'Fantasies are real' says 'Alice' film-maker Tim Burton

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For Tim Burton, whose movie "Alice in Wonderland" has broken through the looking glass to come up a box office winner, "dream life and fantasies are real."

The powerful mind-bending Lewis Carroll classic, Burton said in an interview, "is like exploring your dream life and fantasy life."

In real life, 2010 is looking a winner year for the somewhat dishevelled 51-year-old. His Disney-produced "Alice" topped the US box office this week and New York's prestigious MoMa is running a show until April spanning his many talents - painter, photographer and illustrator as well as film-maker.

And from May 12-23, the creator of some of the darkest and most evocative movies in cinematic history - including "Beetlejuice", "Edward Scissorhands" and "Planet of the Apes" - is to head the Cannes film festival jury, an event he describes as "a dream come true."

"I haven't had time to see films for the last two years," he said of Cannes and the making of "Alice". "I feel like I've been raised by wolves and now I'm coming back to civilization, so I'm really happy and excited!"

Burton's live-action 3-D "Alice" is a free-ranging interpretation of 19th-century British writer Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and its sequel "Through the Looking Glass".

"So many people have analysed 'Alice in Wonderland' and it's still cryptic, it's still something people can't put a finger on, and yet it remains in people's consciousness. That's the great power of any myth or folk tale - it just stays there, in clothing, fashion, everything."

Featuring sumptuous digital fantasy worlds, the movie stars 19-year-old Australian actress Mia Wasikowska fleeing a forced betrothal to return to the fantasy world she discovered as a child thanks to a white rabbit and his hole.

With the help of Mad Hatter Johnny Depp, in his seventh Burton movie, and other heroes of the classic tale - the Cheshire Cat, or Tweedledum and Tweedledee - Alice tries to oust the evil queen played by Helena Bonham Carter.

"This was about using Carroll's characters, but almost more about what effects his work had on me, which is like exploring your dream life and fantasy life."

"I always had this horrible reaction of people going 'This is fantasy and that's reality'," he told AFP. "It's like, wait a minute! A lot of us use our fantasy and dream life to actually work out problems in our real life. It goes in psychology, it goes into a lot of things."

"They're not exclusive," he said. "Those fantasies are quite real."

The movie is the visionary story-teller's first with Disney in 30 years, after the studio produced two of his first short films "Frankenweenie" and "Hansel and Gretel".

"It's like a family: we have our good days and our bad days. I've been embraced into the company and kicked out of the company about five or six different times! So I guess it's just like a real family," he said.

A technically complex movie that mixes animated characters with real-life actors, with Alice constantly changing size, Burton said:

"It's like making a puzzle...it was a really chaotic and disturbing process."