Adapting Lewis Carroll: USA TODAY interviews Tim Burton and ALICE IN WONDERLAND screenwriter Linda Woolverton

Adapting Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories for the screen was a challenge, director Tim Burton told USA Today’s Susan Wloszczyna, because the “iconic characters” are stranded in a series of episodes that have no “narrative drive.” Says Burton, “Every version I’ve seen falls into the same category: A precocious girl meets a bunch of weirdos.” What tempted the director to film Carroll’s fantasy was the script by Linda Woolverton, author of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. “Her whole point was to focus and frame it, to explore what Alice is about. It didn’t need more bells and whistles. It needed grounding.”

While Woolverton is a great admirer of Lewis Carroll–“the characters are remarkable and unforgettable”–she spotted the lack of a dramatic arc in the stories: “Alice is a girl who doesn’t change. There is no real jeopardy. There is no emotion, really.” Woolverton’s version takes Alice back to Wonderland as a 19-year-old girl fleeing from an unwanted engagement. She finds the kingdom in turmoil, terrorized by the capricious and autocratic Red Queen. Says Wloszczyna, “It gave the usually passive Alice a chance to not only save the day but also to determine her own destiny. The girl-powered underpinnings were not unlike those the writer gave to Belle, the bookworm heroine of Beauty and the Beast and liberator of future Disney fairy-tale females.”

When Woolverton learned that her script would be directed by Tim Burton, she told USA Today that she did “that happy dance” — more precisely, a “futterwacken,” described as “a sort of herky-jerky jig with a few hip-hop moves that she invented for the film.” The Mad Hatter does a memorable futterwacken in Alice in Wonderland; when Sky News asked Johnny Depp about it, he replied: “Futterwacking is very dangerous and it should only be done once a month in the privacy of your own home with a doctor’s permission.”

You can read more of the USA Today feature on Alice in Wonderland on the Zone’s News & Views forum.

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