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Bonham Carter Gives Lip to Two Films

There are two sides to the animated Helena Bonham Carter (search). There's the dead blue chick with the rotting veil and the talking maggot in her eye socket. Then there's the upper-crust society dame with the freaky orange hair and the passion for giant vegetables.

Bonham Carter provides the lead female voice for an unusual confluence of two animated films made through stop-motion techniques, which involves moving inanimate objects while photographing them one frame at a time.

First comes "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride," (search) featuring the voice of Johnny Depp and opening Friday. Debuting Oct. 7 is "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," (search) a big-screen adventure featuring clay-animated British cheese fanatic Wallace and his loyal dog Gromit.

"The two are coming out so closely together, we just hope they're not going to be pitted against each other," said Bonham Carter, 39, whose films include "A Room With a View," "Howards End" and "Fight Club." "They're both such totally different movies, and neither of them deserves that."

"Corpse Bride" features Bonham Carter providing vocals for the title character, a woman slain the night before her wedding and buried in her bridal gown, who has been waiting for a husband to come and claim her. The blue-skinned, decomposing bride rises from her grave and says "I do" when a nervous bridegroom (Depp) practicing his vows inadvertently slips her a ring, then whisks him away to the underworld as her eternal match.

"Wallace & Gromit," from Aardman Animations, has the ever-upbeat Brit and his long-suffering canine pal running a humane pest-control service to keep rabbits from ravaging produce just before the town's annual giant veggie contest.

Peter Sallis, who provided the lead voice for the three acclaimed "Wallace & Gromit" short films made for British television, is back as mouthpiece for Wallace, who encounters a monster bunny and a nasty rival ( Ralph Fiennes) for the affections of Bonham Carter's Lady Tottingham, the patron of the vegetable competition.

For Lady Tottingham, Bonham Carter developed a perky, gushing voice modeled somewhat after a friend of her mother.

"England's riddled with Lady Ts. A garden-loving upper-class lady of a certain age," Bonham Carter said at the Toronto International Film Festival. "When you go upper-class, you can become very unsympathetic, because you sort of close your mouth and get very, very snooty. Aristocrats all over the world do it. They never open their mouths. It's a thing where they expect people to come to them to understand what on earth they're talking about.

"That wasn't going to work for Lady T, who's this sympathetic and kindhearted, full of love, open, peace-loving, carrot-loving thing."

For the Corpse Bride, Burton wanted Bonham Carter to bring her deep voice up.

"He said, `I want her light, and I want her to have a purity and an innocence,'" Bonham Carter said. "I analyzed the character and thought, because she was frozen in time, stuck, actually perpetually young because she was killed on the eve of her wedding, that meant a voice with a great deal of spontaneity, always so excited."

Stop-motion animated films are rare. The last notable one was 2000's "Chicken Run," co-directed by Park and produced by Aardman.

While enthusiasts of the animation technique say two stop-motion movies in short order may help keep it alive and encourage more films, Burton said having one right after the other opens the door for pointless comparisons.

"I don't think it's so great they're coming out a week between each other or whatever. It's a disaster," Burton said. "The point is, those guys do great work. That's why it's unfortunate they're coming out at the same time. Filmmakers won't compare them, but everybody else will."

Bonham Carter and "Corpse Bride" co-director Burton are romantic partners who live in adjoining houses in London. They met when Bonham Carter co-starred in Burton's "Planet of the Apes," and she has since co-starred in his films "Big Fish" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Park, who created the "Wallace & Gromit" characters, is more upbeat about the prospects and benefits of having two stop-motion films arriving at once.

"It can only be a good thing from my point of view," Park said. "With all the kind of movement toward computer animation and as great as many of those films are, there's more people who have been employed in stop-motion animation in the last year than ever before."

Bonham Carter said Burton's gripes are mainly a boyish-bluster act and that as an intense fan of stop-motion animation, he was anxious to see "Wallace & Gromit" with her at the Toronto premiere Friday night.

With the birth of Bonham Carter and Burton's son in 2003, the actress has scaled back her work. The less-strenuous voice work on the animated films came at an ideal time, Bonham Carter said, joking that she might turn her career over to her stop-motion counterparts.

"Maybe from now on puppets can do the parts," Bonham Carter said. "They can fight it out between them. Lady T and Corpse Bride will maybe do alternate parts, and I'll just do the voices."