At the LA press day for the PG-rated trip down the rabbit hole, Burton was asked how his relationship with Depp has changed over the years. "Well, I don't know. I couldn’t really look at him during the shooting because he looked like a scary clown. So we didn’t make much eye contact during the shoot," answered Burton. "Look, I’ve always loved working with Johnny from Scissorhands on for many reasons. He likes to play characters, be different things. He doesn’t like watching himself, which I love because that makes it a lot easier for me. Which is great and each time you do something, he’s always trying to do something different, surprising. It’s great when you know somebody and they keep surprising you."
Alice in Wonderland Press Conference - Director Tim BurtonWhen did the story of Alice in Wonderland first enter your life and how did it influence you?
Tim Burton: "Well, I’m from Burbank so we never heard about Alice in Wonderland except for the Disney cartoon, Tom Petty video, Jefferson Airplane. It was interesting because that's what made me realize the power of it is that I got my introduction to it much more from other illustrators and music and culture and writers. The imagery would come up in work. Then when you start to delve into it and realize just how powerful that is, it's why it sort of remains that way."
What made you want to go into the world of Alice in Wonderland in 3-D?
Tim Burton: "Well, it was that. It was Alice in Wonderland in 3-D. It just seemed like the world that Lewis Carroll created, just the kind of trippiness, and the size/spatial element... Then I started thinking about the world of Lewis Carroll, thinking not so much about the films and things, but I knew more about it from listening to music and bands and other illustrators and artists that would incorporate that imagery in their work. It just made me realize just how powerful the material was. Like if it were written today, it would be mind-blowing today. So the combination of the medium and the material just seemed really right."
And putting your own stamp on it?
Tim Burton: "Well, there's been so many versions and, for me, I'd never seen a version that I really liked. So I didn't feel like there was a definitive version to me that we were fighting against. And also, I liked what Linda [Woolverton] did with the script. She almost treated this story like how the Alice material has affected us, at least for me. It's a story about somebody using this kind of imagery and this kind of world to figure out problems in their own life, and what’s fantasy and reality and dreams and reality - how they are not separate things, that they’re one thing. It's how we use those things to deal with our issues in life."
Why did you shoot 2-D and convert it?
Tim Burton: "Just because all the techniques we were using, there's no point shooting in 3-D when there’s nothing to shoot. So we’re using so many different techniques. We didn't go motion capture, we had live action, we had animation, we had virtual sets - a little bit of sets. So I looked from when we did the conversion from Nightmare, Ken Ralston and I looked at things that were shot in 3-D and shot in 2-D conversion and it's like anything. All of these tools, you can see good 3-D, bad 3-D, good conversions, bad conversions. We always knew it was 3-D, so we did all the proper planning so when we got to that stage, when we got the elements finally together, it was just another piece of the technology. In fact, that was probably more some of the easier technology than the other elements that we were dealing with."
Was there anything in Alice that you technologically couldn't do yet?
Tim Burton: "We were just using all the different technology. They're all out there and people go purely motion capture, purely animation, different forms of animation. Everything's a new tool. You always have limitations. You can do more. It's all great, but I never try to focus too much on the technology. The fun of it for us is the artistic thing of it and feeling like making a movie and stuff and not get overly too involved, in love with technology."
Of all the films you've done, which of your films is your children's favorite?
Tim Burton: "For me, my kids don't really like my movies. I can't say that...they're too young. My son's getting older, but since I don't really know what I do, I can't really describe to him what I do, so he doesn't really know what I do so whatever."
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Alice in Wonderland hits theaters on March 5, 2010.