Lewis Carroll’s Alice novels are possibly the most widely read and distributed pieces of Fantasy Literature in the world. The witty dialogue, imaginative setting, and unforgettable characters are perfect for children and adults alike. With its incredible popularity, there has been an immense amount of Alice adaptations in film, television, and even video games. Each of these new iterations have brought something new from the original text into the medium and used the medium to add something absent from the original text.
The first section I will be analyzing two Alice films which greatly deviate from each other. The first is the 1951 Disney Masterpiece Alice in Wonderland which takes elements from both Alice books (Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass). This version is significant for being the first well recognized and highly influential version of the Alice books to the point that it has become a standard by which all Alice adaptations are judged by alongside the source text. Not initially popular, this version of the text experienced a revival in the late 60s and early 70s with Hippy culture that was popular among American youth. Although made for a different audience, this group took the film and reinterpreted it for their own “trippy” uses. This movement essentially paved the way for much of the later adaptations that focused on the perceived drug references and psychological aspects of the film.
The second film I will be analyzing is the Jan Svankmejer surreal version titled Alice. This version certainly follows suit in the line of drug-influenced Alice films that truly explores the uncanny nature of Wonderland and the terrifying subject matter that Disney glossed over from the original text. This “grown-up Alice” began a trend in more serious Alice media which led to Disney’s next adaptation and horror-film inspired Alice video games.
Lastly, I will be looking at that same horror-inspired Alice game series. The game uses cutting edge game design techniques from the time and horror film motifs to create a version of Wonderland that may accurately reflect Wonderland more than any child-centered adaptation before it. With more attention being paid to the original text, each new iteration of Alice focuses more on the serious aspects of the original text than the whimsical kid-centered world Carroll originally wrote.
Despite Carroll’s checkered past, it is certainly apparent that his Alice books underwent a huge transition from child-centered film adaptations to a psychological journey that reflected both the creator’s mind and Freudian psychology. It is my hope to trace the genealogy of these transitions to understand how they came to be as well as how they warped their audience into a new understanding of a classic text.
Version of Alice used:
Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Edition. Ed. Martin Gardner and Mark Burstein. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. Print.