Alice, the Mad Hatter and the rest of Lewis Carroll’s menagerie of misfits make their way back to Underland in just a few weeks when Alice Through the Looking Glass hits screens on May 27. Directed by James Bobin (Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted), this highly anticipated sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland finds Alice and company traveling through time to stop an evil plot to return the Queen of Hearts to power – and destroy Underland. Sasha Baron Cohen joins original stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway for the fantasy adventure.
Fandango recently had the opportunity to sit down with the film’s producer, Suzanne Todd, director James Bobin and Alice herself, Mia Wasikowska, to talk about what to expect from this return trip to the wildly wonderful world of Lewis Carroll. Here’s what they had to say about heading back to Underland, time travel and working with the guy who played Borat.
What took us so long to get back to Underland?
Suzanne Todd: We didn’t want to make a sequel for the sake of making a sequel — which is why we suffered with a first draft of the script for over a year. The first film was a small story in terms of plot. We wanted to create something this time that would be a bit more complicated but still true to the roots of where we had started. After several concepts, we came up with a story that was exciting and kind of a logical next step in the adventure but still true to what Tim [Burton] had done.
So, what can we expect from this return trip?
Todd: Our director, James Bobin, comes from the world of comedy, so this film is a lighter take than the first one, for sure. But James is a historian, so his take is rooted in the history [of the novels] but meant to be very funny. We really lean into the world of Lewis Carroll. There are a lot more line-for-line lifts and exact quotes from the book that were used in this movie versus the last. The movie is based on a mention in one of the books about “time” — how it vexes you. We built a story about time and how precious it is. How many of us in the course of our day don’t really account for how we spend it…but it’s our most precious resource.
Mia Wasikowska: I think Alice is a bit more confident in this one. She comes back home after being a sea captain for a year feeling very empowered and a bit surer of herself. I feel really lucky to be Alice because I really love her as a character. I love the spin they’ve put on her being independent and very strong. I think that’s really nice for young girls who are having their first initiation into movies. Plus, she has a bit more of a sense of humor in this film, which was a lot of fun.
James Bobin: Because of my comedy background this one is a tad lighter than the first. There are dark moments but overall it’s lighter because of the story. The world is slightly more human this time around, a lot more human emotions.
So, is this more of a “family film” than the first?
Bobin: This version plays a bit more like a family movie because of my comedy background. I ran some stuff by my kids for sure. They like the “Seconds” characters in this film. But mostly they’re interested in a good story. They like to see the consequence of how things play out and what happens next.
Mr. Bobin, what drew you to the fantasy world of Lewis Carroll?
Bobin: I think [Disney] thought it was something I’d be interested in because of my nationality…and they were right. In England [Alice in Wonderland] is one of those “things”… I have a picture of the actual manuscript cover from the British library in my kid’s bedroom. They love it. The chance to play in this universe wasn’t something I could really turn down.
Did you get any advice from Tim Burton before you set out to make the movie?
Bobin: I talked to Tim at great length. It’s a complicated film to make. Live action and CG. You’re making two different sorts of movies at the same time. He was very open and honest about the pressures that would come with taking on that task.
Other than the lighter tone, what’s the biggest difference between this sequel and the original?
Todd: This time around our visual style is an evolution of what we saw in the first film. We wanted it to be a continuation of Tim’s visions, so we didn’t change anything that had been established. The world of the tea party, for example, remains the same. In the first film, however, we shot almost entirely on green screen. This time around we be built giant sets. We built the entire town of Wits End…and it’s a thing of beauty.
We have a new character, Time, played by Sasha Baron Cohen. Can you tell us about what he brought to Underland?
Bobin: Lewis Carroll made a reference to Time being a person. A character. I thought that was a great idea for an antagonist. We don’t want him to be a straight-out bad guy though because that’s a bit dull. We already had a bad guy with the Red Queen. I thought it would be interesting to have a guy who was an omnipotent being but was also a twit.
Didn’t Underland get (even more) confusing by bouncing through time?
Bobin: We kept time travel simple. We worked under the premise that you cannot change the past. All you can do is learn from being there. Most movies are opposite of that. You can go back and change the past and whatever you do then, has an effect now. In this world, “time” is a geographical expression. You literally travel through time.
Speaking of time, what about the future? Can we hope for a third trip to Underland?
Todd: When reach the end of a film, it’s always kind of “happy/sad.” You’re happy its over but there’s always one more thing that you wanted to make better. So yeah, to have one more shot to get things even more right is always interesting.
Check out more brand-new images from the film below.