With a few seasons of Once Upon a Time under their belts, show creators Adam Horowitz and Edward (Eddy) Kitsis are about to embark on a new journey to Wonderland. Their new series, the aptly named Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, premieres this week on ABC. We got to chat with them about what fans should expect when they fall down the rabbit hole and into a new world:
The Disney Insider: Why fairy tales on television?
Eddy: For us personally, they are the very first stories we heard on television and stayed with us. So Once Upon a Time was an idea Adam and I had about nine or ten years ago. When it came time for Wonderland, we had already showed you the Mad Hatter on OUAT and we explored a bit of his background. We revealed that the Evil Queen’s mom was the Queen of Hearts and we shared a little bit of Wonderland. But we had a lot of stories and ideas of Alice and we felt there was no room in what we refer to as the mothership. We were very fortunate that Paul Lee and everyone at ABC liked the idea and gave us the opportunity to create Wonderland.
It sounds like this will be from Alice’s perspective. Is that right?
Eddy: It is definitely Alice. We have a great ensemble cast. The essential premise of course is that Alice finds out that the love of her life who happens to be a genie from Agrabah she thought was dead is now alive and is trapped in Wonderland. There are a lot of great characters on the show, the Red Queen, and of course, in true Once tradition, we are mashing up the story of Jafar with Wonderland, and Jafar is a villain who is also looking for the genie. So it’s Alice verses Jafar in Wonderland. There is a lot of action, and there’s a lot of romance, and a lot of really great visuals. We have been referring to it as a psychedelic romance.
What was the decision to have Alice as the focal point? We know she hadn’t been in Once Upon a Time much.
Adam: There wasn’t the room or in the plan in Once Upon a Time to actually fit her in, but we felt like she is such an iconic character that she deserved her due. That is what we are trying to do with this show: to take the Alice we all know and love and put our own spin on her and show you what happened next. You know what happens to Alice in the books and the movies when she is a girl. We want to show you a few years later when she’s grown up, what became of her and what happened when she fell in love.
Eddy: Our Alice is definitely a very kick butt Alice!
What are the new characters like?
Eddy: I wouldn’t say a new character was created but it’s another character from a different story that we brought into our wonderland, which is the character of Jafar, from the classic Aladdin movie. When constructing a love interest for Alice, who is a genie, we thought “What better villain than Jafar?” We are really, really excited for the audience to see our spin and Naveen Andrews’ spin on the character.
What should fans be looking out for?
Eddy: One of the things we do well in OUAT is tell epic love stories. That is exactly what they are going to get with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. The difference though is that OUAT is a show designed where we are telling a story for many years. What we are doing for Wonderland is if you watch this season you will get a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end.
What prompted that decision?
Eddy: We had this idea, we liked it, and we felt that this was an idea that worked best as a short story and that the story of Alice finding Syrus really should just be one year. We approached it as a movie. So, if the show is successful and people love these characters, we’ll put them on a new adventure next year. As writers, we think it’s a fun model to try and do something different.
Can you elaborate on the beginning/middle/end model for the season?
Adam: The idea is to finish the experience in the season. And then take them on a new adventure if they want it.
When you are writing about something that is founded in fairy tales, how do you adapt them?
Eddy: We actually don’t try to adapt them. We take our collective memories of these stories that we all have from having them read to us as children by our parents or from seeing the movies or reading the books and then use that as a jumping off point to hopefully create something new. To takes these characters on a ride that will be our attempt to surprise the audience and engage them and maybe make them look at these things a little bit differently.
Do you each have a favorite fairy tale?
Eddy: My favorite is Peter Pan, but Alice in Wonderland is a very close second.
Adam: I always loved Alice but I always point to Snow White was the first fairy tale that really resonated with me. It was the first movie I ever saw and it stuck with me from a little kid onward. It really got me interested in storytelling.
Do you have fairy tale characters you think you’re most like?
Eddy: I’d definitely say Peter Pan, I don’t wanna grow up!
Adam: I’d say I’m probably Snow White, I’m beautiful and hopeful.
Eddy: I’d say you’re like Grumpy.
What our your earliest Disney memories?
Adam: My earliest Disney memory was when I was really young, my parents taking me to see Snow White in one of the re-releases. Just being blown away by the magic of it but always terrified by the Evil Queen while also being unable to look away and that stuck with me through the years.
Eddy: For me, I remember my parents got me a book of those Disney fairy tale stories, those little golden ones. And I just remember looking at Peter Pan and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and just being entranced by it. We’ve been very lucky to make a career out living in them.
What should fans look for in Wonderland?
Adam: The Alice that they know and love is grown up and now we are going to see what happens when she returns to Wonderland on a mission to find the true love she thinks she’s lost. Along the way, many familiar characters from the Lewis Carroll story and some new characters we have created will intermingle and mash up with each other in what we think is an exciting adventure.
You can see Alice, the White Rabbit, Jafar, and more this Thursday at 8|7c when Once Upon a Time in Wonderland debuts on ABC. Here’s a sneak peek at the show to get you ready for the series premiere: