In Hollywood, the land of superlatives and flagrant puffery, the term "visionary" is thrown about too casually and bestowed upon flash-in-the-pan acts that all too often come and go with the change of seasons.
However, one artist for whom the descriptor is fitting, whose films truly transport audiences to other dimensions and offer a childlike sense of wonder, is director Tim Burton. And this year, thanks to "Alice in Wonderland," which brought in an estimated $1 billion at the box office ($334 million domestic, $690 million international) in addition to 20-plus years of unique and exciting filmmaking, Burton is one of the folks in the entertainment world for whom we're most thankful.
As part of MTV's Thankful Week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Burton about the stress and eventual success of "Alice," if we'll be seeing a sequel or a musical adaptation on the Great White Way and a few hints about upcoming projects.
MTV: Tim, every year here at MTV News, we select a few people we're most thankful for. And you've had quite a year with the phenomenal success of "Alice in Wonderland" and a retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Tim Burton: Wow. Well, that's quite an honor. Thank you.
MTV: Did it feel like this year was a special one?
Burton: Yeah, it was interesting. The MOMA show was very special, and then going to the Cannes film festival and "Alice" — it was a lot of stuff going on. It was a special year for me, definitely.
MTV: Were you a little more reflective than usual with the MOMA show?
Burton: Yeah, I think so. It kind of forced me to look at myself, which I don't do very often. I even avoid mirrors as I walk by them. It was a bit of a surprise in a good way. It did make me more reflective. You know, as you go on in life, there are less and less surprises — especially nice surprises, so it's really, really great to feel surprised in a good way.
MTV: We spoke a few times when you were working on "Alice," and frankly, you seemed stressed.
Burton: I was really stressed. We were doing music to no images. It was terrifying. In a weird way, it was quite exciting too, because you never know with a film what it's going to turn out to be. But this was just an extreme, extreme version of that.
MTV: How did you feel about the 3-D debate that came with the film? Some criticized the conversion to 3-D you used.
Burton: Right, yeah, but that was kind of a funny argument because the thing is, we'll shoot what? It's not like we were doing motion-capture or we had sets. There was nothing to shoot. We planned for it. It was kind of a created argument in a way. Everybody likes to have a celebrity death match. Who will win? Things have more shades to it than that.
MTV: Right, because a lot of it became about you and James Cameron's different approaches to 3-D.
Burton: Yeah. They're doing "Titanic" in 3-D. What, they're going to go back and shoot it in 3-D? No. They're going to do the same thing we did.
MTV: Is Disney putting the pressure on for a sequel for "Alice"?
Burton: No, they haven't, which was smart of them. They saw that it was kind of its own thing. They didn't push for it at all, which I thought was really amazing, and smart, and right.
MTV: And you are content to leave the story where it is? Because you do leave an opening at the end ...
Burton: Yeah, but that's what the material does to me, it leaves it open for you. It's kind of like dreams. It leaves it open, as it should, for interpretation. It's like I got a lot of pressure to do a sequel to "Nightmare [Before Christmas]," and I just didn't want to do that, because some movies should just be left alone. I think it keeps their kind of spirit intact in a way.
MTV: There's been talk about adapting "Alice" into a Broadway show. Are you involved in that?
Burton: I'm talking to them about that just because there was a seedling of an idea that I thought was interesting. I don't know how far it will go, but it's something. I've always kind of wanted to do something live onstage. I'm just going to explore it and see what happens.
MTV: It sounds like you'll be shooting "Dark Shadows" with Johnny Depp soon?
Burton: Yeah, I'm working on the script, and, you know, it's been kind of a long time coming, but I think I'm getting a script that I like. I don't really like talking, because I'm not really sure what's happening yet, but I'm excited about it. I think, yes, finally for me, it's getting to be the right tone.
MTV: Have you and Johnny talked specifically about his take on Barnabas Collins, the vampire at the center of the series?
Burton: Yeah, we've been talking about it. I mean, he's finishing up another movie, but we've had a couple of really good meetings. Yeah, you know, I'm excited.
MTV: Have you started shooting "Frankenweenie"?
Burton: We just started a couple of shots. It 's good. We've got a pretty low budget, but I'm excited about it. We've got a couple of shots that are done. Yeah, it's just starting. It's great.
Thanksgiving is a time for taking stock, expressing gratitude and, most importantly, overeating. We at MTV News have been gorging all year at movie theaters, so it's about time we looked back and gave thanks to our favorite actors and filmmakers of 2010. Enjoy exclusive interviews with our winners all week long.
Check out everything we've got on "Alice in Wonderland."
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.