‘Alice In Wonderland’ Director Tim Burton Gets Upstaged By Johnny Depp

The director laughs about his star's surprise appearance at Comic-Con.

SAN DIEGO — On Thursday at Comic-Con, legendary filmmaker Tim Burton took to the stage in front of 6,000 screaming fans to unveil dazzling new 3-D footage from his upcoming “Alice in Wonderland” re-imagining. As he told the crowd, it was his first time at the 40th annual event since he was in art school, when the tiny geek-meeting was a slide show held in a San Diego basement.

As it turned out, another Comic-Con newbie stole his thunder, but since that newbie was longtime collaborator Johnny Depp, Burton didn’t mind.

“Oh, yeah,” laughed the dark genius behind “Edward Scissorhands,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Batman” and other classics. “He really saved me there.”

Burton was kidding, of course. During the Disney panel hosted by comedian Patton Oswalt — the first ever 3-D panel in the history of Comic-Con, necessitating a huge makeover of Hall H — the director’s trippy, technicolored take on “Alice” was so well received that Burton was afforded Comic-Con’s greatest honor: The fans demanded to watch it again. But once the world’s biggest star walked on stage and waved to the crowd, the fans knew they had received the ultimate three-dimensional treat.

“I was struggling away, and he walks out,” Burton said sarcastically of Depp, with whom he has collaborated seven times. “It was good; that was good. I much appreciate it.”

Somehow, despite 25 years atop Hollywood since his “Nightmare on Elm Street” debut, Johnny Depp had somehow avoided the world’s biggest pop-culture fan gathering until now.

“I think he came [and went] … I don’t know,” Burton said, before teasing the fans with another theory: Johnny may still be here in San Diego, walking amongst us in the year’s most popular costume. “He probably could have dressed up as Captain Jack Sparrow and nobody would have [noticed]. He’s just one of many, you know?

“He could be,” the director laughed. “There are people commenting, going, ‘Look at him. He’s a lousy Captain Jack, that guy.’ ”

MTV News is on the scene with live coverage of the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con all weekend long. Visit MTVNews.com, Splash Page, the MTV Movies Blog and Hollywood Crush for videos, interviews and the latest news on “New Moon,” “Iron Man 2″ and everything in between.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Alice in Wonderland.”