SDCC 2009: We Talk 'Alice in Wonderland' with Tim Burton


Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton might be the perfect marriage of grungy horror and fantastic imagery. We joined a group of journalists in speaking with Burton today at Comic-Con about his upcoming interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. And we found out how he'll bring his unique sensibility to the classic tale.

What inspired you about Lewis Carroll and Alice?

It's not just the books, it's the characters, songs. There's something about the imagery that he created that still plays in people's minds. Anything that has strong dream-like imagery that stays with you is important to gets into your subconscious and creative thinking. I hadn't seen any movie version that I really liked, so the intent was to take that imagery and turn it into a movie… Every character's weird, but I tried to give them each their own specific weirdness, so that they're all different. All those characters in his imagery sort of indicate some type of mental weirdness that everybody goes through, but the real attempt was to try to make Alice feel more like a story, as opposed to a series of events.

What drew you to this narrative?

It's a fairly universal concept, these kinds of stories, like Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland. It's an internal journey. These characters represent things inside the human psyche. So that's what every child does – you try to work out your problems as you go along. Same as an adult. Some people get therapy, some people make movies.

Is this your first time at Comic-Con?

I came when I was a student. There were like fifty people and a bad slide show. So this is a whole amazing, different thing.

When did you read the Alice books?

I read the books when I was a student. I had a weird connection, because I bought and worked in the studio of the illustrator Arthur Rackham, who, in around 1905, did the illustrations for all of these books, Alice and Sleepy Hollow. So I felt this weird connection, to me and the material and real life, and that always helps somehow.

Is this a sequel or a reimagining?

It's definitely not a sequel, because there are so many stories in Alice in Wonderland. A couple books. So the goal was to take the sort of randomness of the book, take elements of the book and make it into a story. A lot of it is based on the "Jabberwocky" poem in one of the stories, which is not a big part of the story, so we're just using elements from all of the books. They don't really have a specific structure.

Is it a love story [between Alice and the Mad Hatter]?

She's just a little girl, please!

See more from Tim in our Alice video interview.