Lewis Carroll’s 1865 literary classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and its 1871 companion, Through the Looking-Glass, has spawned some 20 film adaptations over the years, including a Japanese anime, an adult-only musical and even a Danny Dyer crime drama.
As Tim Burton’s eye-popping 3D take on the classic tale opens in UK cinemas, we head down the rabbit hole for a retro look at some of the best Alice adaptations, many of which make up a season of films at the BFI in London…
1903 – Alice in Wonderland (Silent)
Recently restored by the BFI National Archive, this 8-minute 1903 version was made some 37 years after the publication of Carroll’s tale. You can now view it for free on the BFI website.
1933 – Alice in Wonderland
This star-studded Paramount version features Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper as the White Knight and WC Fields as Humpty-Dumpty. Very odd indeed, it takes a liberal approach to Carroll’s works, while offering up a heady dose of the surreal. Showing 12 & 14 March, NFT
1949 – Alice in Wonderland
This dreamlike Anglo-French adaptation blends live action and stop-animation in a faithful interpretation of the tale. Beautifully designed, set in an absurdist Wonderland, and filled with an eccentric gallery of grotesques. Showing 5, 7 & 9 March, NFT
1951 – Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland
Disney’s colourful animation was met with a hostile reception on its initial release, with British critics accusing Disney of Americanising Carroll’s work. But it still remains a vivid recreation of the classic tale, with some of the best songs ever to appear in a Disney film. Althogther now, ‘A very merry unbirthday to you…’ Available on DVD.
1965 – Alice
This Dennis Potter TV drama mixes biographical detail with fiction to explore the relationship between 10-year-old Alice and the Reverend Charles Dodgson. Showing 11 & 15 March, NFT
1966 – Alice in Wonderland
Actors dress in period garb rather than costumes in the curiously dreamlike BBC adaptation, that includes a stellar cast including Wilfred Brambell, Alan Bennett and Michael Gough. Showing 9 & 13 March, NFT
1972 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
This is one of the most lavish adaptations. The cast is a who’s-who of British talent, with Peter Sellers as the March Hare, Michael Crawford as the White Rabbit, and Dudley Moore as Dormouse. The extravagant spectacle also boasts a great score by the legendary John Barry and BAFTA-winning cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. Released 8 March (Oracle Home Entertainment)
1985 – Dreamchild
In 1932, Alice Liddell Hargreaves (a standout performance by Coral Browne) travels to New York aged 80 to attend a celebration of the centenary of Dodgson’s birth. Haunted by childhood events, Alice recalls the questionable attentions of the shy Dodgon (Ian Holm). Potter’s script is dark and complex and the film is filled with bizarre Jim Henson creatures. Showing 9 & 16 March, NFT
1988 – Alice
Czech puppeteer Jan Svankmejer’s adaptation is creepy and disturbing with a live-action Alice entering a wonderland filled with threatening stop motion characters and eventually becoming a doll herself. Showing 13 & 17 March, NFT
2010 – Alice in Wonderland
As so we are brought up to date with Burton’s big-budget 3D version. The all-star cast included Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helen Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover and Mia Wasikowska as Alice. But will it become a memorable classic or has Burton gone a step too far favouring re-imaginings (like his pointless Planet of the Apes) over his own wonderful creations like Edward Scissorhands? Here’s what MovieTalk’s Jason Best had to say. Click here.
On general release from 5 March.