The beloved children’s classic Peter Rabbit is getting a zany yet poignant big-screen adaptation that is sure to appeal to the whole family.

In this re-imagining, the blue-jacket wearing Peter Rabbit (James Corden) is still in constant battle with Old Man McGregor (Sam Neill) to get into the famed McGregor garden. Peter’s sisters Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie) and Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley) are always helping their little brother out, along with Peter’s best friend, Benji (Colin Moody). The rabbits also have a human ally with the kind Bea (Rose Bryne), who looks out for the rabbits’ best interest.

But when McGregor’s persnickety nephew, Jeremy (Domnhall Gleeson), comes to live in the farm house, he doesn’t like the pesky “vermin” anymore than his uncle did. Peter has a new and more formidable nemesis, especially when Jeremy and Bea start up a romance, and it’s up to the clever rabbit to get rid of McGregor once and for all. If he can, that is.

ScreenPicks sat down with co-writer/director Will Gluck to talk about the themes in Peter Rabbit, how he worked with the animators to make the animals look real – and how he literally put an Easter egg in the movie.

Were you always a Peter Rabbit fan?

Will Gluck: Yeah, my parents read me Peter Rabbit. My dad’s name is Peter. I love the character. I didn’t quite remember why I loved the character so much. These books are interesting because people love them but they’re usually too young to remember why. Just that it was great time in their life when it was read to them. He was mischievous, I remember that. And being told he shouldn’t go into the garden because that’s where his dad was killed and eaten, but Peter went in anyway. That’s a pretty dark thing and pretty interesting character trait.

Then I read the books to my kids and realized how dark they were, and kind of adult. So, I said let’s do it, and we really tried not to make a kids movie. There’s some serious themes in these books, and we actually treat the rabbits as adults.

You weren’t afraid to go dark then, for the kids’ sakes?

Gluck: That was all in the books, and those illustrations were the real ones from Beatrix Potter’s estate. I probably stupidly wasn’t worried about it. We screened this so many times, though, to different age groups, different parts of the country and the world, just to get a real sense. Some things I never thought would be problematic, we fixed those. I really did listen to the audience – nothing that changed the tone or story – but little moments.

What did your kids think about it?

Gluck: Mine are a little bit older but what they took away from it was the family aspect. [Peter] thinks he is protecting his family. When you’re like 15, 16, you think you know it all. He realizes that in trying to protect his family, he was hurting his family. One of the most important things with my kids is that you have to protect your family. And not just your blood family, but also your peeps. That’s my takeaway too.

Did you pattern Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter after your kids?

Gluck: For sure. When you have the third kid and you have three sisters, if you’re a child, you think your parents are going to love you less. That just came from my kids. My oldest daughter said the day my youngest was born, her world ended. And in her world, it’s 100 percent accurate. A lot of the themes in this were directly from my family and kids. And a lot about the sisters, too, like I’m the oldest, I’m the youngest, that’s my kids. You fall on your own paradigms on what you’re told. Like who gets to sit in the front seat on the way to school.

What was the process like creating the rabbits?

Gluck: The only way we could have done this was with the amazing talent at Animal Logic [Australian animation and visual effects studio]. It’s like a world working on this, the unsung heroes. All the animals have to look like animals. They can only move the way an animal would move. Simon Wiley, our animation production designer, got the bones of every animal at the museum. The bones can only articulate this way. Then there was a balance. I really didn’t want it to feel like broad or cartoon-y. But if you made it too realistic, you couldn’t anthropomorphize or emote, so there’s this dance. We wanted it to feel like if you’re holding a rabbit, it’s a rabbit that just happens to be wearing a jacket. Like if the rabbit stomp on the grass, we had to be on set, moving the grass. I was so obsessed with making them feel like they were there and to make them subtle. Just the tiniest thing. I was so proud of that work. We finished the movie Sunday night, that’s how tight it was and how hard we worked on it.

I feel like most directors sort of become obsessed with something while making their movies. Like Steven Spielberg said he was obsessed with filming the real printing press in The Post, and you can tell. What was your obsession with Peter Rabbit?

Gluck: I’m obsessed with the actors. Halfway through the movie, I started making a romantic comedy between Domnhall and Rose. All these scenes that are not in the movie and like, “What are you doing, Will? Gotta get back to the rabbits.” But that was a dance, too, because I really wanted you to care about [Bea and Jeremy].

How was working with the actors on the booth?

Gluck: That was fun. The challenging thing was I constantly changing stuff while I was shooting. Always when I’m shooting stuff, which is okay in live action, but when I changed stuff in the booth, I’d have to make a call. “Okay, that thing we already animated, I want to change it.” I mean, we finished Sunday night, so that gives you an indication. They started to understand the rhythm that I was going to change things. I think they actually enjoyed it? I don’t know, maybe they hated it. These guys are amazing and make everything so much better. You think it’s going to be a certain way and they come back with something else. This is a movie, I’m telling you, if you see more than once, you’re going to catch so much stuff. There are so many moments that show their characters by just what’s going on in the background.

Was there any Easter eggs?

Gluck: Glad you brought that up. There’s literally an Easter egg in the movie. There is a painted Easter egg, and it’s not in the party scene. People say to me, “Is that an Easter egg?” And it is. It doesn’t make sense where it is, either. So yeah, that’s a challenge for your readers.

Challenge accepted! Also check out the lively Peter Rabbit press conference, with Gluck and stars James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Rose Bryne and Domnhall Gleeson!

Peter Rabbit opens this Friday in theaters everywhere.