Animation vet finds new ‘Wonder’

Schaub finds hybrid way through looking glass

“A Christmas Carol” and “Avatar,” the two big 3D releases that preceded Disney’s 3D “Alice in Wonderland,” relied on performance capture to bring human qualities to animated characters.

But “Alice” animation supervisor David Schaub went a different route in Tim Burton’s new take on Lewis Carroll.

“We acquired motion capture data, in case we needed it,” he says. “But there was a style of movement (Burton) was looking for that was different.”

Alice shrinks and grows throughout the film, so to keep the correct eye line when she is extra-small, Matt Lucas played Tweedledee and Tweedledum on stilts; Crispin Glover’s Knave of Hearts was filmed the same way. Mo-cap would have made the characters move like actors on stilts. So several approaches were tried to integrate the performances with the CG character design.

“We ended up doing some motion tests in animation,” Schaub says, “and Tim started to like the look and feel of the characters.”

Schaub oversaw around 30 animated characters on “Alice,” including these hybrids, classic characters like the White Hare, and even the onscreen horses. “I think Tim just didn’t want to deal with the overhead of having animals on set,” he says.

Now a vet animator and animation supervisor, Schaub took a roundabout path to showbiz. Born in Southern California and raised in Belgium and Luxembourg, he was hooked by animation the moment he saw a “Jungle Book” flip book while on a childhood trip to Disneyland. His parents steered him into engineering, so he worked in aerospace at first, all the while continuing to work on animation on the side, before “Jurassic Park” inspired him to jump into it full time.

“This is my calling,” he says.