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Tim Burton explores ‘Alice in Wonderland’

“Even though the books and the stories are iconic, I've never felt that there was a film that really kind of made it a film, translated from the story to a film,” says Burton
/ Source: Reuters

Tim Burton's 3D promotional trailer for Walt Disney Pictures' "Alice in Wonderland" has been the talk of Comic-Con, thanks in part to the surprise cameo appearance of Johnny Depp at a panel on Thursday.

Depp plays The Mad Hatter in the new film, which debuts in theaters in March 2010. Burton made his first appearance at the giant comic book and pop culture convention here since the 1970s, when Comic-Con involved slides of the "Superman" movie.

The director joked that he brought slides of his vacation because he didn't have much film footage of the new "Alice." He then sat down with Reuters to talk about the new film.

Q: Can you explain your vision for ‘Alice in Wonderland’?
No, because I still have a lot to do (laughs). I mean, we're trying to make a movie. I just take versions and ... because it's kind of like comic material, although I don't know if I've ever seen a movie that I've really liked based on it because it's always kind of been a series of weird events. Everybody's crazy and it's sort of a passive little girl wandering around from episode to episode. So even though the books and the stories are iconic, I've never felt that there was a film that really kind of made it a film, translated from the story to a film. So that's the attempt.

Q: What did you take from Lewis Carroll's source material?
It's based on all of Lewis Carroll's material, including the "Jabberwocky Poem." Past "Alice" films were always just a girl wandering around passively with a lot of weird characters. We tried to weave it into a story that has emotion to it and makes sense.

Q: Did you go back and watch past ‘Alice’ movies?
I've seen many of the different versions of "Alice" over the years. I know there was a musical porno movie I remember seeing in the '70s. And lots of other different versions.

Q: Do you think about an audience before making a film?
Not really (laughs). I mean, because I don't think you really can. When I did "Nightmare" ("The Nightmare Before Christmas"), people thought it was too weird for kids, but kids like it a lot. You know, I've done Roald Dahl material and his is always weird, but kids like that. Parents often, kind of, forget that kids like weird things. So you try to make it for everybody really, I guess.

Q: What types of technology are you developing for ‘Alice’?
Well, it seems more just the combination of things. We're kind of using techniques that have been used before. It's just we're mixing them up a bit differently, so that's what's making it sort of different to me — the combination of live action and animation. We're not really doing motion capture.

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Q: What does Johnny Depp bring to the Mad Hatter?
He likes dressing up. I think with the "Alice in Wonderland" characters, they've often been portrayed as just crazy without much subtext, and I think he tried to bring something, an underlying human quality to the craziness. He tried to understand it a bit more ... We try to give each character their own particular craziness. And he's good at sort of exploring that, I guess because he's crazy. I don't know.

Q: What is your relationship like with Depp?
We seem to get along well and I've worked with him many times. It's always exciting to see what he brings to something. And it's fun to work with him because it's like it's always something different and new and it's just fun to see. That always is exciting to me.