SDCC 2103: ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Wonderland’ Panels


My last day at SDCC 2013 was spent entirely in Ballroom 20.

The day started off with the new show Once Upon a Time in Wonderland which is a spinoff of sorts from Once Upon a Time.  I saw a very extended preview of what is probably the pilot episode. There are some cameos by already established characters in Once Upon a Time and it starts in that storybook city also.  I had the impression that Michael Socha who plays the Knave of Hearts had already appeared in the original Once, but looking at IMDB, this does not seem to be true.  Everyone else is brand new with this series focusing on Alice (in Wonderland, played by Sophie Lowe) and her finding a genie in a bottle, Cyrus (Peter Gadiot).  She frees him of his bottle and they fall in love.  But all does not remain lovey dovey as The Red Queen (Emma Rigby) and her guards find them.  She supposedly kills him, but we find out this may not be the case.  The preview goes back and forth from Wonderland and a normal world where Alice is accused of being insane.  The series seems to be a mix of the fairy tales Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin.

Sophie Lowe, Peter Gadiot, Michael Socha, Emma Rigby, Naveen Andrews (who was announced there as playing the part of Jafar), Adam Horowitz (writer/producer), Edward Kitsis (writer/producer), and Zach Estrin (producer) were all there for the panel.

The Once Upon a Time panel followed shortly.  I do not believe there was any new footage shown, other than teasing that Ariel (The Little Mermaid) will at least make an appearance on the upcoming season.  The season will mostly be focusing on the characters trip to Neverland, and I am assuming we will get to see more characters with that voyage.

The panel featured Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Michael Raymond James, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Josh Dallas, Adam Horowitz (writer/producer), and Edward Kitsis (writer/producer).

Seeing as I have never watched Once Upon a Time, I asked a writer friend of mine, Stephanie Bertone to write up the panels.  She is an avid Once fan, and I constantly see her post about re-watching first season of the show.  Below is Stephanie’s write up, which a truly great summary of what happened during these panels:

ABC’s Once Upon a Time has charmed viewers for two seasons, taking on the classic fairy tales and stories we collectively know and turning them on their heads. At the end of season two, fans were left wondering about the fate of their beloved characters as one fatally wounded fell through a portal, another was kidnapped, and even more boarded a pirate ship on a mission to rescue the one boy with the ability to unite good and evil. Once Upon a Time heads into its third season this fall and with that comes the promise of a new land, the introduction of familiar characters, and a revised viewing schedule. Series creators Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis were on hand at this year’s Comic-Con to discuss the series along with stars Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan), Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White), Josh Dallas (Prince Charming), Lana Parrilla (Regina/The Evil Queen), Colin O’Donoghue (Captain Hook), Michael Raymond-James (Neal/Baelfire), Emilie de Ravin (Belle), and Robert Carlyle (Rumpelstiltskin).

Once SDCCThe biggest foe Once Upon a Time faced during season two was not a giant or the Evil Queen, but the show’s numerous hiatuses that aroused the ire of many viewers. Horowitz and Kitsis assured fans there would not be, as Kitsis jokingly put it, “one episode every seven months.” The third season will take on a revised schedule of eleven uninterrupted weeks this fall and the same format will apply in the spring. Though the new schedule will cause a longer break between the winter finale and spring premiere, audience reaction during the panel echoes the relief most Once fans will feel knowing they will not have to play an erratic guessing game with the show.

The cast and creators were in high spirits throughout the panel, teasing the audience with clues for season three, as well as treating them to a reading of some of fans’ favorite lines for the Evil Queen, Belle, Emma, and Captain Hook. The majority of the panel focused on where the show is heading, specifically Neverland, which Kitsis described as “a place where imagination comes from and anything can happen.” While Once is no stranger to portal and dimension jumping, the show generally keeps the action contained to Storybrooke (our world) and the Enchanted Forest. With much of the cast falling through portals or hopping aboard the Jolly Roger during the season finale, a significant portion of the returning action will take place in Neverland. The creators voiced their difficulties in bringing the famed land to the show due to legal reasons, but all is dandy as the show heads past the second star on the right, and straight on till morning. Fans will be treated to Neverland’s iconic inhabitants and locations with a classic Once twist. The jovial Peter Pan we know from Disney’s 1953 animated feature is nowhere in sight as this Peter is a bit more complicated and frightening. Tinkerbell also joins the cast in season three (Rose McIver was announced as the famed fairy after Comic-Con) and the creators tease she will have a surprising connection to someone on the panel.

Lana Parrilla’s Evil Queen has always been a divisive character for fans and, though her quest for redemption continues, the actress is not convinced Regina is all that bad. Parrilla did tease her favorite death at the hands of the Queen is coming this season and even threatened Emilie de Ravin’s Belle as fans rally behind the idea of Belle taking over as the mayor of Storybrooke. Robert Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin has just as much blood on his hands as the Evil Queen and with the supposed death of his son Baelfire/Neal, he is willing to shed some of his own to save his grandson in spite of the prophecy that the boy will be his undoing. Baelfire’s own fate looked grim as he once again fell through a portal in the finale, but to the relief of viewers, he finds himself in the company of a few familiar faces. The first half of the second season saw Emma and Snow White team up with Mulan and Aurora and now it is Baelfire’s turn to rely on their aid as he tries to get back to his family.

As excited as fans are to journey to Neverland, another character they are anxious to see is Disney’s redheaded mermaid. Fan theories have swirled around Ariel’s inclusion on Once Upon a Time and it now seems she is primed to join the show’s growing list of classic characters. In a video with Lee Arenberg (Grumpy) at the end of the panel, Ariel makes an appearance, dingelhopper and all, heralding her arrival to the series next season.

Once Upon a Time premieres Sunday, September 29th on ABC.

Horowitz and Kitsis were also on hand for the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland panel, a spin-off show premiering this October. The cast, including SophieIMG_6045 Lowe (Alice), Peter Gadiot (Cyrus), Emma Rigby (Red Queen), and Michael Socha (Knave of Hearts) was on hand, though the show’s creators fielded a majority of the questions. According to Horowitz, the idea of a spinoff series was tossed around during the first season of Once, but nothing came to fruition since they did not have concrete idea for another series. While the creators enjoyed exploring Wonderland in several Once episodes, they felt there was no room to feature Alice on the show. There are a few connections to Once Upon a Time in the new series, but someone unfamiliar with the show will be able to jump in and follow along with Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.

As with Once, it is a challenge to take on such iconic characters, but for Sophie Low (Alice), there is great appeal in playing such a strong female character. Alice is not the only familiar Wonderland character to be featured in the show. The Red Queen and Knave of Hearts will join her, as well as Cryus (Peter Gadiot) who is described as an amalgamation of Wonderland characters. The creators confirmed the hookah smoking caterpillar and Cheshire cat will be seen around the fabled land and other notable Wonderland characters, such as the March Hare and Door Mouse, may find their place on the show. Once Upon a Time journeyed to Wonderland on a few occasions during the first two seasons with Jefferson/Mad Hatter and Cora/Queen of Hearts. Though Once Upon a Time in Wonderland will focus on Alice, Kitsis would be disappointed if the Queen of Hearts (Barbara Hershey) did not work her way into the story, especially since seeing the Red Queen use magic calls into question if the two Queens ever crossed paths. Sebastian Stan (Jefferson/Mad Hatter) quickly became a Once fan favorite, but his appearances on the show are limited due to his busy schedule. The creators previously stated they have no plans to recast the role and will always welcome Stan back, should his schedule permit.

Though Wonderland centers on Alice, the show will also pull from other sources and explore the genie mythology. With that tease, Lost star Naveen Andrews joined the panel and was announced as Jafar, who audiences know as the villain from Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin. True to his animated counterpart, Andrews’ Jafar will indeed be a frightening villain, and, as with all Once characters, this interpretation of the sorcerer is layered and viewers will be treated to his descent into villainy. For the creators, casting for Wonderland, as it was for Once, was about finding actors who could embody these characters, as well as those who could inspire them as the series continues.

Wonderland will follow Once’s format of flashbacks and alternating worlds, in this case between Wonderland in the past, Alice in an asylum, and a post-curse Wonderland. Horowitz noted the biggest difference between the two shows is their means of storytelling. Once is a sprawling series with a story that is capable of continuing on for seasons to come. Wonderland seeks to tell one complete story over the course of the first season, however many episodes that ends up being, and begin a new, complete tale in season two with the same cast. For the creators, Wonderland is its own adventure and a series that intends to be “all killer, no filler.”

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premieres Thursday, October 10th on ABC.

Below are two galleries from the two panels.

Once Upon a Time SDCC
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland SDCC

by Sarah Ksiazek and Stephanie Bertone

Photos by Sarah Ksiazek


About Sarah Ksiazek

Sarah is a Zookeeper extraordinaire who writes, edits, and is the resident trailer addict for Lost in Reviews. Do not underestimate her snobbery when it comes to trailers. She also owns/runs The Host Movie News which is a fan site for The Host movie adaptation.

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