Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - and on the Screen

The Mad Tea Party- illustration by John Tenniel
The Mad Tea Party- illustration by John Tenniel
Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll

Charles Ludwidge Dodgson better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll was born in Surrey, England in 1832 and is best known as the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and it's sequel Through the Looking-Glass.

10 year old Alice Liddell was probably the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's most famous work, her mother was a close friend of Carroll's and he would often spin tales for Alice and her two sisters. One of the stories he would tell them was about a little girl named Alice who fell down a rabbit hole and found herself in a strange land full of weird characters. Alice Liddell begged Carroll to write the story down and publish it.

Carroll's original manuscript was titled 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground', after considering other titles he settled on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book was illustrated by John Tenniel and published in 1865. It was a huge commercial success and changed Carroll's life forever. A sequel,Through the Looking-Glass, was published in 1872.

Lewis Carroll died of pneumonia in 1898 two weeks before his 66th birthday.

Alice in Wonderland (1915)
Alice in Wonderland (1915)
Alice in Wonderland (1915)
Alice in Wonderland (1915)

Alice in Wonderland (1915) Directed by W.W. Young. 52mins.

Alice - Viola Savoy
The White Rabbit - Herbert Rice

Alice in Wonderland had first appeared on film as a 10 minute short in 1903. The 1915 version was the first near feature length attempt to tell the story.

Now in the public domain there are several prints of this silent movie available to view online at video websites such as YouTube.

IMDB rating 6.4

Alice in Wonderland (1931)
Alice in Wonderland (1931)
Alice in Wonderland (1931) poster
Alice in Wonderland (1931) poster

Alice in Wonderland (1931) Directed by Bud Pollard. 55mins.

Alice - Ruth Gilbert

The Mad Hatter - Leslie King
The White Rabbit - Ralph Hertz
The Cheshire Cat - Tom Corless
The March Hare - Meyer Berensen

The 100th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's birth was approaching and "Alice" fever had started in Europe and the U.S., the books were reprinted and a cartoon short featured Betty Boop in "Blunderland".

This was the first "talking" Alice picture, rarely seen and according to one reviewer it was "a creaky curiosity of a film with overly broad acting, awkward pauses, rudimentary costumes and sets and a primitive-sounding soundtrack."

IMDB rating 6.4

Alice in Wonderland (1933)
Alice in Wonderland (1933)
Alice in Wonderland (1933) Lobby card
Alice in Wonderland (1933) Lobby card
Alice in Wonderland (1933) poster
Alice in Wonderland (1933) poster

Alice in Wonderland (1933) Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. 76mins.

Alice - Charlotte Henry

The Cheshire Cat - Richard Arlen
The White Knight - Gary Cooper
Humpty Dumpty - W.C. Fields
The Mock Turtle - Cary Grant
The Mad Hatter - Edward Everett Horton
The Red Queen - Edna May Oliver
Queen of Hearts - May Robson
The March Hare - Charlie Ruggles

Paramount studios was facing bankruptcy and put all their hopes in this star-studded version of Alice In Wonderland, practically all their major stars were brought in to play a role but the film was a big flop, it didn't help that many of the stars were unrecognisable in their costumes.

Ultimately it was Mae West and her hit movies 'She Done Him Wrong' and 'I'm No Angel' which helped save Paramount from bankruptcy.

Alice: I've often seen a cat without a grin - but a grin without a cat!

IMDB rating 6.5

Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Alice in Wonderland (1951) poster
Alice in Wonderland (1951) poster

Alice in Wonderland (1951) Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske. 75mins.

Alice - Kathryn Beaumont

The Mad Hatter -Ed Wynn
Caterpillar - Richard Haydn
Cheshire Cat - Sterling Holloway
March Hare - Jerry Colonna
Queen of Hearts - Verna Felton
The White Rabbit - Bill Thompson

Walt Disney's first encounter with 'Alice' was in the Alice comedies of the 1920s a series of shorts produced by Disney which featured live action footage of a little girl in a cartoon world. The first short was titled 'Alice's Wonderland' but the shorts were not based on Lewis Carroll's books.

Disney had considered making Alice in Wonderland his first feature length animated movie back in the 30's but decided Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs would make a better first feature.

Work started on Alice in the late 40's and when it was finally released the film was a box office disappointment, Disney felt that it was because the character of Alice "had no heart". But the film was a success in re-releases in the 70's and early 80's and is now considered an animation classic with surreal imagery ahead of it's time.

Cheshire Cat: If I were looking for a white rabbit, I'd ask the Mad Hatter.
Alice: The Mad Hatter? Oh, no no no...
Cheshire Cat: Or, you could ask the March Hare, in that direction.
Alice: Oh, thank you. I think I'll see him...
Cheshire Cat: Of course, he's mad, too.
Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you can't help that. Most everyone's mad here.
[starts to disappear]
Cheshire Cat: You may have noticed that I'm not all there myself.

IMDB rating 7.4

Alice in Wonderland (1966) poster
Alice in Wonderland (1966) poster

Alice in Wonderland (1966) Directed by Jonathan Milller. 72mins.

Alice - Anne-Marie Mallik

White Rabbit - Wilfrid Brambell
Dodo - Finlay Currie
Caterpillar - Michael Redgrave
Mad Hatter - Peter Cook
March Hare - Michael Gough
King of Hearts - Peter Sellers
Mock Turtle - John Gielgud

Unlike the 1933 Paramount production the producers of this BBC-TV movie did not want to hide their all-star cast behind masks and elaborate costumes instead rather uniquely they all wear standard Victorian clothes and the Cheshire cat is played by a real cat.

The late Ravi Shankar composed the music for the film.

IMDB rating 7.4

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972) poster
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972) poster

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1972) Directed by William Sterling. 101mins.

Alice - Fiona Fullerton

Lewis Carroll - Michael Jayston
White Rabbit - Michael Crawford
Caterpillar - Ralph Richardson
Cheshire Cat - Roy Kinnear
Mad Hatter - Robert Helpmann
March Hare - Peter Sellers
Dormouse - Dudley Moore
Queen of Hearts - Flora Robson
Gryphon - Spike Milligan
Mock Turtle - Michael Hordern

A musical version of Lewis Carroll's novel, the first adaptation to be filmed in widescreen and the first to use the actual title of the book.

20 songs feature in the movie, lyrics by Don Black and music composed by John Barry.

Won 2 British Academy Awards - Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

IMDB rating 5.5

Alice in Wonderland (1985) poster
Alice in Wonderland (1985) poster

Alice in Wonderland (1985) Directed by Harry Harris. 187mins.

Alice - Natalie Gregory

White Rabbit - Red Buttons
The Lory Bird - Donald O'Connor
The Dodo Bird - Shelley Winters
The Caterpillar - Sammy Davis Jr.
The Cheshire Cat - Telly Savalas
The Mad Hatter - Anthony Newley
The March Hare - Roddy McDowall
The Gryphon - Sid Caesar
The Mock Turtle - Ringo Starr

A made-for-TV movie musical produced by Irwin Allen for CBS and shown in two parts on December 9th-10th, 1985.

The first part is based on Alice in Wonderland and the second part on Through the Looking Glass.

Nominated for 5 Primetime Emmys.

IMDB rating 7.0

Kate Beckinsale in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998)
Kate Beckinsale in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998)
Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) poster
Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) poster

Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) Directed by John Henderson. 83mins.

Alice - Kate Beckinsale

White Queen - Penelope Wilton
White King - Geoffrey Palmer
White Knight - Ian Holm
Red Queen - Siân Phillips
Red King - Michael Medwin
Red Knight - Greg Wise
Gnat - Steve Coogan

Based on Lewis Carroll's follow up to Alice in Wonderland, it seems to have a cult following.

Worth watching if only to see 'Underworld's' vampire babe Kate Beckinsale as a bewildered young Alice.

Nominated for a British Academy TV Award - Best Design.

IMDB rating 5.5

Martin Short in Alice in Wonderland (1999)
Martin Short in Alice in Wonderland (1999)
Whoopi Goldberg in Alice in Wonderland (1999)
Whoopi Goldberg in Alice in Wonderland (1999)

Alice in Wonderland (1999) Directed by Nick Willing. 150mins.

Alice - Tina Majorino

Cheshire Cat - Whoopi Goldberg
Mad Hatter - Martin Short
White Knight - Christopher Lloyd
Ned Tweedledum - Robbie Coltrane
Fred Tweedledee - George Wendt
Major Caterpillar - Ben Kingsley
The Walrus - Peter Ustinov
The Carpenter - Pete Postlethwaite
Queen of Hearts - Miranda Richardson
Mock Turtle - Gene Wilder

An expensive TV movie adaptation which premiered on NBC in America and Channel 4 in Britain.

Martin Short's head was digitally enlarged for the Mad Hatter, a stylised effect which was also used in Tim Burton's movie.

The film contained 875 effects shots. Jim Henson's Creature Shop designed some of the characters for the film.

Nominated for 6 Primetime Emmys winning 4 including Outstanding Makeup and Visual Effects.

March Hare: Waiter, waiter, there's a HARE in my soup!
Mad Hatter: Is it blonde? We're missing a waitress!

IMDB rating 6.0

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in Wonderland (2010) poster
Alice in Wonderland (2010) poster

Alice in Wonderland (2010) Directed by Tim Burton. 108mins.

Alice - Mia Wasikowska

Mad Hatter - Johnny Depp
Red Queen - Helena Bonham Carter
White Queen - Anne Hathaway
Knave of Hearts - Crispin Glover
Tweedledee / Tweedledum - Matt Lucas
White Rabbit - Michael Sheen
Cheshire Cat - Stephen Fry
Blue Caterpillar - Alan Rickman
Jabberwocky - Christopher Lee (voice)

The Red Queen: How would you like to have your head hacked off?
The Mad Hatter: [chuckles]
The Red Queen: Stop that.

Very loosely adapted from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and it's sequel Through the Looking Glass.

Hugely successful, Alice in Wonderland was the 2nd biggest hit of the year after Toy Story 3, both films released by Disney.

Amanda Seyfried and Lindsay Lohan wanted to play Alice.

90% of the movie was filmed in front of green screen.

Converted to 3D in post-production.

Nominated for 3 Oscars winning 2 - Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.

Nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards - Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, Best Actor Comedy or Musical (Johnny Depp) and Best Music Score (Danny Elfman).

Cost $150m - Box Office $1,024,300,000

Alice: From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I've been told where I must go and who I must be. I've been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I've been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice but this is *my* dream. I'll decide where it goes from here.

IMDB rating 6.5

Alice in Wonderland (2010) poster
Alice in Wonderland (2010) poster
The White Rabbit - Illustration by John Tenniel
The White Rabbit - Illustration by John Tenniel

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Comments 13 comments

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I guess I haven't seen too many of these, though I think I'd enjoyed seeing the earlier ones-- Gary Cooper? Cary Grant? That'd be a hoot. I liked "Alice" the 2009 two-parter on TV. It was made by the same folks that made TinMan. Weird.


Geekdom profile image

Geekdom 3 years ago

As always, very interesting. Although I have never been a fan of Alice in Wonderland it is always fun to watch how different films envision it visually.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

I haven't even heard of that mini-series David, I'll have to check it out. Yep that's Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle in one of the pictures, it could have been anyone and Grant could have dubbed his lines in later. :)

Thanks for commenting!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Geekdom. I've only seen a few of these. I'm curious to see that Kate Beckinsale one. :)

I suppose my favorite of this group is the classic Disney animation.


Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

Wow, so many versions over the years! You did your research Steve! Nice work!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks! It was interesting reading about Lewis Carroll and his work. I'll probably watch one of these films over the xmas holidays.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

You bet mhatter is going to stop by at this. Thanks


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Haha of course, Mhatter's tea party and it's my unbirthday today! :)

Thanks for dropping in!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Tennicut. I'm interested in seeing some of these too, the earliest Alice movie I saw was the 1933 Paramount version which was creaky but interesting for some of the star names in the cast.


Cogerson 3 years ago

An interesting look at Alice and the movies. I have never been a huge fan of any of the movies....but seeing the Cary Grant one from the 1930s has always been on my list....but it is a very hard movie to find.

I did not like the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version at all....actually the one I liked the best did not make your hub....Alice(2009) with Caterina Scorsone as Alice and Kathy Bates as the Queen....it is like Alice in Matrixs land.

Interesting hub and lots of facts that I did not know...job well done...voted up and across the board.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, appreciate you commenting on my Alice hub. Sorry I missed your favourite. The Tim Burton version did have some great visuals. I have the 3D Blu-ray.


UndercoverAgent19 profile image

UndercoverAgent19 3 years ago

Although I consider myself a big Alice in Wonderland buff, I must admit I have not seen most of these films. Thank you for introducing me to these films. Many of them look delightfully bizarre. Although I know the hub was focusing on film adaptations, there are two more I'd like to recommend: Alice, the miniseries, a modern take on the story; and the 90s Disney tv show, Adventures in Wonderland. Don't be put off by the fact that it's a kid's show. The writing and music are fabulous. There are full length episodes on YouTube, courtesy of melpierson.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for the comment and info on the Alice TV shows UndercoverAgent19, it is most appreciated.

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