Tim Burton: Alice In Wonderland + German Expressionism

With an artist name like “Follow The White Rabbit”, it’s no surprise that I’m an Alice In Wonderland fan.  😛  But I’m also a huge Tim Burton fan.  And now my life is almost complete because Tim Burton is directing the new Alice In Wonderland movie (released in 2010) AND some of my friends are working on it!! The movie looks gorgeous, I really can’t wait to see it in the theatre!

Check out these awesome images that have been released:


[Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter & Mia Wasikowska as Alice]

Alice in The Garden of Live Flowers. If you look closely, you can see faces in the flowers!

Tim Burton is my favourite director of all time. He started out as an Animator at Walt Disney Studios, and worked his way up to become a Director.  His resume has lots of my favourite movies on it (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood, etc).  What I love about his movies is that he’s not afraid to push the boundaries when it comes to artistic direction (even if his story arcs aren’t that strong).  I can’t name another director who is either that daring or trusted to go for a super unique look.  I also love his gothic twist on things.  He truly is a brilliant and inspirational artist.

Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

You can tell that he takes a lot of inspiration from German Expressionism, which characteristically have amazing sharp bold shapes in their sets and lighting/shadows.  German Expressionism portrays the emotion of a scene/situation with stylized cinematography, instead of it being portrayed through character or dialogue.  Another influence I’ve noticed is the name of the villain in “Batman Returns” is “Max Schreck”, which is the same name of the actor who plays Count Orlok in “Nosferatu”!  (Yes, I’m a total film nerd.)

This is a still from the movie Nosferatu (1929). You can see the tone, emotion and intent in this shot just by the light and shadow cast on the wall. The German Expressionists were masters at this art form.

A few months ago I was having lunch at my favourite restaurant Royal/T when all of a sudden Tim Burton walks in.  I look over and totally had one of those movie moments where everything was playing in slow motion.  Tim Burton was silhouetted in black by the bright light that was shining in from the door behind him.  He walked past me and sat down at the table diagonal from us with his lunch party (with most likely his production staff).  I was in shock — I couldn’t move!  I couldn’t think!  And I coincidentally was wearing my Nightmare Before Christmas hoodie, too!  lol.  I’ve never had a fangirl moment like that with any other celebrity, but I did with Tim Burton.  haha.  😛

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands (1990)

If you’d like to read more about Tim Burton, visit his official website (which unfortunately isn’t that great) or The Tim Burton Collective (lots of great info).  For those of you in NYC, he will be having an art exhibition at MoMA from November-April!   He will also be releasing “The Art of Tim Burton” book soon (which I absolutely must get!!)!  Also, Lenny’s Alice In Wonderland site is a great resource for anything Alice (e-books, pics, trivia, etc), one that I use almost all the time!

I’ll end this post with one of my favourite short films titled: “Vincent” (1982), directed by Tim Burton and narrated by Vincent Price.  Check it out if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet.  Can you tell what film style this short film was inspired by? 😉

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10 thoughts on “Tim Burton: Alice In Wonderland + German Expressionism

  1. I’m liking how Burton is taking the dark/creepy approach to the design, sort of like American Macgee’s Alice game.

    As much as I love Disney, I think they got Alice in Wonderland wrong. Carrol’s books are WAY darker in tone.

    • I agree! American McGee did awesome things for Alice. (I heard a while ago they were going to do an OZ game too.) That dark goth style is exactly how I imagine Alice to be, and like you, I think the movie should be even darker. But since the Alice In Wonderland story isn’t under copyright anymore, hopefully another director will want to make a darker version. So I hope that Marilyn Manson gets to make his Phantasmagoria!

  2. Oh wow–this movie looks gorgeous! I am huge Alice in Wonderland fan as well (I wrote my senior thesis on it in college!), and I adore Tim Burton’s work. So cool that your husband gets to work on this!

    • It seems like everyone loves Alice and Tim Burton… it’s so wonderful that this movie is being made! 😀 I bet your thesis was fun to write! 😀 So, do you know why a raven is like a writing desk? 😉

      • “I haven’t the slightest idea!” 🙂 Though I guess Carroll was pestered about this riddle quite a bit and eventually came up with a passable (albeit lame) answer about both producing flat notes and neither being put wrong way first or something to that effect.

  3. Is the film style like Hitchcock?
    I am laughing because I saw the title of this post in my Reader and immediately thought “wow, what a cool combination…Alice and German Expressionism…I’ll have to tell Emily.” LOL.
    I like your writing and I think the Expressionism angle is fascinating. I only think of the visual painters, not the filmmakers so you’ve made me think about it.
    Thanks! xoxo

    • …it’s German Expressionism! 😛

      Hahaha, that’s so weird!

      No, thanks to you! 🙂 Yeah, I think of visual painters first when I think of that style (cause of you!), but they were also big in the film world too. Metropolis (another of my favourites) was a German Expressionist film too. That era really produced some amazing work!

  4. I actually had the opportunity to meet Tim many years ago. He was the nicest guy you could imagine. As big a fan as I was at the time, my appreciation of him as a person only intensified.

    Even if it wasn’t as dark as Lewis may have wanted it, the original Disney film is one of my favorites. The coloring and the characters are so iconic. That being said, I cannot wait to see what Tim (and your husband!) have in the works for us Wonderland fans.

    • That’s great to hear that he is a super nice guy in person. Lucky you to meet him! 🙂 He has such an artistic vision… what would the film world do without Tim!

      I agree — the Disney film is beautiful. Mary Blair (one of my fav artists) did some amazing conceptual & colour work on it.

      I’m dying to see the new movie too! 😀

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