors, or the director?
A: Jennifer Todd – We get involved so early that it is usually the idea and the material that gets us excited. On Alice, Linda brought us a pitch that we thought was a very exciting way in which to tell the story. Then after we all worked on the script it was incredibly exciting to get Tim and Johnny involved.
Q: Suzanne, What is the international expectation that you have for this DVD and Blu Ray launch?
A: Suzanne Todd – We expect that the public will continue to respond to the film in the way we have seen thus far – with enthusiastic response! Anyone that has seen and enjoyed the film will be further entranced at a look behind the scenes into the magic of Tim Burton’s Alice and the quality
on Blu-ray. The shorter home entertainment release window should also ensure a healthy public appetite – we will see!
Q: Jennifer, In the past you produced ‘Austin Powers’, ‘Across The Universe’ and now ‘Alice In Wonderland’. Did you yourself push the colorful look of these films?
A: Jennifer Todd – Not really, the directors are most responsible for the color of the films. I will say we are drawn to creating material that allows directors to create worlds, or push the palate of reality.
Q: Jennifer, what is it like to work with your sister?
A: Jennifer Todd – It’s great. We have been so lucky and I think it’s partly because we truly support each other. It’s very hard to get movies made, so it’s nice knowing we are each here for the other.
Q: Suzanne, If we look to use High Definition, does it mean the production has to be changed as every detail is now visible?
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes, as the technology advances there is more attention paid during the filmmaking process and the high-level of detail that becomes available to the viewing audience. Even something like the texture of the white pancaked skin of the Red Queen becomes subject for discussion, because you can see everything in so much greater detail now.
Q: Jennifer, What is your favourite character in the movie? which was more fun to draw out?
A: Jennifer Todd – I really love the Red Queen – I love the reason she’s so mean is that she’s just a scorned woman. She says “is it better to be feared than loved” and even though she is so awful you understand that it’s because she feels unloved.
Q: Suzanne, What other projects do you have coming up?
A: Suzanne Todd – Our next release is a very small film entitled, “The Romantics” starring Katie Holmes, Josh Duhamel, and Anna Pacquin. It will come out in Fall of 2010 and is the charming story of a group of close friends, ten years after their college graduation.
Q: Suzanne, What kinds of discussions have you had about a sequel at this time, seeing how successful this film was?
A: Suzanne Todd – When a movie is this successful, there is always talk of a sequel! If Tim and Johnny both want to venture down the rabbit hole again – I’m sure it will happen. We have had some preliminary story conversations – but I’m not sure anyone realizes just how hard Tim worked on this film.
Q: Suzanne, How long did the process of the postproduction last?
A: Suzanne Todd – We finished shooting the movie at the end of 2008, with our scheduled release date of March 2010 but it was a scramble to get it done in that time frame. That was a long post for a regular film but a tight post for a film with this many complicated effects.
Q: Suzanne, You knew John Foreman, what did you learned from this great producer?
A: Suzanne Todd – I learned a lot about what a producer does from John Foreman and that “the idea” is key when taking on a movie project. He was someone that loved the process and loved watching movies as much as making them.
Q: Jennifer, “Alice” is a much bigger feature than all the other both of you have been into. What changed in the way you work to accomplish this one?
A: Jennifer Todd – Alice took over two years to make and took a great deal of planning, obviously much more than usual. We spent so much more time prepping the film, and that was unique for us.
Q: Suzanne, Where there any accidents because the actors had to walk on stilts?
A: Suzanne Todd – The actors actually became very proficient on the stilts – almost to the point where they hardly noticed they were wearing them. I became very used to thinking of Crispin as really, really tall.
Q: Suzanne, Are you fans of the original Lewis Carroll books? Have you read them to your children?
A: Suzanne Todd – Recently I had the pleasure of going through the very fun Alice for the iPad short version of the book. It’s interactive and imaginative and entertaining and made me think how different the entire experience of even reading is for children today.
Q: Jennifer, How would you say this movie has influenced you two, as producers and sisters?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think we are both so proud that we got to make a “female empowerment” movie on a scale like this. The movie has so many wonderful themes but Alice’s strength is so wonderful to put out in the world to young girls.
Q: Suzanne, What do you think of Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter? Could you imagine him in another role?
A: Suzanne Todd – Johnny was incredible and brought so much to the role, long before he began the acting part. The watercolors he painted of the characters, his ideas about the mercury poisoning from the hat glue – and so much more! Johnny is one of the most talented actors of our time and could play any role he wanted! There was an internet rumor that he was going to play EVERY part and I thought I would like to see that version of the movie!
Q: Jennifer, Is there anything in Alice in Wonderland that you can point us to and say “That is a Team Todd contribution?”
A: Jennifer Todd – Absolutely, Suzanne and I worked very hard with Linda on Alice’s character arc and working on her “muchness”. We also were proud to have developed a script strong enough to appeal to Tim Burton and all the talent attracted to the project.
Q: Jennifer, What do you think of Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter? Could you imagine him in another role?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think Johnny Depp could play just about any role – I’d love to see what he would do with the Red Queen!
Q: Jennifer, What do you think about the current hype of 3D?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think it’s great for the film business and I’m very grateful that it helped our box office tremendously.
Q: Suzanne, As children, did you wonder in awe even at the ’simpler,’ animated version of Disney’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’?
A: Suzanne Todd – We had seen the animated version as children and I remember being both in awe of the creativity and sort of confused about the story. I loved the character of Alice and had actually dressed up as Alice for more than one Halloween.
Q: Suzanne, How involved are producers in the development of DVD /Blu-Ray features?
A: Suzanne Todd – Producers are very involved in the creation of additional bonus materials, putting together the featurettes that you see, and adding insight to the behind-the-scenes process.
Q: Suzanne, How often do you come across a script that you love but as producers – you know won’t work in the mass market? And are you free to make it thru the indie route?
A: Suzanne Todd – There have been a few occasions when we found material we truly loved that could not be financed and released through the traditional studio model. Memento was the first indie movie we had made, and even though we had to work for free, we were very happy with the result!
Q: Suzanne, This interpretation of Alice has a definite darker, adult twist – was this the vision from the outset or did that evolve? How much did Tim Burton’s unique style and interpretation affect this?
A: Suzanne Todd – Linda’s script had some already “dark” elements – the notion of the oversized body parts and the floating severed heads, for instance, but it naturally followed the course of Tim’s taste and sensibility after he came on board.
Q: Jennifer, As women in a male-dominated industry, what are qualities needed to survive Hollywood?
A: Jennifer Todd – Good question! I think you have to have a tough will and a very strong spirit. Movies are so hard to get made. I do think women make great producers though; we are good multi-taskers and caretakers.
Q: Jennifer, What did you learn working alongside, director, Tim Burton, for Alice in Wonderland?
A: Jennifer Todd – I learned from Tim that you can never aim too high. He really reached on this film from his own comfort zone and the results were magical. I learned you can never stop pushing the envelope.
Q: Suzanne, What attracted you to Alice in Wonderland? Especially since it had been done many times before.
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes, it’s true that Alice had been done many times before, but we felt that Linda’s take on the story took a fresh look at the time honored tale, and that the coupling of modern technology with Tim’s genius vision would make for fascinating entertainment.
Q: Suzanne, Can you tell us what it is like to work with Johnny Depp?
A: Suzanne Todd – There just aren’t the proper adjectives to describe the magnificence of Johnny Depp. He is the most incredibly talented actor yet also kind, down to earth, and hard-working.
Q: Jennifer, Can you tell us what it is like to work with Johnny Depp?
A: Jennifer Todd – Johnny’s such a sweet, likeable guy and a tremendous talent. He’s so affable; he makes you forget what a giant movie star he is.
Q: Suzanne, Where does your creative inspiration come from?
A: Suzanne Todd – My creative inspiration comes from so many aspects of my life – art, music, literature, pop culture, my children, my friends, and lots of travel and adventure!
Q: Jennifer, As I understand it, Alice is the first time Tim Burton has filmed on a green screen. With so much of the film shot against green screen, combined with demanding VFX, how much pre-production time was involved and what were some of the challenges foreseen?
A: Jennifer Todd – We prepped the film for about 6 months; it was a long prep to get everything organized for the shoot. Even then we still came across a lot of difficulties on set, with Alice shrinking and growing and taking into account the Queen’s head and all the fake characters, it felt like a complicated math puzzle every day.
Q: Jennifer, As children, did you wonder in awe even at the ’simpler,’ animated version of Disney’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’?
A: Jennifer Todd – Absolutely – I loved the original and I always loved the Disney ride! It’s amazing how far filmmaking has come since I was a child.
Q: Jennifer, Where does your creative inspiration come from?
A: Jennifer Todd – It comes from all over – films and books I’ve loved as well as the artists in my life. Now it also comes from my children.
Q: Jennifer, What were the biggest problems as a producer with getting the final product?
A: Jennifer Todd – One of the biggest problems was getting the film done in time. We had our release date locked very early, and we could not change it. So the last few months were very stressful waiting for the final FX to come in.
Q: Suzanne, What were the biggest problems as a producer with getting the final product?
A: Suzanne Todd – Like almost all movies, and certainly big tent pole movies, it always comes down to time and money. Luckily for us, with Tim directing, we never lacked for creative vision, so the task for everyone involved was to work their hardest to bring Tim’s vision to the screen – within the schedule and resources that we had available.
Q: Jennifer, What do you feel 3-D did for Alice in Wonderland in a new generation?
A: Jennifer Todd – I’m happy that 3D has excited a great deal of people to go to the movie theater. And I think that being one of the first big 3D films out in the US after Avatar helped our film tremendously.
Q: Jennifer, Were you surprised with the overwhelming success of ‘Alice’ at the box office?
A: Jennifer Todd – I was – although I expected the film would do well as I knew how good it was. But no one can predict the kind of numbers the film did. I wish I could!
Q: Suzanne, At what point in the process did Mia Wasikowska become involved? Was she always first choice for the role, did she audition etc.
A: Suzanne Todd – Tim had a very specific vision for the role of Alice and met with and read with a number of actresses. Although there were many famous actresses who wanted to play Alice, Tim wanted someone that would bring a timeless quality to the film. Mia demonstrated the perfect blend of strength and fragility, bewilderment and wonder, and is beautiful yet accessible.
Q: Jennifer, Did you find it more or less difficult to oversee production on a film with Burton’s whimsical touches? On a film that was mostly digitally created?
A: Jennifer Todd – I actually felt it was easier as Tim still had the freedom to make changes after we filmed the movie. That’s one of the upsides of a mostly digital film. He could make changes you could never make in a traditional live-action film.
Q: Jennifer, You’ve spent a significant time working in independent film – a far cry from Disney and blockbusters like Alice in Wonderland. Can you tell us what the transition was like for you, and whether or not your indie sensibilities informed the production of Alice at all?
A: Jennifer Todd – They are such different film making experiences, but yet I like them both. Obviously you always want to tell a great story, no matter how big or small. I love the intimacy of small films and I love the reach of big films like ALICE.
Q: Jennifer, Alice has such a long history on the big and small screen, was it daunting to create this new version?
A: Jennifer Todd – It was – it’s a bit scary to take on such a famous piece of literature. But at the same time we re-imagined it in a way that we thought would feel fresh to an audience.
Q: Suzanne, Were you surprised with the overwhelming success of ‘Alice’ at the box office?
A: Suzanne Todd – We could tell that there was a pretty voracious appetite for the film from the time the online campaign had launched. The facebook fan page was burning up and people were hungry for anything and everything about the film. Although we did have a sense that it would be well-received, no one dared to dream that we would approach a billion dollars worldwide!
Q: Jennifer, If you could go back to the beginning now, is there anything you’d want to do differently?
A: Jennifer Todd – I can’t say there is. Because of the success of the film, I’m just thrilled with it all.
Q: Suzanne, If you could go back to the beginning now, is there anything you’d want to do differently?
A: Suzanne Todd – There isn’t really much I would change about the production – I’m beyond thrilled with how everything turned out! I guess I would add time in the schedule if that was possible so Tim wouldn’t have had to work literally round the clock to finish the movie on time.
Q: Jennifer, What turned out to be favorite scene in the film, and is it surprising?
A: Jennifer Todd – Hmmm…that’s so hard. I love the introduction to the Red Queen when she’s playing croquet, I also love the end with Alice and the Mad Hatter.
Q: Suzanne, What turned out to be favorite scene in the film, and is it surprising?
A: Suzanne Todd – I have too many favorites!!! I love the resolution to the wedding proposal, the goodbye scene with the Hatter, and I am always surprised by how affected I am when she says “Lost my muchness, have I?”
Q: Suzanne, Did you read Alice in Wonderland as a child? Did the storyline have the same affect on you now, as an adult?
A: Suzanne Todd – I did read it as a children and when I re-read it as an adult, it seemed very different than what I had remembered! The movie story is obviously inspired by the Carroll novels but Linda created a structure for the movie that did not exist in the books.
Q: Jennifer, Can you discuss the way in which Tim Burton works on a set, compared to say Chris Nolan or Julie Taymor?
A: Jennifer Todd – Every director is so different, but these three are clearly so talented. Chris is a writer/director so I think he’s very confident in his material when he directs. All three of them are perfectionists – which I think one must be to deliver films on the level they do.
Q: Suzanne, Can you discuss the way in which Tim Burton works on a set, compared to say Chris Nolan or Julie Taymor?
A: Suzanne Todd – All three of those directors share a high-level of vision and commitment and we have been fortunate to work with such amazing talent. Tim is unique in many ways – one of which is that his process is SO visual – he starts by drawing and painting and sketching and moves forward in the process from there.
Q: Suzanne, The movie looks amazing, what was it like to be able to bring this classic story to a whole new audience?
A: Suzanne Todd – It has been very exciting to re-interpret a classic story! From the moment Tim signed on, I have felt a bit like I’ve needed to pinch myself to wake up from my own dream, just like our young Alice in the film.
Q: Jennifer, How did you map out the different sides of The Mad Hatter’s personality both in visuals and voice?
A: Jennifer Todd – Well the decision to make his eyes big was Tim’s and is just an amazing effect. Johnny decided the Hatter was a bit of a split personality – his Scottish accent comes out when he’s angry and remembering his past.
Q: Jennifer, You’ve assembled an amazing cast, many of whom are unrecognizable in their roles, was there anybody who turned you down though?
A: Jennifer Todd – No! That’s one of the great gifts of working with Tim – actors are dying to work with him.
Q: Jennifer, Given the relationship between Tim and Johnny, how difficult or challenging was it to collaborate?
A: Jennifer Todd – Once they decided to work together it was very easy. Their friendship and ease with each other made the filmmaking process really nice. It also set a nice tone on the set for the other actors.
Q: Jennifer, How does the experience compare between working on such a behemoth as Alice and a smaller scale movie like Memento?
A: Jennifer Todd – The time commitment is much greater on a big film. ALICE was about three years in the process and that’s even quick for a movie of its size. Also it takes so many more people to complete a film like this – Memento was such a small, intimate experience, the two feel like very different processes.
Q: Suzanne, The casting of the film was fascinating – not simply because of the little-known Mia Wasikowska. Can you tell us how Crispin Glover became involved?
A: Suzanne Todd – The casting was very unusual because on most films you go through a process of making offers, having actors pass on the project, and then working your way down the list. When you have Tim Burton directing, everyone is dying to work with him so he just picks who he likes and everyone says yes!
Q: Jennifer, We often hear stories of Johnny Deep staying in character throughout a shoot, was he like that for Alice, was he in Hatter mode a lot of the time?
A: Jennifer Todd – He was, although at the end of the day when he was cleaned up and not in make-up anymore he seemed to just be himself.
Q: Suzanne, Did the two of you “produce” anything in your younger days? (Backyard plays are acceptable)
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes! Story telling was always a big deal in our house from a very young age, and I was always an avid reader. We liked to act out scenes from The Phantom Tollbooth, which was one of my all-time favorites from childhood.
Q: Jennifer, Did the two of you “produce” anything in your younger days? (Backyard plays are acceptable)
A: Jennifer Todd – No, but my sister killed me off in a couple of her student films at USC. I was always her main actress, pity for her.
Q: Suzanne, Have you, for one reason or another, passed on any scripts that you later saw turned into great films?
A: Suzanne Todd – No, but the first project I ever did with Linda Woolverton was a great script that I have always still wanted to make – the movie adaptation of the book “Wicked”, which Linda adapted for me in 1996.
Q: Jennifer, Ken Ralston has done an amazing job of VFX. How did Ken get involved in the project – was he a first choice? – and what were some of the challenges cast/crew faced in delivering such convincing performances with so many VFX considerations to work around, such as oversized heads and the varying height of Alice?
A: Jennifer Todd – Ken was the first choice for the film – he’s such an amazing talent and really at the forefront of VFX. The challenges were enormous – every day was like a giant geometry equation of where Alice would stand and be the right size, where the eye lines for the CG characters were, where people could stand and not interfere with the Queen’s head. Thank goodness Ken could figure it all out.
Q: Suzanne, You’ve been involved in the production of notable visual spectacles in the past, particularly Across The Universe, how was this production different to those other effect-heavy films?
A: Suzanne Todd – This was different in that there were SO many effects that there was hardly a scene or a shot to be found that had no effects. Alice also represents every type of effect and some mixed effects that hadn’t been done before: motion capture, cgi, hybrid characters, and the idea that no matter what her size that Alice always remains “normal” looking in any environment.
Q: Jennifer, The visual effects are quite in-depth, is it hard to visualize the end computerized result when working with the actors?
A: Jennifer Todd – Yes – I give the actors great credit for acting to a green screen and making it so convincing. One day on the set Mia was running on a treadmill and an AD was yelling out “tree branch” for every time she was supposed to duck – it looked very difficult to me!
Q: Suzanne, I’ve read that motion capture was originally filmed but later discarded in favor of live action and animation – if this is correct, why this decision was made?
A: Suzanne Todd – It wasn’t so much that anything was discarded, but it was a process of discovery to figure out which technologies could best service each of the very different characters.
Q: Jennifer, What attracted you to Alice in Wonderland? Especially since it had been done many times before.
A: Jennifer Todd – I loved this take on Alice – I had never pictured her as a young woman before, and one who would become a symbol for female empowerment.
Q: Suzanne, why a remake of a classic?
A: Suzanne Todd – I don’t think our film is a “remake” on any other Alice film, I think it’s a reinterpretation of a classic tale. But the Alice mythology is resonant around the world and people have shown great interest in modern re-telling.
Q: Jennifer, There’s an interesting quote in the special features we’re seeing, which says of the Red Queen that she is played like a petulant child pretending at being queen, does that describe the theory at the outset, or did that evolve dynamically during the shooting?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think Helena brought a lot of that to the character. She’s written as a woman who is cruel because she is unloved, but I think Helena brought a great petulant quality.
Q: Jennifer, How much creativity did Johnny Depp bring to The Mad Hatter character?
A: Jennifer Todd – Johnny brought so much to the character. We re-wrote quite a bit of the Hatter when Johnny came in, we fleshed out his back story of his family being killed, which explained his motivation and state of mind. Also all the lovely nuances of the character – his accent, wardrobe, etc were all created by Johnny with Tim.
Q: Suzanne, How did you find the right balance to remake Alice, but not isolate the audience with the tragedy within some characters?
A: Suzanne Todd – The characters in Alice, much like in any great literary work, and filled with both good and evil and struggling to find balance. It is that very struggle that we find fascinating and worth taking on this classic story.
Q: Jennifer, Did you get to keep any of the props from Alice in Wonderland?
A: Jennifer Todd – Sadly no, there weren’t many props to pinch! The Hatter’s tea was so beautiful but it went on tour after we finished filming.
Q: Suzanne, How hard was it to find the right Alice?
A: Suzanne Todd – I wouldn’t say it was difficult but it was a thoughtful and time-consuming process. Tim’s taste is exquisite and he knew exactly what he was looking for and found it plus more in our amazing Mia.
Q: Jennifer, Have you, for one reason or another, passed on any scripts that you later saw turned into great films?
A: Jennifer Todd – I can’t think of any I have – although it’s bound to happen. As a producer you have to accept your own taste and know that you won’t catch everything. I’m sure I would miss a great horror film if it came my way as I’m not good at those.
Q: Jennifer, At what stage of production did you decide to make the film 3D?
A: Jennifer Todd – At the beginning when Tim signed on. He was very keen on making this his first 3D film as the technology had just improved so much.
Q: Suzanne, What drew you to work on a classic such as Alice in The Wonderland?
A: Suzanne Todd – The Alice story is very present in modern day and appears in so many ways in movies, TV, and video games. We loved the idea of updating a classic with all the finest modern technologies.
Q: Jennifer, Both Johnny Depp & Helen Bonham are both strong, creative actors, it must have been fun working with them. Can you tell us what they both bring to the set in creativity?
A: Jennifer Todd – They are both so dedicated and fearless. They also are both so imaginative to create in the real world what worked for Wonderland. Both of them had so much input in their hair and make-up, wardrobe, props, etc..
Q: Jennifer, You worked on ‘Across The Universe’. Do you envisage a career peppered with interesting semi-animated projects and what is it you like most about semi-animated films?
A: Jennifer Todd – I love creating worlds and still being real. If I can find more movies to do this with I’ll be thrilled. They’re hard to find.
Q: Suzanne, With Helena Bonham Carter screaming so much she seems to have lost her voice a lot. Did you need a Scream Double?
A: Suzanne Todd – She did not have a scream double – but she did have to do some dialogue replacement after shooting was completed. She took on each day with total conviction – never tiring out from such an exhaustive role.
Q: Jennifer, Do you think this version that Tim Burton did of Alice enrich the classic? Did it respect all the guidelines of the book of Lewis Carroll?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think it is respectful. We used characters and plot from both books but only to enrich the plot of the film. I think the whim and the magic are in step with Lewis Carroll’s work.
Q: Suzanne, You’ve produced 18 movies in 18 years–what are you currently working on and do you ever take a vacation?
A: Suzanne Todd – We are currently working on a new film entitled “Celeste and Jesse Forever” starring Rashida Jones and Justin Timberlake. For vacations, I like to go to Disney World or on the Disney cruise – I am a huge fan of all things Disney!
Q: Jennifer, What made you go with Tim B. as Director of this?
A: Jennifer Todd – He was our first choice – he has the vision and the tone we thought perfectly suited the material.
Q: Suzanne, What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve learned or taken from making this movie?
A: Suzanne Todd – It was wonderful to take my ten-year old to the Royal Premiere in London! As a working mom, my children are so understanding about my sometimes hectic schedule and it was fantastic to share that amazing evening with my son.
Q: Jennifer, When working with such a talented director like Tim Burton, is the worry factor less or more pressure because of his quirkiness as an artist?
A: Jennifer Todd – I think there’s less pressure as Tim is such a known artist, and has had great success in his films prior to Alice.
Q: Jennifer, Tim Burton’s visions are always lush and I guess you would say extravagant (in all the right ways!). Were there any times when Tim’s vision had to be altered, either from a budget point of view or a creative one (to achieve a more ‘mainstream’ appeal, for example)?
A: Jennifer Todd – Not really. Tim self edits rather beautifully, and I think what’s great is that his unique vision appeals to audiences.
Q: Suzanne, What was the most enjoyable aspect of bringing to life this darker interpretation of a much loved classic?
A: Suzanne Todd – The response to the female empowerment at the core of the film has been very rewarding. We have heard from so many fans that the film has inspired them to think outside the box, and find courage in adversity – and that is immensely rewarding.
Q: Jennifer, Was it daunting to take such a well-loved classic tale and take forward into a new story line?
A: Jennifer Todd – Yes. The book is terrific but doesn’t lend itself well to a movie plot, so we were forced to reinvision it a bit without losing its magic.
Q: Jennifer, The original Alice story drew political parallels and satire wrapped up in a children’s story. What were some of the core messages and themes intended to be conveyed in this modern interpretation? Is it just a story about a girl lost in her own world and inner conflict, or do you see something much deeper?
A: Jennifer Todd – Our film is about a young girl at a crossroads in her life and finding the strength within her. It’s her “muchness”, her spirit, which she must tap into to find her way.
Q: Suzanne, Is there a tug of war between producer and director when it comes to creativity?
A: Suzanne Todd – Not when you are working with Tim Burton! He is a true genius and a visionary director.
Q: Jennifer, Is there a tug of war between producer and director when it comes to creativity?
A: Jennifer Todd – Not on a film like this, that was dependent on Tim’s vision. We really gave him the script and waited to see what he would come up with.
Q: Jennifer, Do you always look to work together as producers on projects, and are there times when the demands and stress of producing impact on your relationship?
A: Jennifer Todd – We do mostly produce together and I think it is actually quite easy having each other. It’s nice to have a real ally in the film making process as it’s so hard.
Q: Suzanne, Do you always look to work together as producers on projects, and are there times when the demands and stress of producing impact on your relationship?
A: Suzanne Todd – In the many movies we have made together, we have never disagreed about an important creative decision. We have had trying times, like all sisters do, but never based on the work – usually based on some unreturned shoes that had been borrowed or something like
Q: Suzanne, Do you futterwack? I’m a poor futterwacker, do you have any tips?
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes! We all love to futterwacken! Who doesn’t? The best tips are to watch the video on you tube – and enter our contest! You could be a champion futterwacker! Check out www.Disney.com/Alicedance
Q: Jennifer, This is going to be a hard movie to top, will your next couple of projects be deliberately small scale?
A: Jennifer Todd – We really make whatever we can when we can but it just so turns out that our next film is quite small, THE ROMANTICS, which premiered at Sundance.
Q: Suzanne, As a producer, does Home video give you a safety net or a catch-all in terms of additional story points?
A: Suzanne Todd – In the case of Alice, we were looking more to the home video as an exciting way to give people a peek behind the curtain of the movie making magic. We were not focused on adding additional story points to the Blu-ray/DVD.
Q: Jennifer, With so many different avenues of entertainment available, is it getting more difficult for producers and filmmakers to green light big budget productions? Is the overwhelming box office success of films like Alice, Avatar, etc. helping build confidence in studios/investors/etc.?
A: Jennifer Todd – It seems right now you are either getting films made at a big level like ALICE or AVATAR or very small like our next film THE ROMANTICS. The middle seems to be very difficult these days.
Q: Suzanne, This ‘Alice’ has been mentioned as a sequel to the younger ‘Alice’ yet it comes over as a darker version even to the point of having Mia dressed in armor in her fight against the Red Queen. Was that your original intention to paint the older ‘Alice’ in this way?
A: Suzanne Todd – Yes, in some ways. Our intention was to present an updated Alice that drew from the bones of what Alice was like in the original stories. We take her empowerment to the extreme, like in the instance of wearing armor to attempt to slay the Jabberwocky.
Q: Jennifer, Is it harder to reinvent classic tales than new scripts?
A: Jennifer Todd – Yes and no. It’s great to start with characters that are already known and loved but daunting that you don’t mess it up and upset your audience. Studios like classic tales as it gives them a pre-awareness for an audience.
Q: Jennifer, Any final thoughts on Alice In Wonderland?
A: Jennifer Todd – Thank you all so much for your interest and time today. We are thrilled with the success of the film and hope you all enjoyed it.
Q: Suzanne, Any final thoughts on Alice In Wonderland?
A: Suzanne Todd – Alice has been a true joy to work on! We are thrilled at the response and feel very grateful to be able to make movies like this one!