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Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

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Alex View Drop Down
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  Quote Alex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
    Posted: 19 Feb 2010 at 14:11

Alice's very weird wonderland: Why a behind-the-scenes row might see Tim Burton's most fantastical film yet disappear from cinemas as fast as the Cheshire Cat


The word is that watching Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland is the closest you can come to falling down the rabbit hole yourself and into Lewis Carroll's fantasy world.

Those who have seen the film, or clips of it, say that it is utterly breathtaking, a hallucinatory alternate universe completely realised in every detail, from the sun streaming in through the gills of the mushrooms to the light falling on the individual fuzzy hairs on the caterpillar's back.

It cost £158million to make and, with computer graphics mixed with live action and animation, it is more technically ambitious than anything Burton has done before. And it is in 3-D, putting it head-to-head with the sci-fi phenomenon that is Avatar.

Scroll down to watch the trailer...

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Fantasy: Alice In Wonderland is said to be Burton's most beautiful and most perfectly imagined world yet

But far more significantly, it is said to be simply Burton's most beautiful and most perfectly imagined fantasy world.

The casting also has critical expectations rising. Who else but Matt Lucas could play the twin grotesques of Tweedledum and Tweedledee? And Johnny Depp, with green fluorescent contact lenses, rouged cheeks and a frizzy orange wig, makes the most extraordinary Mad Hatter.

With typical attention to detail, Burton has enhanced Depp's eyes with camera trickery, making them 15 per cent larger; so it's still Johnny Depp, but Through The Looking-Glass.

Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood has created a look for Depp which sees his clothes change colour as his moods come and go. He is like a human mood ring, hung with ribbons and hatpins and thimbles which dangle from his fingertips.

The Cheshire Cat, who can appear and disappear at will and has what Burton calls a creepy quality, is voiced by Stephen Fry and taps into Burton's hatred of cats.

Michael Sheen voices the White Rabbit, Alan Rickman is the caterpillar and Barbara Windsor the dormouse, Christopher Lee surfaces as the monstrous Jabberwock, Timothy Spall is a lugubrious bloodhound, Frances de la Tour is Alice's Aunt Imogene, Michael Gough the Dodo and Paul Whitehouse the March Hare.

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Forget special effects, as one of the few live action characters, Mia Wasikowska - who plays Alice in Tim Burton's new movie - had to stand on a box to appear taller

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Tim Burton says the Red Queen - played by wife Helena Bonham Carter - reminds him of the infamous New York property millionaire Leona Hemsley, known as the 'queen of mean', who, ironically, was a hatter's daughter


Burton's partner, Helena Bonham Carter, plays the Queen of Hearts as the acme of royal rage, with a plucked hairline, red wig, geisha-white face and uncontrollable 'Off with her head!' aggression.

On screen, her head has been enlarged to three times its size and the end result is quite grotesque. 'I can't rely on Tim to make me pretty,' sighs Helena. 

Alice In Wonderland  -  created in the 1860s by Charles Dodgson, a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll  -  is surely the literary masterpiece which Burton was born to interpret.

He has even worked in the studio once used by the English illustrator Arthur Rackham, whose illustrations for the 1907 edition ' produced the most iconic pictures of Alice that anyone has ever seen'.

'I read the Alice stories when I was eight, and I've seen the various TV and cinema versions, including the 1951 Disney cartoon. But, to be honest, I've never liked any of them,' Burton says.

'There was always a silly girl wandering around from one crazy character to another, and I never felt a real emotional connection to that, so it was an attempt to try and give it some framework and emotional grounding that I felt I hadn't seen in any version before.

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White Queen: Anne Hathaway says: 'I wanted her to have the punk spirit of Debbie Harry, the etherealness of American artists Dan Flavin and the grace of Greta Garbo.' The Mad Hatter: Before filming, Johnny Depp painted pictures of his character, which later proved almost identical to Tim Burton's vision

'I think all of those characters serve to indicate some type of mental weirdness that everybody goes through.'

Burton says he wanted an Alice 'with gravity' rather than the usual little girl skipping through the grass in her white socks and a blue pinafore dress.

Eventually, he settled on Mia Wasikowska, a young Australian actress. 'She had that emotional toughness; standing her ground in a way which makes her kind of an older person but with a younger person's mentality,' the director says.

Having previously portrayed the equally weird and wonderful Edward Scissorhands and Willy Wonka for Burton, Johnny Depp was a shoo-in for the Mad Hatter.

'I read the Lewis Carroll stories over and over again, and I learned everything I could about Victorian times,' Depp says.

'It would have been too easy, and not very believable, to have played the Mad Hatter as just a straightforward crazy guy.

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New chapter: Tim Burton says he isn't trying to tell the old story in the film which will 'infuriate the purists'

'But I knew Tim would be wanting more than that  -  there had to be a reason why he was like that, because something had tipped him over the edge.'

Depp's research revealed that the term 'mad as a hatter' came from a truth  -  that hatters in Victorian times suffered from mercury poisoning, a side-effect of the hat- manufacturing process which would affect the mind.

'So now we knew why he's mad, and after that, anything went,' Depp says.

'The mercury would have also shown through his skin and his hair, so the Hatter would have looked as mad as he behaved.'

For screenwriter Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast), the positive early reaction has been a vindication of her vision.

'I wasn't trying to re-tell the old story; I was toying with the thought: what if Alice was older and she went back into Wonderland?

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Alice In Wonderland  -  created in the 1860s by Charles Dodgson, a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll  -  is surely the literary masterpiece Burton was born to interpret

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Double-trouble: Matt Lucas plays the twin grotesques of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Tim Burton's inspiration for them came from the creepy twins in the Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining

'I had this mental picture of her standing at a very crucial moment in her life and having to make an important decision, but being distracted by the White Rabbit.'

In the film, Alice's turning point comes as she receives an unexpected and unwelcome very public marriage proposal in a Victorian garden.

Seeing the White Rabbit  -  with his trademark waistcoat and watch, of course  -  she runs after him, stumbles and falls down a hole into Wonderland, which is in decline, overgrown and rather haunted.

She is taken to the hookah-smoking caterpillar, who tells her that according to ancient prophecy, she has returned to slay the Red Queen's dreaded Jabberwock and bring about the end of her reign.

'There's a lot that Lewis Carroll didn't write, but I've based other scenes on things he did', Woolverton says.

'It will infuriate the purists, but this was never meant to be a remake. This is Alice as a young woman.'

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Breathtaking: The film shows Alice as a young woman. And, right, the Red Queen's head has been enlarged to three times the size. 'I can't rely on Tim to make me look pretty,' actress Helena says

But despite all this nurturing of Burton's vision, his movie is under threat of being smothered at birth. Quite extraordinarily, the UK's three largest cinema chains  -  Odeon, Vue and Cineworld  -  are threatening not to show it.

They account for 65 per cent of the UK's cinemas, and 90 per cent of the 3-D screens, so the threat is a serious one.

Given that the premiere is next Thursday and the movie opens on March 5, it's a disaster.

The cause of the angst is that Disney wants to release the film on DVD and Blu-ray only three months after it opens at the cinema, rather than the standard 17 weeks.

It wants to get the DVD into the shops before the midsummer doldrums, and to capitalise on the marketing of the movie while it is still fresh in people's minds.

But the cinemas are afraid that people will just wait to buy the film on DVD rather than spend money on going to the pictures. They aren't alone: four big cinema chains in Holland are boycotting the film and the Italians are rebelling, too.

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White Rabbit: Animators visited a shelter for abandoned rabbits to observe their characteristics

Disney, which stands to lose upwards of £40million because of this row, says that 97 per cent of box office takings happen within eight weeks, and argues that it is only asking for this flexibility in the case of perhaps two movies a year.

Last week the company sent two executives from Hollywood to try to find a solution.

Burton himself transferred filming from Cornwall, where a lot of exterior scenes were shot, to Los Angeles, where the technology would be brought into play. Scenes were filmed in front of all-green backgrounds which were then overlaid digitally.

'The novelty of the green wears off very quickly,' Depp complained during filming. 'It's exhausting actually  -  we can't see what we are doing.'

Burton had lavender lenses fitted into his glasses to counter-balance the colour. This way of working brought the director great freedoms, particularly when it came to playing with scale.

Glover's Knave Of Hearts is half real, half digital. In the film he is 71/2ft tall, so on set Glover wore a green suit and a pair of green stilts. For the final film, his entire body, costume and cape were computer-generated  -  only his face was real.

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The Cheshire cat, which can appear and disappear at will, is voiced by Stephen Fry

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Special effects: £158million was spent making the new Alice In Wonderland film

Depp is lost in admiration for Burton. He says: 'He couldn't have bitten off anything bigger to chew. This is almost lunatic time. To choose to grab Alice In Wonderland, that in itself is one thing, and then to do it to the Tim Burton level is madness.'

Burton, stuck between a rock and a hard place over the distribution row, is keeping his own counsel. But there is no doubt he will be deeply disappointed if the film over which he has taken such care is available to only a fraction of its potential audience.

As he says: 'When Lewis Carroll wrote his Alice stories nearly 150 years ago, he was taking a big chance that people would understand and appreciate that he was trying to do something unusual.

'Now, it's our turn to take our own chances  -  and I don't think we've let him down.'

• Alice In Wonderland has its charity premiere in London next Thursday and is released on March 5.

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Carroll's vision: Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

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Carroll's vision: Tweedledums and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen

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Carroll's vision: The White Rabbit, left, and the Red Queen


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  Quote Alex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Feb 2010 at 14:13
Not normally my sort of thing but this looks amazing, can't wait!

opps forgot the source Daily Mail, shit newspaper but they do a lovely layout
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  Quote James Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Feb 2010 at 15:40
I love Tim Burton's movies and can't WAIT to see this, especially in 3D. I hope the row over it being shown is sorted out quickly. Nice cast list too. I like how neither Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham-Carter have ever been miscast in the 18 million roles Burton's thrown their way.

In other news:


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  Quote veronica Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Feb 2010 at 21:57
It's got that certain Tim Burton look about it, I really like his films as they tend to be beautifully shot (in my humble opinion)

Big Fish was such an underrated film, I can't understand why it got such bad reviews, oh well.
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  Quote veronica Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Feb 2010 at 22:17
Just booked tickets to see this on the 6th at our local cinema (not an Odeon!)
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  Quote James Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Apr 2010 at 19:12
I meant to post about this well before now. I was quite disappointed with it - the 3D wasn't all that (I hear the effects were added after the movie was made and I could see the difference between AIW and Avatar). Helena Bonham-Carter looked brilliant as the Red Queen but I wasn't so keen on her delivery.
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  Quote Force Ten Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2010 at 06:52
I agree James, I too was disappointed in this film.  It just doesn't compare with Avatar IMO.
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  Quote Thess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2010 at 19:04
I'll buck the trend here and say that I hated Avatar and liked Alice in Wonderland.

Avatar was too long, the 3d effects in the chase/fast paced scenes made my head hurt and imo the effects worked better during the slower, still scenes. 

Alice was engaging, quirky and fun and because it was less frenetic, I thought the 3d worked well.

Maybe it's my age!
Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.
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