Behind the scenes of “Alice in Wonderland”

Monday, April 05, 2010
By Sue Flannagan
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In addition to Tim Burton’s directing, the visual effects, animation, and make-up teams had a large part in bringing the characters to life in Alice in Wonderland. The actors shot most of their scenes on a green screen, and then their surroundings were added in post production. Burton and his editor Chris Lebenzon handed over a rough draft to senior visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and his team at Sony Imageworks to create computer generated images and animated characters.

The biggest challenge was creating the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), whose head was twice its normal size while her body remained unchanged. “To blow the Queen’s head up larger from normal size, we needed more data. We needed more pixels to make it work,” said visual effects supervisor Tom Peitzman. This was done by using a second camera system, which offered additional lines of resolution. Ralston and Peitzman also had to deal with the constant change in size and scale of several other characters. “Alice is rarely normal size,” said Ralston. “She’s six inches, two feet or eight feet tall, and all the other characters have to be proportioned to that too.”

Before the scenes were sent to the visual effects department, Oscar winning make-up artist Valli O’Reilly and her team engineered the looks for the cast. “I was inspired by Colleen Atwood’s costume sketches of all the characters, Tim Burton’s signature Burton-esque style, Arthur Rackham’s original sketches and the artist Margaret Keane, whose wide-eyed portraits of young kids next to trash cans gave me the eye make-up inspiration on just about all of the characters in the film.”

Burton directed this film because he thought it was intriguing and that it was the right kind of story to do in 3D. “I always try to say, ‘Is this the right medium for this?’ and not just do it because it’s fashionable, and it did feel like the right kind of material. So seeing it come to life in 3D supports the material. It gives you that kind of ‘out there’ feel that was a very crucial element to the film.”


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