“Curiouser and curiouser!” is Alice’s catchphrase as she begins her tale in a world of absurd characters filled with madness, intrigue and frightful creatures. Many have hailed Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece of a young girl following a white rabbit with kids’ gloves and a pocket watch as a timeless children’s classic, crazy enough to be interpreted and reimagined throughout the ages.

Now, if it’s Tim Burton, well, expect something as pleasantly fearsome as the man who envisioned The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Each movie is a classic in its own right and has explored themes of magical, uncertain places, where characters leave behind their comfort zone in order to find themselves.

Contrariwise (as Tweedle Dee would say), it is only natural that Burton would dip his creative hand into Alice in Wonderland. This new Disney film promises to be a glorious work, including an equally glorious cast lead by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and newcomer Mia Wasikowska, who plays Alice.

This time Alice isn’t the little girl we remember in the animated version. She’s literally grown full size as a 19-year-old bride-to-be. After running away from her engagement, she finds herself falling down a rabbit hole into a world she once dreamed of as young child. Reuniting with a quirky cast of characters, including the Cheshire Cat, the Tweedles and the Mad Hatter, Alice is needed to fight the malevolent Queen of Hearts and save Wonderland.

“Because this world has no rules, you’re seeing so many different and separate brushstrokes and colors and characterizations somehow getting combined through Tim,” says Hathaway, who plays the White Queen.

Not only should we expect a crazy surreal world signatured by Burton, but the place we call Wonderland is dazzled by 3-D effects, with a peculiar-looking Queen of Hearts played by Bonham Carter. The actress spent almost three hours in hair and makeup for the role, with husband Burton using a specialized camera to make her head appear twice its size.

Bonham Carter and many of the actors found themselves acting in a strange place of their own, with many scenes shot in front of a green screen.

“I walked in, and it was like being in a neon-green terrarium – green on all sides, and tons of empty space,” says Hathaway.

A mixture of visual effects, including all CGI characters, every scene that takes place underneath the rabbit hole was shot on green screen stages at Culver City Studios in Los Angeles. In this post-Avatar age, we should expect Burton’s digital vision to be stunning.

The reimagining of Alice’s story was in the very capable hands of Linda Woolverton, whose screenplays include Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. This time she’s taken pieces from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. She even adapted a name change for the world we know as Wonderland.

“Underland,” says Woolverton, “is the same fantastical land that Alice visited as a child. But she misheard the word ‘Underland’ and thought they said ‘Wonderland.’”

“It somehow taps a subconscious thing,” Burton says of his source material. “That’s why all those great stories stay around because they tap into the things that people probably aren’t even aware of on a conscious level. There’s definitely something about those images. That’s why there have been so many versions of it.”

Though on the surface Carroll’s stories seem dreamy and whimsical, the premise of a young girl trying to find her identity through circumstances of confusion with new and unbelievable creatures is one of the greatest appeals of Alice’s story.

One of the reasons Carroll has created a timeless masterpiece is because there is something deeper to the world of Wonderland and Alice’s place in it. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice tells herself, “If I like being that person, I’ll come up: if not, I’ll stay down here till I’m somebody else.”

As the movie explores a more grown-up Alice, the same fears seem to still be there, a girl trying to understand the world, and trying to make sense of time and reality.

“So I think if the book is about Alice exploring her imagination, this one is about Alice finding her soul,” says Hathaway.

It all just gets curiouser and curiouser by the second.

Alice in Wonderland releases in theaters March 5.