In 1863, two young gentlemen (one of whom was a mathematician and writer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), in the company of young daughters of the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, set off by boat upstream of the River Thames. During the walk, Dodgson told the story he wrote about the adventures of the girl Alice. The fairytale really liked one of the daughters, who was also called Alice, and she asked Johnson to inspect the text for her.
Presented a year later, the manuscript was only the beginning of the journey - on July 4, 1865, a book called “Alice in Wonderland” was published. The author of this work on the cover was Lewis Carroll - under this pseudonym in reality was hiding Dodgson. The tale of Alice’s girl who had fallen into the rabbit hole and the adventures that followed in this fairy-tale country became a vivid representative of the UK’s cultural heritage, a work world-famous at the dawn of the last century. Subsequently, the book was not only translated into hundreds of foreign languages, but more than once it was filmed.
According to Wikipedia, the tale was transferred to film and television screens in the form of art and animated films more than ten times. Perhaps the most famous adaptation of "Alice" is a cartoon produced by Disney, released in 1951. After almost half a century since its release, the Walt Disney studio decided to return to this topic again, but this time in the form of a movie and in the now fashionable 3D format.
The plot of Carroll’s tale is familiar to almost everyone - the Alice girl who fell into the hole behind the White Rabbit enters a fairy-tale country, on the way of wandering along which she meets with her various inhabitants: the White Rabbit, the Blue Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and his companion - the March Rabbit, and finally the Queen of Hearts.
The idea to “refresh” a classic fairy tale belongs to the screenwriter Linde Wolverton, who is the author and co-author of the scripts for the Disney cartoons “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”. She decided to move away from the original plot of Carroll’s fairy tale, making some “cosmetic” changes to it.
According to the new story, Alice is a 19-year-old girl who recently lost her father. During her time at the party, she receives a public offer to marry, which puts her out of balance. Having escaped from the celebration, she notices a white rabbit and, following him through the maze and the rabbit hole, falls into Wonderland, in which, as it later turned out, she had already been at the age of six, but had completely forgotten about it.
In order to make the story more active from the point of view of screen action, Wolverton added to the script the events from the poem by Carroll Barmaglot, which appears in the sequel book Alice Through the Looking Glass. Thus, the screenwriter wanted to give the heroine an opportunity not only to “live” one day in Wonderland, but also to determine her own fate.
Unlike the book and the original Disney cartoon, Alice no longer appears in the form of a curious girl with blond hair and in a white apron. The viewer opens the image of an adult girl who has lost faith in the future and in herself.
It turns out to be more gloomy and Wonderland. Despite the lush vegetation, placers of large mushrooms and fanciful living beings, the surrounding environment spoils the traces of devastation and ruin. According to the director, the picture of Tim Burton, his own vision of the renewed Wonderland is based on the drawings of Arthur Rackham, illustrating the reprint of “Alice in Wonderland” in 1907, as well as on a black and white photograph of an English family drinking tea against the backdrop of London’s plight since the Second World War.
While field shooting was conducted on the territory of the Cornwall Peninsula in England, all the scenes that take place in Wonderland were filmed against the background of “Chroma Key” in the pavilions of Culver City Studios in Los Angeles.
A chroma key is a technology combining two or more images or frames in one composition. Also called chromakey bright green (most often), bright blue or bright orange background, which are shooting using the same technology. When combining an object with a background in the frame while recording a scene or during editing, you can place another image instead of the background.
The filming process of "Alice" was complicated by the fact that, according to the director, it was the first picture, in the process of working on which he had to work with the "green screen" for so long. In the majority of scenes in Burton's previous films, real scenery was used as the background, and their absence in the new film was a great challenge for him. “A long stay surrounded by green walls, floor and ceiling can harm anyone,” complains the director. “We all had a green fever, the crew just went crazy.” As a result, during the staging stage, Burton, 40 days from which he went to the shooting of scenes against the background of the "green screen", had to wear lavender-colored lenses attached to the glasses in order to reduce the negative effect on the eyes.
Designer Robert Stromberg turned out to be indispensable to Burton when working on “Alice”, who had already managed to take part in the creation of Avatar by James Cameron. According to him, much of the experience gained in the previous project was realized in the new picture. “I knew that for the most part we had to deal with a green screen.” Therefore, it seemed to me that the best way would be to show Tim Burton what all these big screens would later be filled with. Therefore, I took all the knowledge I had gained while working on Avatar and applied it to Alice.
The difference between working on the two films was that in the case of Burton, there were live actors on the set, interacting with their surroundings. As a result, Stromberg also prepared partly full-scale scenes in which film characters could touch physical objects and observe the result of their interaction with them.
To facilitate the work with the "green screen" was used “virtual camera” technique, used in “Avatar” by D. Cameron: at the stage of production by artists, the low poly environment of each scene was modeled. Using markers attached to the suits for “motion capture”, as well as sensors on the movie camera, Tim Burton had the opportunity to observe the actors against the backdrop of computer scenery in real time right on the set.
Cameron used his own virtual camera system, a new way to capture motion when shooting movies. According to him, "this is like a big and powerful game engine." The system in real-time depicts augmented reality on the monitor, puts the virtual counterparts of actors in their digital environment, which allows you to adjust and directly manage the scenes, as if it were a live shoot.
We should also mention the shooting of the Red Queen - due to the size of her head, the actress was shot individually for a significant portion of the time. In order to bring the effect to life, in parallel with the use of a conventional camera with FullHD resolution of 1920 × 1080 (2 million pixels), the crew used a Dalsa camera from Evolution, which has four times higher resolution (4096 × 2048, 8 million pixels). Due to this, it was possible not to worry about possible loss of quality during subsequent digital processing.
“We shot the Red Queen at 8 M and then reduced the image to a pseudo-FullHD resolution of 2160 × 1080,” says Vilegas. “So, using the software we developed, we reduced the frame, including its body and head, while we also had the original version, the head of the actress from which we then placed on top of the reduced one.” According to the supervisor, out of almost 2,500 plans with visual effects in the film, about 500 of them fell on the queen.
According to the editor, Jaycee Bond, shooting almost the entire movie on digital movie cameras has given significant advantages. If nature and scenery were used for scenes in the real world of Alice, episodes in Wonderland were filmed in pavilions and almost all required additional processing on the computer. The Bond team connected to the film set via high-performance servers and worked with a lag of only 20 minutes from the current shooting.