by Michele Johansen
Tim Burton's latest offering, Alice in Wonderland, is the most recent in a long line of adaptations of Lewis Carroll's classic story. Since 1903, versions of the tale have been popping up on the silver screen and on television.
Some have become classics, such as the Disney animated movie, while others have faded into oblivion. Burton's creation is sure to leave tongues wagging, in part because of Johnny Depp's transformation into the Mad Hatter and the special effects used to make it come alive in a way no other director has managed. Here are five versions of Alice in Wonderland that have left their mark on the industry and audiences over time:
Alice in Wonderland - 1903
The first theatrical version of Alice in Wonderland clocked in at 8 minutes, making it the longest full length film of its day. It was directed by Cecil Hepworth, who insisted on remaining true to the illustrations of Sir John Tenniel, whose drawings accompanied Carroll's story and are among the most famous ever made. May Clark starred in the title role, though she had dark brown hair. The film used special effects to show Alice growing and shrinking, and while those would appear rather crude to our spoiled eyes today (thanks, Avatar!), in 1903 they were quite good effects. Only one copy of the silent film exists today in the U.K., and sadly as time has passed the overall quality has deteriorated. It can, however, be seen on the DVD for the 1966 version of Alice in Wonderland directed by Johnathon Miller.
Alice in Wonderland - 1933
Next to make Alice into a movie was Norman Z. McLeod in 1933. Although still in black and white, the film did have sound and was also 76 minutes long. Charlotte Henry was Alice, and the film also featured Cary Grant as Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper as the White Knight, and W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty. Paramount Studios essentially made any and all of their well known actors star in the film, though when the film failed at the box office many said it was because these celebrities were hidden by make-up and virtually unrecognizable.
Alice in Wonderland - 1951
Disney finally had their chance to create their own, animated version of Alice in 1951. Although it is considered to be one of the finest pieces of work in Disney's animation history, the film itself received poor reviews, particularly from critics in the U.K. Many felt that Disney had "Americanized" Alice and had not been faithful to Carroll's story. Disney had anticipated this reaction but felt safe knowing they had deliberately made the film more whimsical to appeal to large family audiences. The box office doesn't lie, though, and the film was not the gigantic success Disney had hoped for. As time passed, admiration and affection for the film has grown and today it is one of the few movies that has been released in each media format that has existed.
Alice in Wonderland - 1985
The classic tale was made into a television movie in 1985 with a cast of characters any child (or adult) of the '80s would know. Scott Baio, Sherman Helmsley, Sammy Davis, Jr., Red Buttons, Sally Struthers, Ringo Starr, and Shelley Winters all participated in the adaptation. Alice was played by Natalie Gregory, a young girl with a face you would recognize-she was often a guest on popular sitcoms such as 'Mr. Belvedere' and 'Highway to Heaven.' The film was quite popular and is now available on DVD. Go ahead, you know you want to order it! We're talking Scott Baio here!
Alice - 2009
SyFy released a mini-series television movie called Alice in late 2009. It's a unique interpretation of the original. In 'Alice,' Alice is a martial arts instructor who steps through a portal (the looking glass) into a parallel universe where she is searching for her boyfriend who has been kidnapped by a man in a white suit. She realizes that people from our world are kidnapped into Wonderland, where their emotions are bottled up and are fed to the citizens by the Queen of Hearts so she may continue her oppressive reign. Needless to say, the movie has a much darker tone. Reviews were mixed, but one thing is for certain: It was the SyFy Channel's highest rated original movie in years.
Get your family organized and on the same page with Cozi, the free online family organizer.
Michele Johansen is a writer in Bellevue, WA. As a mom of two young daughters, she realized the importance of getting out of the house to keep her sanity. She is the co-creator of the Ruby Slipper Guide, a website that lists activities and events for families living east of Seattle and blog that delves into the foils of parenting. She also co-authors a regular feature for 425 Magazine, Kid-Sized Eastside.