More of a sequel than a remake of Lewis Carroll's children's stories, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, opening in many countries March 5 in 3D, is fashioned as an action-adventure story following a young woman, not a fanciful Victorian tale about a little girl.
As a hybrid, the film combines live-action, CGI animation and performance-capture. In addition, a variety of techniques required calibrations for all the complex interactions between characters and their facial expressions.
Ken Ralston was the visual effects supervisor. He's a highly respected, five-time Academy Award winner for his work on Forrest Gump, Cocoon, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Return of the Jedi, and three Star Trek films when he worked at Industrial Light & Magic. Yet even he found Burton's film a challenge.
The Red Queen, the Mad Hatter and Knave of Hearts are humanoid fantasy figures - part animated and part human, requiring performance-capture. All the animals are animated - the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit and the bloodhound, a new character introduced in this version of the story. Alice is played as a "normal" person, though even she changes sizes.
In addition, the backgrounds are also all computer-generated. A progression of images illustrates the evolution from sketch to completed picture. The complicated process is seamlessly executed as visualized on the screen.
With art direction, Burton's choices are far from arbitrary. The orange circles under the Mad Hatter's eyes, which match his hair, are caused by mercury poisoning, which accounts for the character's madness. Technology and Burton's imagination appear to be in sync with a twisted update on this originally surreal tale.