Revisiting Alice in Wonderland
"The Tea Party scene is the first time that we meet the Mad Hatter and we had Johnny Depp's performance and then we enlarged his eyes so they were abnormally big. Also, in the scene, Alice is very small; we have a lot of animated characters; and also it's an interesting blend of a partial real set when everything blends into our CG world."
Meanwhile, Schaub emphasized the challenges associated with the Cheshire Cat. "The Cheshire Cat is an intelligent, mischievous character, with a sly grin that stretches from ear to ear. This presented a rigging challenge since the mouth had to deform over the entire span of the face. Fur had to be groomed in such a way that it didn't get too thick during compression or thin out too much when it was fully stretched from ear to ear. The design also required that the teeth be visible as part of the grin so the interior palette had to deform to follow the curvature of the smile. Early tests had this character grounded as a real cat, but quickly moved to a more ethereal style of movement. There's only a few shots where the Cheshire Cat is bound by gravity, and the rest of the time he floats in and out of existence in a very sleek and graceful way. The character is voiced by Stephen Fry and the challenge was to support the dialog with convincing body language for a cat without over humanizing the gestures. Instead of gesturing with his hands… little ear twitches and tail flicks were used as punctuation marks instead."
The Tweedles were a true hybrid with Matt Lucas' eyes, nose and mouth along with keyframe animation, again, using MoCap as reference. "The two roles are synchronized in editorial and a pre-comp is created that becomes the performance reference for animation," Schaub continued. "Ultimately, it's the photographic element of Matt Lucas' face that ends up in the final render… The director wanted a punchier, more caricatured style of motion for the Tweedles. While the spirit of Matt's performance remains intact, the execution of weight and physics was tackled exclusively in animation."
In terms of the Mushroom Forest, Van Brande explained, "Three-D previs models were used on set for realtime feedback. Concept art and a library of reference images helped to achieve the realism we were after. A large number of different mushrooms as well as plants were models and textures. A look was developed using in-house shaders and the Arnold renderer, which allowed us to [get more organic lighting]."
Schaub also made an appearance to answer questions in person. He explained that Jabberwocky, for instance, not only paid homage to Ray Harryhausen but also to Bill Tytla's demon Chernabog from Fantasia's "Night on Bald Mountain" segment, especially when he emerges from inside his wings.
Schaub also recounted how Burton was having a difficult time explaining the precise curl of smoke he desired from Absolem, the psychedelic caterpillar. "He finally told us to use an incense stick as reference."
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.