ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Page to Screen: Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Updated on January 5, 2016

The Film

One of Disney's earliest animated classics, this iteration of Alice Adventures in Wonderland was released in 1951. This film was about 20 years in development, as Disney had been trying to create this iteration since the 1930's. While originally poorly received, it's been a huge cult classic in more recent times and is cited as the de facto best adaptation of the original story. Also, since it's a Disney animated film, there's plenty of music, all which is largely pulled lyrically word for word from the source material.

Unlike many other adaptations, there is no new obvious plot inserted into this story, as it goes very much in tune with the original story's nonsensical themes. However, like most other adaptations of Lewis Carroll's most famous works, it uses both original Alice books as source materials liberally.

The Books

The subject books that are used as source material for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) & Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). Both works were written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known better by his pen name Lewis Carrol, and are classified as literary nonsense, filled with talking, anthropomorphic animals and plants, puzzling scenarios that force one to change size, and excellent wordplay.

As such, there's barely a plotline that involves Alice trying to find her way home (in the first book) and in the sequel she's trying to be crowned Queen. Nonetheless, the words and characters (supported by John Tenniel's iconic illustrations) are hard to forget and likely to charm their audience. That goes to explain why so many cinematic adaptations are made off this source material.


The Adaptation

Where's the Cat?
In the film, the cat is is outside and is a visible character. In the book, it's only mentioned and is inside the 'house,' completely irrelevant aside from a 10 year old girl occasionally mentioning her in a story where she talks with herself at great length at all times. It's a small thing really.

At the bottom of the Rabbit Hole
The film gives an actual personality to the doorknob, which is otherwise just an ordinary, not a speaking or animated character at all. In the film the doorknob tells her about the Queen's garden on the other side, revealing the White Rabbit racing through. When telling her she can't make it because she's too big, he then guides her into drinking unidentified liquids and eating mysterious pastries, all that manipulate her size.

In the book, Alice is alone with no one to talk to but herself. Instead of plopping down in a circular room with a single door and table, she is in a hallway filled with doors, all locked. She sees the garden at the other side of the main door in question before she begins to play around with the strange edible substances. Though, like the film that it inspires, she begins weeping in her giant form, causing a great flood that eventually serves as her next form of transportation (before she meets a rat she scares by talking about her cat in French).

There's also a stark contrast between what drives Alice in book and film. In the book, she's determined to get to the Queen's Garden, while in the book she's constantly pursuing the White Rabbit until said garden.

Discussion of 'Puberty'
As a Disney film, it really doesn't really discuss Alice's body changes. Some remnants still remain in the film but are given different points of relevance. In the book, it's one of the more apparent yet still subtle overarching themes of the story as Alice questions her body changes (in regards to shrinking and growing in size, as well as gaining an extremely long neck) and doesn't feel quite like herself at all. If told about the theme of understanding puberty while watching this film, it's more apparent but otherwise accepted when she discusses that she doesn't quite know who she is to the Caterpillar.

After Leaving the White Rabbit's House
In the book, Alice is attacked by a puppy (who is enormous because Alice is tiny). She distracts it by throwing a stick.

The Caterpillar doesn't turn into a Butterfly in the Book
And that's all I have to say about that.

The Duchess is Missing from Croquet
While she makes no appearance in the film, she's a very important character during the croquet and before the trial. Since the Cheshire Cat appears and plays pranks, it's Alice who is accused in the film. However, the Cheshire Cat is 'caught' and an argument starts due to the impossibility of beheading a floating head, so the Duchess (the cat's owner) is called in to help the matter.

The Trial Differences
Alice in the film is on trial, where the Knave of Hearts is the defendant in the book. While Alice grows in both mediums, it's caused by the pocketed mushrooms in the film. In the book (to go along with the theme of puberty and growing), Alice grows naturally and steadily before towering over the court.

Alice is smarter in the book
It's a little thing but while lost in the woods, Alice is frustrated and breaks down in tears in the film. She's eventually helped by the Cheshire Cat. In the book however, Alice uses her book smarts from school to figure out a clear direction and leads herself out on her own.

No Tweedles, Eating Oysters, Talking Flowers, Tulgey Woods, or Unbirthdays
It's one of those common adaptation traits to include some (if not all) of these elements from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. However, if you're a purist by the title of the film, these aren't included in the original book.

For nolstagic purposes, the trailer for Disney's Alice in Wonderland

Closing Thoughts

You know, it's hard to hate this if you're a fan of the book. It's so spot on. The 'plot' of Alice in Wonderland does not make a good movie, or at least the makers in Hollywood seem to think so. You've got a little girl who goes from place to place, meeting random people and creatures that have the slimmest connection among them. Everything's got to have a plot. Alice must defeat a creature in one-on-one combat, Alice must free a land of drunken stupor from an evil tyrant, and so on and so forth. This adaptation takes on the very natural essence that this story has to offer.

Disney has an infectious quality in most of their works, making classics in so many of their original animated classics. This one's no different, but unlike Burton's 2010 adaptation, this one stays true to the source without trying to infuse it with some other element.

Book vs. Movie

For those of you who read the book and watched the movie, what did you prefer?

See results

Further Reading

For more Alice in Wonderland adaptations, you can check out my commentary on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) or another popular adaptation in the 1999 version. You can read also commentary on the Page-to-Game adaptation in American McGee's Alice series. Also, there's the other, lesser known adaptation that this director also had a hand in, Alice (2009).

You can read more varied Page to Screen adaptation commentaries if you click here.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Josh B 

      3 years ago

      I love how simply "The unbirthday song" was someone's idea of complimenting the film, haha!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)