Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
Disney’s enchanting Alice Through the Looking Glass is an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories in which Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter.
Directed by James Bobin, who brings his own unique vision to the visually-stunning world Tim Burton created on screen with Alice in Wonderland, the film is written by Linda Woolverton based on characters created by Lewis Carroll. The producers are Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd, p.g.a. and Jennifer Todd, p.g.a. and Tim Burton. John G. Scotti serves as executive producer.
Time For A Little Madness
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality,” or so says the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” and for over a century Carroll’s works have been stirring the minds of readers, empowering them to believe in the impossible. 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Carroll’s landmark book, yet the story continues to resonate today.
“There’s a reason why Lewis Carroll’s stories have been around for so long and there’s a reason why they have been adapted in so many different shapes and forms and sizes and mediums,” says producer Tim Burton, “And that’s because it is a classic.”
Underland is a place of limitless imaginations, and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” continues Carroll’s legacy of the outlandish and the fantastical, while acquainting new audiences with the timeless characters of Alice and the Mad Hatter. “Underland is a beautiful place to spend an hour and a half of your time,” adds director James Bobin, “And you’ll learn something about humanity at the same time as well.”
“With this film, we just wanted to take fans further into the journey and get them to believe that they have muchness, too,” says Anne Hathaway.
The Journey Back To Underland
Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” enchanted readers around the world when it was first published in 1865. Set in a curious world full of unusual characters, the book changed the landscape of children’s literature. The release of “Alice Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There” six years later further cemented Carroll’s reputation as one of the world’s most creative and prolific authors.
Disney’s animated version of “Alice in Wonderland” in 1951 introduced a whole new generation to the genius and eccentricity of Carroll’s classic tale, and in 2010, the visually-stunning “Alice in Wonderland” directed by Tim Burton (“Edward Scissorhands,” “Beetlejuice”) which combined live-action, CGI and motion-capture technology, all in 3D, hit theaters. Burton’s visionary reinterpretation went on to become a global blockbuster and cultural sensation. The story and characters are now indelible fixtures in the landscape of pop culture, and have inspired countless stage, television and film adaptations, making an indelible mark on fashion, music, art and literature.
For years the producers of “Alice in Wonderland” talked of a second film, but knew one thing for certain: the film would not be a straight adaptation of Carroll’s second book. “The ‘Looking- Glass’ book is essentially an allegory of a chess match and a bunch of random and bizarre episodes from Carroll’s life which don’t bear any relation to one other,” explains producer Suzanne Todd (the “Austin Powers” films, “Memento,” “Across the Universe”), “So we had discussions about what would be interesting thematically and what we wanted the story to convey, but we just weren’t there yet.”
Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”) had been working on a follow-up to her “Alice in Wonderland” screenplay, and in 2012 she delivered a clever script which continued the adventures of Carroll’s vibrant characters and infused them with imagination and heart. “Linda had written a new story told through the prism of the book about the characters and what had happened since we last saw them, as well as what happened to them in the past, and we loved it,” says Suzanne Todd.
“I really fell in love with these characters the first time around, so it’s a joy to be able to revisit them,” Woolverton says. “This is a bigger adventure than the first movie and the stakes are much higher, but luckily the hard work is done because the audience already knows everyone.”
Johnny Depp (“Black Mass,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films), who plays the iconic Mad Hatter, is a long-time fan of Carroll’s work, and after reading Woolverton’s script was pleased to see how respectful she was of the material. “Editing Lewis Carroll is close to impossible,” says Depp. “You have to come at it from another angle but still keep it focused on the source, which Linda did brilliantly.”
He continues, “With this story the emphasis is more on the characters, and while there is still lots of tension and danger, it isn’t just good guys versus bad guys…it’s a little more complex.”
Helena Bonham Carter (“Suffragette,” “Cinderella”), who plays Iracebeth, agrees saying, “Linda came up with a good storyline which took all the iconic images and characters and remained true to the spirit of Carroll’s books, while also making it something that young audiences would be interested in,” she says.
With a script in place, it was time to find a director who could take on the next chapter in Alice’s story, and the producers knew it had to be someone special, as the bar had been set fairly high with Burton on the 2010 film.
“Everyone was in agreement that the tone of this new film should be somewhat lighter and more comedic,” says producer Joe Roth (“Maleficent,” “Snow White and the Huntsman”), “And James Bobin turned out to be just the man to do that. His comedic sensibility, love of history, intelligence and creativity make him the kind of person people want to be around.”
“James had directed one film for Disney (“The Muppets”) and was in post-production on another (“Muppets Most Wanted”) right around the time that we were looking for someone,” says producer Jennifer Todd (“Must Love Dogs,” “Prime”). “The studio had a good experience working with him and felt he was well suited for this film, so we met with him to get his thoughts and gauge his interest. James is talented and lovely in every way, and we all agreed it was a good idea to bring him on.”
Bobin knew instinctively he wanted to be involved with the project, even before reading Woolverton’s screenplay. “I have tremendous respect for Tim’s work and was excited by the prospect of taking elements from his movie and pushing it forward by introducing new characters, new ideas and new worlds,” he says.
He continues, “Lewis Carroll’s work is everywhere in English culture, and if you are English, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ is part of your DNA. I’m from the comedy world and believe Carroll is one of the earliest satirists. The combination of political commentary plus satire plus absurdism is pure English humor, and I wanted to bring elements of that to this story.”
“Lewis Carroll was incredibly gifted, and he used his gift brilliantly to write an imaginative, creative story for children, but one that appeals to all ages,” adds Woolverton. “The ideas and comments on life are just exquisite, and his observations are truly brilliant.”
Burton continued to stay involved with “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” this time in a producing capacity. He explains, “As a producer you’re there to support the director in whatever way you can, but you are still just as passionate about the project.”
“I really liked James from the moment we met,” continues Burton. “He’s smart and full of energy and he had a clear vision as to where he wanted to go with the story and characters, which was nice. We needed a director who could keep the film similar in look and tone but also approach the story from a different perspective, and that’s a tough balance to get right.”
Depp was impressed too, saying, “James came in with a sense of bravado. Tim more or less developed the look and language and feeling of Underland, and one of the great things about James is that he didn’t fight against that in any way. He wasn’t intimidated by that at all and he accepted and respected the language of the film and the language of the characters and who they were and just used it in a different way. I really respect that.”
“James is really brilliant and he genuinely loves the story,” says Mia Wasikowska (“Crimson Peak,” “The Kids Are Alright”), who plays Alice. “He pushed for more of an emotional connection between all the characters, which has given the film style and depth of emotion.”
Adds Bonham Carter, “James has a grace and a sort of elegance to him…something you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a director because they are always under such a huge amount of stress, but he wears it incredibly graciously.”
Carroll’s books blurred the lines between dreams and reality, and while sharp-witted and filled with puns, they were nonsensical with rhymes and made-up words. And at the center of it all was Alice, a strong, intelligent young woman. Woolverton’s script begins with Alice in the real world as she is beginning to face adulthood and all the problems that go along with it. “Alice is trying to find a balance between spending time with the people you love, namely your family, and accomplishing your goals in your professional life,” Woolverton says. “Thematically that’s a very contemporary theme.”
Alice Liddell, Carroll’s muse for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” was born in the 1850s, as was Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the suffragette movement. Says Bobin, “Alice has grown up, so this story is more about the idea of what a woman’s role is in society and what Alice represents in those terms.”
“The thing that draws Alice back to Underland is the outside world coming down on her, which makes her retreat more into her inner life, which I see as strength as opposed to a way of escape,” adds Burton. “Whatever she’s dealing with in the world below ground she’s simultaneously dealing with in her own life as well…that’s the connection that takes the fantasy and gives it a foundation.”
Bobin has always been intrigued by the concept of time and the ability to change the past, as well as all the questions it posed. Woolverton’s original draft also touched on the topic, so the addition of Time as a new character fit perfectly within her story. The idea actually came from Lewis Carroll. Bobin explains, “In ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ when Alice first encounters the Hatter, he says to her, ‘I’m stuck in this tea party because last March Time and I quarreled.’”
The screenwriter soon turned in a new draft with Time as an actual character. “The passage of time is something Alice has always regarded as a bad thing, because time took her father from her at a very early age,” says Bobin. “What she learns in this story is that time isn’t her enemy but is something that can be appreciated.”
“Time is that one thing that truly is the equalizer for all of us,” adds Suzanne Todd. “You can’t buy more, you can’t get more, you can’t arrange for more, and in the craziness of our everyday lives we have started paying less and less attention to how precious time is, which is something we all wanted to address.”
Says Burton, “Time is a character that just seemed to fit into this world. It kind of feeds into that theme of family and the passage of time and was just an extra kind of foundation for the themes that Alice and the other characters are going through.”