Alice in Wonderland (1951 film)

Alice in Wonderland (1951 film)

Infobox Film
name = Alice in Wonderland

image_size =
caption = "Alice in Wonderland" 1951 Release Poster
director = Clyde Geronimi
Wilfred Jackson
Hamilton Luske
producer = Walt Disney
writer = Winston Hibler
Ted Sears
Bill Peet
Erdman Penner
Joe Rinaldi
Milt Banta
William Cottrell
Dick Kelsey
Joe Grant
Dick Huemer
Del Connell
Tom Oreb
John Walbridge
narrator =
starring = Kathryn Beaumont
Ed Wynn
Richard Haydn
Sterling Holloway
Jerry Colonna
Verna Felton
J. Pat O'Malley
Bill Thompson
Heather Angel
Joseph Kearns
Larry Grey
Queenie Leonard
Dink Trout
Doris Lloyd
James MacDonald
The Mellomen
Don Barclay
music = Oliver Wallace
cinematography =
editing = Lloyd L. Richardson
distributor = RKO Pictures
released = July 28, 1951
runtime = 75 minutes
country = USA
language = English
budget = $3,000,000
gross =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id =
imdb_id = 0043274

"Alice in Wonderland" is a 1951 animated feature film produced by Walt Disney and originally premiered in London, England on July 26, 1951 by RKO Pictures. It is the thirteenth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon. Based on Lewis Carroll's books "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass"; this adaptation solved the problems of the setting by using animation. The film features the voices of Kathryn Beaumont as Alice (also voice of Wendy Darling in the later Disney feature film, "Peter Pan") and Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter. Made under the supervision of Walt Disney himself, this film and its animation are often regarded as some of the finest work in Disney studio history, despite the lackluster, even hostile, reviews it originally received, especially in the UK.


On the bank of a tranquil river, Alice grows bored listening to her sister read aloud from a history book. Alice sees a White Rabbit wearing a waistcoat and carrying a large pocket watch. She follows him and tumbles down a rabbit hole. At the bottom, she follows the Rabbit into a large chamber but he escapes through a tiny door. The Doorknob suggests Alice drink from a bottle marked "Drink me." The contents shrink her to a tiny fraction of her original size. The Doorknob is now locked, but the key has appeared back on the table which she can no longer reach. The Doorknob directs her to a cookie marked "Eat me." The cookie makes her grow so large that her head hits the ceiling. She begins to cry; her massive tears flood the room. The Doorknob points out that the "Drink me" bottle still has some fluid left inside, so she finishes the last drop. She becomes so small that she drops inside the bottle. Both she and the bottle drift through the doorknob's keyhole mouth and out to a sea made from Alice's tears.

On shore, a Dodo leads a group of animals in a futile caucus-race to get dry. Alice meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two fat brothers who recite "The Walrus and the Carpenter". Alice sneaks away to the White Rabbit's house. The Rabbit orders Alice to fetch his gloves. Inside the house, Alice eats a cookie. She becomes so large that she gets stuck inside the house. The Dodo tries to help by sending Bill the Lizard down the chimney and then setting the house on fire. Alice eats a carrot from the garden and shrinks down to three inches high.

Alice chases after the Rabbit again, this time into a garden of tall flowers who consider her a weed and throw her out. She engages a hookah-smoking caterpillar who turns into a butterfly, though not before giving her cryptic advice about the mushroom she is sitting on. Alice breaks off two pieces and nibbles them alternately until finally restoring herself to her normal size. Alice receives mysterious directions from the Cheshire Cat, an eerily grinning feline that can disappear and reappear at will, which lead her to the garden of the March Hare, who is celebrating his "unbirthday" with the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse. Alice grows tired of their rudeness and decides to go home, abandoning her pursuit of the White Rabbit. She is lost and despondent among the strange creatures of the Tulgey Wood until the Cheshire Cat reappears and shows her a short-cut out of the forest.

In the hedge maze garden, Alice meets some playing cards painting white roses red. The White Rabbit heralds the arrival of the bellicose Queen of Hearts, the diminutive King, and a card army. She invites Alice to a strange game of croquet using flamingos as mallets, hedgehogs as balls, and card soldiers as wickets. The Cheshire Cat plays a prank on the Queen, who blames Alice and orders her execution. The King suggests that Alice be put on trial instead. At the trial, Alice's nonsensical acquaintances condemn her. At the Queen's command of "Off with her head!" all the crazy inhabitants of Wonderland give chase.

Coming back to the Doorknob, Alice is told by him that he is still locked, but that she is already on the other side. Looking through the keyhole, Alice sees herself asleep in the park. As the mob draws nearer, she calls, "Alice, wake up!" to her sleeping self until she gradually awakens from the dream to the sound of her sister's voice. The two of them return home for teatime while Alice muses on her adventures in Wonderland, realizing that perhaps logic and reason exist for a purpose.



The history of Walt Disney's association with Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books ("Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass") stretches all the way back to 1923, when Disney was still a twenty-one year old filmmaker trying to make a name for himself in Kansas City. When his first series of short cartoons, the Newman Laugh-O-Grams, failed to recoup production costs, the struggling young producer tried to create other short films hoping that one of them would point the way forward. The last of these Kansas City works was called "Alice's Wonderland", featuring a live action girl (Virginia Davis) interacting with cartoon characters. While charming, the short failed to receive much notice, and so Walt Disney decided to abandon producing animated films, and left Kansas City to become a live-action film director in Hollywood.

After months of trying, and failing, to find work in live-action, Disney partnered with his older brother Roy to create the Disney Brothers Studio, and they revived the idea of producing animated shorts. The independent distributor M. J. Winkler screened Walt's 1923 "Alice" short and found it promising, so Winkler agreed to distribute a series of "Alice Comedies" for the Disney brothers. Jubilant, Walt contacted his former Kansas City colleagues and brought them to Hollywood to work on the new series (a group that today reads like a who's who of American animation legends, including Ub Iwerks, Rudolph Ising, Isadore "Friz" Freleng, and Hugh Harman). From 1924 to 1926, the Disney Brothers Studio produced over fifty short "Alice Comedies". The success of this silent film series established Disney as a film producer, and was probably significant for the success of the later Mickey Mouse, usually credited as the first great Disney success.

Walt Disney had a long-standing affection for "Alice in Wonderland". For instance, as soon as he began discussing making feature-length films, he returned repeatedly to the idea of making a feature-length version of "Alice", but for various reasons, these attempts were never realized. Prior to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", Disney planned on making "Alice in Wonderland" his first feature-length film instead. Like the early "Alice Comedies", he planned on using a combination of live-action and animation for the "wonderland" sequences, and in early 1933, a Technicolor screen test was shot with Mary Pickford as Alice. This first attempt by Disney at producing an Alice feature was eventually tabled when Paramount released a 1933 live-action version, with a script by "Cleopatra" director Joseph Mankiewicz (brother of "Citizen Kane" scribe Herman J. Mankiewicz) and a cast that included Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty.

Disney did not abandon the idea of making an "Alice" feature. After the enormous success of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" -- as Leonard Maltin writes in his history of Walt Disney's film career, "The Disney Films", Walt Disney officially recorded the title "Alice in Wonderland" with the MPAA in 1938. As preparatory work began on this possible "Alice" feature, the economic devastation of the Second World War as well as the demands of the productions of "Pinocchio", "Fantasia", and "Bambi" pushed the "Alice" project aside. After the war, in 1945, Disney proposed a live-action/animated version of "Alice in Wonderland" that would star Ginger Rogers and would utilize the techniques seen in Disney's "The Three Caballeros". This, too, fell through, and in 1946, work began on an all-animated version of "Alice in Wonderland" that would feature art direction heavily based on the famous illustrations of Sir John Tenniel. This version was storyboarded, but was ultimately rejected by Walt, as was yet another proposed live-action/animated version of "Alice" that would star Luanna Patten (seen in Disney's "Song of the South" and "So Dear to My Heart").

In the late 1940s, work resumed on an all-animated "Alice" with a focus on comedy, music and spectacle as opposed to rigid fidelity to the books, and finally, in 1951, Walt Disney released a feature-length version of "Alice in Wonderland" to theaters, eighteen years after first discussing ideas for the project and almost thirty years after making his first "Alice Comedy". Disney's final version of "Alice in Wonderland" followed in the traditions of his feature films like "Fantasia" and "The Three Caballeros" in that Walt Disney intended for the visuals and the music to be the chief source of entertainment, as opposed to a tightly-constructed narrative like "Snow White" or "Cinderella". Indeed, Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books have no real plot to speak of, and because of the literary complexity of Carroll's work, they are essentially unfilmable. Instead of trying to produce an animated "staged reading" of Carroll's books, Disney chose to focus on their whimsy and fantasy, using Carroll's prose as a beginning, not as an end unto itself.

Another choice was decided upon for the look of the film. Rather than faithfully reproducing the famous illustrations of Sir John Tenniel, a more streamlined and less complicated approach was used for the design of the main characters. Background artist Mary Blair took a Modernist approach to her design of Wonderland, creating a world that was recognizable, and yet was decidedly "unreal." Indeed, Blair's bold use of color is one of the films most notable features.

Finally, in an effort to retain some of Carroll's imaginative verses and poems, Disney commissioned top songwriters to compose songs built around them for use in the film. A record number of potential songs were written for the film, based on Carroll's verses---over 30---and many of them found a way into the film, if only for a few brief moments. "Alice in Wonderland" would boast the greatest number of songs included in any Disney film, but because some of them last for mere seconds (like "How Do You Do and Shake Hands," "We'll Smoke the Monster Out," "Twas Brillig," "The Caucus Race," and others), this fact is frequently overlooked. The original song that Alice was to sing in the beginning was titled "Beyond the Laughing Sky". The song, like so many other dropped songs, was not used by the producers. However, the composition was kept and the lyrics were changed. It later became the title song for "Peter Pan" (which was in production at the same time), "The Second Star to the Right".

The title song, composed by Sammy Fain, was later adopted by jazz pianist Bill Evans and featured on his Sunday at the Village Vanguard.

Release: Reactions, Criticisms, and Future Praise

All of these creative decisions were met with great criticism from fans of Lewis Carroll, as well as from British film and literary critics who accused Disney of "Americanizing" a great work of English literature. Disney was not surprised by the critical reception to "Alice in Wonderland" - his version of "Alice" was intended for large family audiences, not literary critics - but despite all the long years of thought and effort, the film met with a lukewarm response at the box office and was a sharp disappointment in its initial release [ [ Alice in Wonderland: The Aftermath ] ] . Though not an outright disaster, the film was never re-released theatrically in Walt Disney's lifetime, airing instead every so often on network television (in fact, Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" aired as the 2nd episode of Walt Disney's "Disneyland" TV series on ABC in 1954), although in a severely edited version cut down to less than an hour. Walt surmised that the film failed because Alice lacked "heart" and was a difficult character for audiences to get behind and root for. In "The Disney Films", Leonard Maltin relates animator Ward Kimball felt the film failed because, "it suffered from too many cooks - directors. Here was a case of five directors each trying to top the other guy and make his sequence the biggest and craziest in the show. This had a self-canceling effect on the final product." On Rotten Tomatoes, many years later, the overall score was 77%.

Re-Release Schedule, Home Video, and Beyond

Almost two decades later, after the North American success of George Duning's animated feature "Yellow Submarine", Disney's version of "Alice in Wonderland" suddenly found itself in vogue with the times. In fact, because of Mary Blair's art direction and the long-standing association of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland with the drug culture, the feature was re-discovered as something of a "head film" (along with "Fantasia" and "The Three Caballeros") among the college-aged and was shown in various college towns across the country. The Disney company resisted this association, and even withdrew prints of the film from universities, but then, in 1974, the Disney company gave "Alice in Wonderland" its first theatrical re-release ever, and the company even promoted it as a film in tune with the "psychedelic" times (mostly from the hit song White Rabbit performed by Jefferson Airplane). This re-release was successful enough to warrant a subsequent re-release a few years later, where it played on a double feature with the live-action Disney film.Later, with the advent of the home video market in the early 80's, the Disney company chose to make "Alice in Wonderland" one of the first titles available for the rental market on VHS and Beta. The film was released on video in 1981 and 1986 (though it was mastered for tape in 1985), staying in general release ever since, with a 40th Anniversary video release in 1991 (this and the 1986 video release were in Disney's Classics Collection), and again in 1994 and 1999 (these two were in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection.) It was released on DVD in Region 2 in 1999 and in Region 1 in 2000 (under the Gold Classic Collection DVD series), and on a fully restored two disc edition in 2004.

A video game version of the film was released on Game Boy Color by Nintendo of America on October 4, 2000 in North America. Additionally, Disney's take on Wonderland also appeared as one of the first worlds in Disney and Square Enix's "Kingdom Hearts". Alice is also one of the fabled "Princesses of Heart" needed to open the Keyhole to Hollow Bastion.

"Alice in Wonderland" is also frequently featured in many parades and shows in the Disney Theme Parks, including The Main Street Electrical Parade, SpectroMagic, Fantasmic, Dreamlights, and Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams. Additionally, two rides are based on "Alice in Wonderland" in Disneyland: Alice in Wonderland (a dark ride telling of Alice's tale) and the Mad Tea Party. This honor of having more than one ride in a single park was only given to one other Disney classic: Dumbo. There is also a labrynth at Disneyland Paris Resort based on Wonderland along with the park's Tea Cups ride.

Alice and several other characters from the film were featured as guests in "House of Mouse", and the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts were two of the villains featured in "Mickey's House of Villains". The Mad Hatter was also featured in "".

The reputation of "Alice" has improved substantially over the last thirty years. Modern appreciation for the film stems from the overall growth in the appreciation of animation in general, and respect for the film's imaginative visuals have come to somewhat outweigh the criticisms from its first release.

Home Video Release History

* October 15, 1981 (VHS and Betamax)
* 1982 (Laserdisc)
* May 28, 1986 (VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc - Walt Disney Classics)
* October 14, 1986 (VHS and Betamax - Walt Disney Classics)
* July 12, 1991 (VHS and Laserdisc - 40th Anniversary Edition - Walt Disney Classics)
* October 28, 1994 (VHS and Laserdisc - Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection)
* June 8, 1999 (VHS - Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection)
* July 4, 2000 (VHS and DVD) - Walt Disney Gold Classic Collection)
* January 27, 2004 (DVD - Masterpiece Edition)

Worldwide release dates

* U.K.: July 26, 1951
* Brazil: August 17, 1951
* Argentina: August 20, 1951
* Italy: December 6, 1951
* Netherlands: December 6, 1951
* Belgium: December 6, 1951
* Finland: December 21, 1951
* France: December 21, 1951
* Denmark: December 26, 1951
* Norway: December 26, 1951
* Sweden: December 26, 1951
* Mexico: January 1, 1952
* Australia: April 17, 1952
* Philippines: July 22, 1952 (Davao)
* Hong Kong: October 2, 1952
* West Germany: December 17, 1952
* Japan: August 22, 1953
* Austria: December 4, 1953
* Spain: April 17, 1954
* Kuwait: December 24, 1991


This motion picture received an Academy Award nomination [] for:

* Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (lost to "An American in Paris")

Voice cast

* Kathryn Beaumont - Alice
* Ed Wynn - Mad Hatter
* Richard Haydn - Caterpillar
* Sterling Holloway - Cheshire Cat
* Jerry Colonna - March Hare
* Verna Felton - Queen of Hearts
* J. Pat O'Malley - Tweedledum and Tweedledee; Walrus; Carpenter; Mother Oyster
* Bill Thompson - White Rabbit; The Dodo
* Heather Angel - Alice's sister
* Joseph Kearns - Doorknob
* Larry Grey - Bill the Lizard, Card Painter
* Queenie Leonard - Bird In Tree, Snooty Flower
* Dink Trout - King of Hearts
* Doris Lloyd - Rose
* Jimmy MacDonald - The Dormouse
* The Mellomen - Cards
* Don Barclay - Other Cards

Directing animators

* Marc Davis (Alice in Tea Party sequence)
* Ward Kimball (Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter, The March Hare)
* Frank Thomas (The Doorknob, The Queen of Hearts)
* Ollie Johnston (Alice, The King of Hearts)
* Milt Kahl (Alice in Croquet sequence)
* Eric Larson (The Caterpillar)
* Wolfgang Reitherman
* John Lounsbery
* Les Clark
* Norm Ferguson


Songs in Film
* "Alice in Wonderland" - The Jud Conlon Chorus
* "In A World of My Own" - Alice
* "I'm Late" - The White Rabbit
* "The Caucus Race" - The Dodo and Animals
* "How Do You Do and Shake Hands" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
* "The Walrus and the Carpenter" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
* "Old Father William" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
* "Smoke the Blighter Out" - The Dodo and The White Rabbit
* "All in the Golden Afternoon" - The Flowers and Alice
* "AEIOU" - The Caterpillar
* "Twas Brillig" - The Cheshire Cat
* "The Unbirthday Song" - The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, and Alice
* "Very Good Advice" - Alice
* "Painting the Roses Red" - The Playing Cards and Alice/"Who's Been Painting My Roses Red?" (Reprise) - The Queen of Hearts and The Playing Cards
* "The Unbirthday Song" (Reprise) - The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, The Queen of Hearts, and The Playing Cards
* "The Caucus Race" (Reprise) - The Entire Cast Minus Alice
* "Alice in Wonderland" (Reprise) - The Jud Conlon Chorus

Songs written for film but not used
* "Beyond the Laughing Sky" - Alice (replaced by "In A World of My Own"; this melody was later used for "The Second Star to the Right" in "Peter Pan")
* "Dream Caravan" - The Caterpillar (replaced by "A-E-I-O-U")
* "I'm Odd" - The Cheshire Cat (replaced by "Twas Brillig")
* "Beware the Jabberwock" - Chorus, referring to deleted character
* "So They Say" - Alice
* "If You'll Believe in Me" - The Lion and The Unicorn (deleted characters)
* "Beautiful Soup" - The Mock Turtle and The Gryphon (deleted characters) set to the tune of the Blue Danube.
* "Everything Has A Useness" - Meant for the Caterpillar, in which he explains to Alice that everything has a purpose—in this case, the use of the mushroom.

Media and merchandise

tage version

Alice in Wonderland has been vamped into a one act stage version entitled, "Alice and Wonderland, Jr.". The stage version is solely meant for middle and high school productions and includes the majority of the film's songs and others including Song of the South's "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah", This 60-80 minute version is owned by Musical Theatre International in the Broadway, Jr. Collection along with other Disney Theatrical shows such as Disney's Aladdin, Jr., Disney's Mulan, Jr., Beauty and the Beast, Disney's High School Musical: On Stage!, Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, and many more.

Theme Parks

The Mad Tea Party is a spinning cups ride based on Alice in Wonderland at Disneyland [ [ Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party Page] ] , Walt Disney World [ [ Walt Disney World’s Mad Tea Party Page] ] , Tokyo Disneyland [ [ Tokyo Disney’s Alice’s Tea Party Page] ] , Disneyland Park (Paris) [ [ Disneyland Paris’ Mad Hatter’s tea Cups Page] ] , and Hong Kong Disneyland [ [ Hong Kong Disneyland’s Fantasyland Attractions Page] ] .

Disneyland Paris also has a maze called Alice’s Curious Labyrinth [ [ Disneyland Paris’ Alice’s Curious Labyrinth Page] ] .

Video games

In the video games Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Wonder Land is a playable world. Alice is also a Major character in the overall plot of the first game due to her role as one of seven "Princesses Of Heart". Other characters from the movie that appear include The Queen of Hearts, The Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the Doorknob, and the Deck of Cards. All except the Doorknob also appear in Chain of Memories, albeit in the form of illusions made from the main character's memory. It also appears in the remake, re:Chain of Memories. [ [ Kingdom Hearts Official Page] ]


External links

* The Big Cartoon DataBase [ entry for "Alice in Wonderland"]
* [ Additional information] about Disney's Alice in Wonderland movie, and also [ pictures/screencaps]

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