Alice is one of those successful stories that almost everyone has heard about. The play has inspired filmmakers and actually led to the making of over 25 different TV and film versions. The first one was an iconic movie made in 1903. But has the play had any special effect on cinema as compared to its contemporaries? Most critics say no.
Alice was first published in 1865 but has been adapted 25 times to date. In comparison, Les Miserables (first published in 1862) has also attracted 25 adaptations, while Crime & Punishment (1866) has attracted over 27 adaptations. Little Women (1868) has had 13 adaptations, while Great Expectations (1861) has recorded at least 15 thus far.
Disney’s adaptation, “Alice in Wonderland”, was released in 1951. The initial release wasn’t so successful, and the film didn’t hit the sweet spot for audiences and critics till decades later. The movie also boasts many other feats. For instance, it was the first cartoon feature that aired on TV and later released as a home video.
Alice does not stand apart from all these contemporaries. It has little in common with them. For instance, there lacks a unifying theme among the novels and other plot structures. Critics have given it credit for attracting a lot of interest from filmmakers. But it’s not alone in this regard. So that’s not really unique.
The simple but brilliant premise of a child finding a portal to another world is probably imagination. If not, others have said it’s so compelling. One of the individuals who has hailed Alice is C.S. Lewis, whose machination, “The Chronicles of Narnia” starts when a kid discovers a fairy tale world from a furs-stuffed wardrobe. Certainly, the premise is utterly compelling. But the same goes for lots of other stories, including some that were published around the same time with Alice.
“Alice in Wonderland” is a Disney adaptation of the play “Alice”, which was originally published in 1865. The Play wasn’t a hit at first but picked up later with audiences around the world. It was the first Alice cartoon to air on TV, and also the first to be produced in home video. Below are some fascinating facts about this globally hyped play.
Walt Disney (the genius entrepreneur who founded Disney) had dreamt about making a feature of “Alice” for over 30 years. Once he became a successful animator in the 1930s, Disney thought about a live-action feature of “Alice” that would actually star Mary Pickford. He purchased rights for the film. There were many ups and downs before he finally decided to take the project in a more comic, whimsical direction.
Disney did commission 30 songs for the Alice film. These were based on verses Lewis Carroll himself had cited throughout the book. 14 of these songs actually made the cut, thus making Alice one of the most ‘song-rich’ of all animated musicals from Disney.
Ed Wynn, a popular comic star, was hired to be the voice of the Mad Hatter, thus becoming the first top celeb to have a voice role in an animated feature from Disney. Ed later played live-action roles in a number of Disney movies, including “Mary Poppins”, and “Babes in Toyland”.
Other members of the cast were not as familiar, although Disney viewers would later recognize their voices when they featured in other projects. Alice herself was voiced by Kathryn Beaumont, a 12-year-old who later went on to star as Wendy in “Peter Pan”. Another major role was played by Bill Thompson, who acted as White Rabbit. The Queen of Hearts in the play was voiced by Vema Felton, who later played as Aunt Sarah in another the “Lady and the Tramp” play.
In the opening credits of “Alice in Wonderland”, Disney misspelled the name of Lewis Carroll as “Carrol”.
The play “Alice in Wonderland” cost a whopping $3 million to produce, over a period of 5 years. The entire action involved three directors, 750 artists, 13 highly credited writers, 800 paint gallons, 1,000 watercolor hues, and about 350,000 paintings and drawings. Once released, it only earned back about $2.4 million, which means it was a loss-making operation.
Ward Kimball, an animator working on the project, blamed its failure on competing creators. As he said, there were “too many cooks”. On his part, Walt complained that the heroine in the movie lacked “warmth”.
The film earned a single Academy Award nomination, for the instrumental work done by Oliver Wallace.
In 1960, the film started to pick amongst college-going audiences, who loved its trippy nature, especially when watched under the influence. Walt died in 1966, and the film was re-released again in 1974 and then 1981. It was much more successful this time, earning about $322 over its lifetime.
Spinoffs of Disney’s “Alice” include the 2010 Tim Burton film, its sequel in 2016. In addition, there are stage musicals, the spin tea cup ride in Disney theme parks, and a number of video games.