When Disney released the new Tim Burton "Alice In Wonderland", I thought it might be fun to go back and explore Lewis Carroll's Public Domain children's masterpiece, "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" and it's sequel "Through The Looking Glass", the two books on which the new movie (as well as the original 1951 Disney classic) is based.
Yes, Walt Disney was a Public Domain Treasure Hunter too...
Walt certainly understood the power of Public Domain stories and Public Domain characters - so much so that he built a billion-dollar multi-media empire around them.
The list of Public Domain stories and Public Domain characters that Walt and Company resurrected from the vaults of time and successfully spun into modern day classics for a new generation of consumers is a mile long (and 20,000 leagues deep!). Maybe we'll talk about that sometime if you're interested ~ leave a comment on this post if that's the case.
But right now it's all about Alice...
She's back ~ a little darker, a little "edgier", a lot more melancholic, but still in essence the Alice we know and love.
Here's a trailer for the Disney film by Tim Burton if you haven't seen it yet...
Most people have heard of "Alice In Wonderland" but what many people don't realize is that there was a sequel (that in my opinion, was in many ways even better than the first), and numerous spin-offs.
The original "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" was republished very early on in a variety of different formats and fortunately many of them are in the Public Domain, leaving lots of great illustrations and narrations to use in our own children's product offerings.
Here's the low-down on the original book from Wikipedia...
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures.
The tale is filled with allusions to Dodgson's friends (and enemies), and to the lessons that British schoolchildren were expected to memorize. The tale plays with logic in ways that have given the story lasting popularity to adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary nonsense, and its narrative course and structure has been enormously influential, mainly in the fantasy genre.
The book is commonly referred to by the abbreviated title Alice in Wonderland, an alternative title popularized by the numerous stage, film and television adaptations of the story produced over the years. Some printings of this title contain both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Did you know that a silent movie was made? I didn't either:
"Curiouser and Curiouser!"
In case it's been a good while since you've visited Wonderland, here's a brief run down of the events that took place in the original Public Domain book to whet your appetite for the rest of this post...
Chapter 1: Down the Rabbit Hole
Alice is bored of sitting on the riverbank with her sister, who is reading a book. Suddenly she sees a white rabbit run past wearing a coat and carrying a watch, lamenting running late.
She follows it down a rabbit hole and falls very slowly down a tunnel lined with curious objects. She lands in a long hallway lined with locked doors.
She finds a little key sitting on a glass table. Behind a curtain on the wall she finds a tiny door that opens with the key and leads into a beautiful garden.
The door however is too small for Alice to fit through. Looking back at the table she sees a bottle labeled "DRINK ME" that was not there before. She drinks and it causes her to shrink to a size small enough to fit through the door. Unfortunately Alice has left the key high above on the table.
She finds a box under the table in which there is a cake with the words "EAT ME" on it. She eats it, thinking that if it makes her smaller she can creep under the door and if it makes her larger she can get the key.
Chapter 2: The Pool of Tears
The cake makes Alice grow so tall that her head hits the ceiling. Getting frustrated, she cries. Her tears flood the hallway.
The White Rabbit runs by and is so frightened by Alice that he drops the gloves and fan he is holding. She fans herself with the fan and starts to wonder if she is still the same person that she was before. The fan causes her to shrink again. Alice swims through her own tears and meets a mouse, who is swimming as well.
She tries to make small talk with him but all she can think of talking about is her cat, which offends the mouse. The pool becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away. They all swim to shore.
Chapter 3: A Caucus Race and a Long Tale
The first question is how to get dry again. The mouse gives them a very dry lecture on William the Conqueror.
A Dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race. The Dodo marks out a race course in a sort of circle and the racers begin running whenever they feel like it, and everyone wins.
Alice reaches into her pocket and finds a box of comfits which she distributes among the winners. The animals then beg the mouse to tell them something more and he recites a tale about a mouse and Fury. Alice mistakes his tale for his tail. This insults him and he leaves. She starts talking about her cat again, which frightens the rest of the animals away.
Chapter 4: The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
The White Rabbit appears again and orders Alice to go back to his house and fetch him his gloves and fan. Inside, she finds another bottle and drinks from it.
Alice grows so large that she has to stick one arm out the window and her foot up the chimney. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, a lizard named Bill, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney.
As Bill slides down the chimney Alice kicks him out with her foot, shooting him up into the sky. Outside Alice hears the voices of animals that have gathered to gawk at her giant arm. The crowd hurls pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes that shrink Alice down again. She runs into the woods, where she decides that she must get back to her right size and she must find the lovely garden.
Suddenly Alice is confronted by a giant puppy. She picks up a stick and teases him with it until he is tired and she can run away. She comes upon a mushroom and sitting on it is a caterpillar smoking a hookah.
Chapter 5: Advice from a Caterpillar
The Caterpillar questions Alice and she admits to her current identity crisis. He asks her to recite "You Are Old, Father William".
She does so, but it comes out with many errors. She insults him by saying that three inches is a wretched height to be (he himself is three inches tall).
The Caterpillar crawls away into the grass, telling Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller and the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom.
One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while another causes her neck to grow high into the trees, where a pigeon mistakes her for a serpent. With some effort, Alice brings herself back to her usual height. She stumbles upon a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height.
Chapter 6: Pig and Pepper
A Fish-Footman has an invitation for the Duchess of the house, which he delivers to a Frog-Footman. Alice observes this transaction and, after a perplexing conversation with the frog, welcomes herself into the house. The Duchess' Cook is throwing dishes and making a soup which has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess and her baby (but not the cook or her grinning Cheshire-Cat) to sneeze violently.
The Duchess tosses her baby up and down while reciting the poem "Speak roughly to your little boy." The Duchess gives Alice the baby while she leaves to go play croquet with the Queen. To Alice's surprise, the baby later turns into a pig, so she sets it free in the woods.
The Cheshire-Cat appears in a tree, directing her to the March Hare's house. He disappears but his grin remains behind to float on its own in the air.
Chapter 7: A Mad Tea Party
Alice becomes a guest at a mad tea party, along with the Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse.
In the course of the party, Alice reveals that the date is May 4 (which happens to be the birthday of her presumed real-life counterpart, Alice Pleasance Liddell).
The other characters give Alice many riddles and stories, until she becomes so insulted that she leaves, claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to.
Alice comes upon a door in a tree, and enters it, and finds herself back in the long hallway. She opens the door, eats part of her mushroom, and shrinks so she can get into the beautiful garden.
Chapter 8: The Queen's Croquet Ground
Now in the beautiful garden, she comes upon three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because the Queen of Hearts hates white roses.
A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice meets the violent Queen and pacifying King of Hearts.
The Queen orders "Off with their heads!" when she sees the work of the gardeners. A game of croquet begins, with flamingos as the mallets and hedgehogs as the balls.
The Queen condemns more people to death, and Alice once again meets the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts then debates chopping off the Cat's head, even though that is all there is of him. Alice suggests talking to the Duchess, so the Queen orders the Duchess out of prison.
Chapter 9: The Mock Turtle's story
The Duchess is brought to the croquet ground.
She is now less angry and is always trying to find morals in things.
The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle is very sad, even though he has no sorrow.
He tries to tell his story about how he used to be a real turtle in school, which The Gryphon interrupts so they can play a game.
Chapter 10: The Lobster Quadrille
The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, while Alice recites (rather incorrectly) "Tis the Voice of the Lobster."
The Mock Turtle sings them "Beautiful Soup" during which the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial.
Chapter 11: Who Stole the Tarts?lll
At the trial, the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the tarts.
The jury box is made up of twelve animals, including Bill the Lizard, and the judge is the King of Hearts.
The first witness is the Mad Hatter, who doesn't help the case at all, followed by the Duchess's Cook.
During the proceedings, Alice finds that she is steadily growing larger when she is suddenly called as a witness herself.
Chapter 12: Alice's Evidence
Alice accidentally knocks over the jury box as she stands in alarm.
She argues with the King and Queen of Hearts over the ridiculous proceedings, eventually refusing to hold her tongue.
The Queen shouts her familiar "Off with her head!" but Alice is unafraid, calling them out as just a pack of cards.
Alice's sister wakes her up for tea, brushing what turns out to be some leaves and not a shower of playing cards from Alice's face.
Follow Me On A Trip Down The
Public Domain Rabbit Hole...
The University of Florida's George A. Smathers Library has a killer digitized collection of "Alice" books that I'd like to share with you...
It's called "The Afterlife of Alice and Her Adventures In Wonderland"
You can find the collection's homepage here...
Personally, I prefer to browse the thumbnail views of the entire collection here...
The Afterlife of Alice and Her Adventures in Wonderland is a collection of various editions of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There as well as similarly themed texts. Iconic elements of the Alice stories - images, phrases, and symbols - permeate American culture. This collection showcases many of the early texts that created and fostered the Alice mythos, with the captivating texts and lush illustrations of characters like the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.
Like other classics from the Golden Age of Children's Literature, Alice and her friends in Wonderland continue to live on many years after publication. This collection also includes Alice-related materials that followed, such as other editions, texts that reference Alice, and materials from the University of Florida's Special Collections exhibit, “The Afterlife of Alice in Wonderland.”
This collection of Alice stories is valued as much for its popularity as its popular use in American culture and the creation of the American childhood.
ln this beautifully scanned collection, you'll find 11 different editions of the original "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" all orginally published between the late 1800's and the very early 1900's.
What's really interesting about this collection is that not only does it include variations of the sequel, "Through The Looking Glass", but the collections also contains a real prize - an exact facsimile of the original handwritten, hand-drawn pre-cursor to "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland", entitled "Alice's Adventures Underground".
This was the original book that started it all, a true labor of love...
Amazing! Check it out.
In addition, you'll also find a few of the spin-offs I was talking about like, "On The Way To Wonderland" and "Alice In Blunderland : an iridescent dream" - really cool stuff.
These are the kinds of stories that we all cherish and remember for the rest of our lives with fondness.
Thanks for letting me share ; )
P.S. - Remember this? While I was digging around a little to find the trailer for the new Alice movie, I ran across the original trailer for the 1951 version. My, how the world has "moved on" ; )