Stepping into a world created by Tim Burton and inspired by the words of Lewis Carroll is a tall order for anybody, but it’s one director James Bobin was looking to tackle with “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”
After all, coming off of “The Muppets” and “Muppets Most Wanted,” the director knows exactly how to play in somebody else’s sandbox and build his own castle.
“It’s a delicate balance because obviously I love the first film in terms of Tim’s work on it. It’s beautiful,” Bobin says during an early press day for “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”
It’s a film — and world — Bobin wanted to pay tribute to, but also evolve and expand beyond what Burton originally imagines in “Alice in Wonderland.”
"We were lucky in the script that you could move through time," he says. "So I was enabled to do different things and use different places. And we hadn't really ever fully explored the geography of the place. So in my design choices, I was trying to bear in mind the world that Tim created so it felt like it was in those parameters, yet at the same time bring a more human, quasi-historical, photo real vibe to it. So it's not quite as fantastical. The trees are more real because there's humans in it and I thought you'd want to bring it slightly into the more Victorian realm."
According to producer Suzanne Todd, the ideas Bobin brought to the table were able to make for a dramatically different movie that still looks like it exists within the construct Burton built.
"[James brought] a little bit of a lighter touch," she explains. "There's less darkness, although I think it's still the same world Tim created. We wanted to create an environment where people felt okay with laughing, because this movie is intended to be funnier than the first movie."
Jokes aren't the only thing in abundance, though. Whereas the first movie was primarily a green screen affair, Bobin decided to go in a different direction with "Through the Looking Glass."
"It feels a little differently because we built a lot of sets, which we didn't on the first movie," Todd continues. "It's sort of subliminal, but it feels different when you watch it. It feels a little more like a real place, rather than a recreation of a place you've never seen. it feels like a place you could visit because there's so many actual buildings, even in Underland."
So when you sit down in theaters to take in "Alice Through the Looking Glass," you'll definitely be getting a movie set in a Tim Burton world. The difference is this particular world was stripped down and rebuilt by another director with a distinct visual style.
It's also unlike just about any movie you've ever seen.
"It's what happens next and what happened before," Bobin says. "It's both a prequel and a sequel."
"Alive Through the Looking Glass" is in theaters May 27.