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Four designers storyboard their favorite scenes from Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s tale of talking animals and overturned social mores has been linked to vibrant imagery ever since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 with John Tenniel’s wood-engraved illustrations. It was Tenniel who gave us our image of Alice: the long hair, the Mary Janes, the pinafore. Film, born as a medium shortly thereafter, embraced Carroll’s wild, visually tantalizing narrative in live-action productions, and the animated ones—Disney’s 1951 version being the best-known—soon followed. The newest incarnation of Alice, from the artist currently on view at MoMA, Tim Burton, opened in theaters over the weekend.

For our latest issue, we asked four motion-graphics artists to storyboard their favorite scenes.


Design and concept: Tavo Ponce; art directors/designers: Per Christian Balay, Juanma Mota; photographer: Paloma Rincón; producer: Ana Raya; additional assistance: Carmen Rodríguez Mazo; styling: RebeR (rebecalombardo.com); hair and makeup: Rebeca Lombardo (LOREAL Proffesionnel & MAC); Alice dressed by: Inés Naveros; jewelry for the Red Queen: Yomime by Suik (www.suik.es); Alice: Beatriz de la Parte; Red Queen: Ana Raya.


The Queen’s Croquet Ground

For Tavo Ponce, choosing which scene to storyboard was easy. “The Red Queen is my favorite character. I cannot help it—she is so powerful!” he says. “But I think the Disney movie was not especially fair with her. It was my opportunity to try and show her in all her power and control.” That said, the Disney Alice is still dear to his heart. “When I was a child, I was absolutely impressed with the Disney movie. The animation was so new, quick, and fluid, and the story was awesome, also. I had the sudden realization that there were ways to express other worlds, other aesthetics—other narratives were possible. An epiphany, really!”

Photographer/illustrator: Brian Gossett; model: Lauren “Bean” Boylston.


The Pool of Tears

Brian Gossett thought that casting Alice would be the greatest challenge of creating his storyboard. Not so. “Luckily, my friend Brumby’s daughter Bean made for the perfect Alice. She honestly made it so easy for me,” he says. After that, his stylistic treatment flowed naturally: “I had a lot of ideas for how her tears could be illustrated, and I liked the idea of creating a lot of elements by hand, such as the waves, the bubbles, and the animals.” Gosset says he’s looking forward to seeing Tim Burton’s Alice. “I’m a huge fan of his, and think he is one of the only directors making feature films in the U.S. who could do it justice.”

Designer/illustrator: Sebastian Onufszak.


Advice From a Caterpillar

As a kid, Sebastian Onufszak watched an Alice unfamiliar to most Americans: a Japanese TV series directed by animators Shigeo Koshi and Taku Sugiyama. Still, he refers to Disney’s version of the caterpillar scene with admiration, mentioning the beauty of “the dialogue between the characters and typography,” which is used as a design element. “The scene I chose is also an imag-inative trip, a mazy play of poems, words, and letters,” he says. Regarding the novel’s attraction for filmmakers, Onufszak says it has “many exciting scenes and characters, numerous satirical references to society, and a considerable richness of detail. The techniques of today’s postproduction allow you to present the tale completely differently than [you could] 60 years ago.”

Designer/illustrator: Mara Smalley.


Down the Rabbit Hole

When we asked designer Mara Smalley why she relates to Alice in Wonderland, she touched on an element of the story that’s seldom highlighted: It’s about a girl. “I think it’s impossible for women and girls not to feel a special connection and relatability to Alice,” she says. “Young, courageous female leads are few and far between.” She thinks the story’s universal theme is what makes it a good fit for filmmakers: “Every child—and adult—secretly hopes to come across a hidden world, garden, or universe. It has all the right elements for a great movie.”

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