Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, written by Lewis Carroll are classics which have been around for many years. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a little girl named Alice follows a rabbit down a rabbit hole, taking her to a strange world. In Through the Looking Glass, she returns to Wonderland through a mirror and runs into new and old characters. Carroll’s works are controversial since it seems like a bunch of written nonsense. Many people, back in his time period through today, believe that he was off his rocker, on some kind of drugs, or a pedophile who was a little too close to Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the main character, and her sisters. Despite all this controversy surrounding him, his works have remained known for over a century and have inspired many. But what is it that makes Carroll’s works so Christopher Lane explains why Carroll’s works kept people’s interest after so long:
“The Alice stories “manage to have such a hold” on readers, he declared, because they touch on “the most pure network of our condition of being: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real.”(2)
As the original story of Alice in Wonderland is over a century old, there have been many adaptations and remakes ranging from novels, films, and video games. People have made the story simpler for kids, such as the commonly known Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland, directed by Clyde Geronimi. They have also made the story horrifying as if all the characters are truly insane. American McGee’s Alice game and Insanity by Cameron Jace would be examples of this. “Alice in Wonderland” has its own structure that people seem to take in mind when creating their adaptation, however, there is a fundamental structure to any Alice story.
Alice in Wonderland, the 1951 Disney movie directed by Clyde Geronimi is more family friendly and music based, making it more fun for children. It is more light-hearted than Carroll’s books. It follows the original story, such as Alice follows the rabbit down the rabbit hole simply because she is curious and embarks on an adventure trying to keep up with him. Unlike the 1951 Disney animated film, Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, is more based off the Through the Looking Glass. In this film, Alice is 19 years old who after a long time returns to Wonderland. She too follows the white rabbit down the hole, however the motive is not the same. When she first arrives there, it is often debated by the Wonderland residents to whether if she is “the Alice”. It is soon discovered that she is the one who will take down the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky. Insanity, written by Cameron Jace, takes a dark turn with the portrayal of Alice and other Wonderland characters. Alice Wonder has been staying in an insane asylum for two after killing her class. Her memory of Wonderland is impaired by multiple sessions of shock therapy and her only friend is a tiger lily plant. Carter Pillar or Pillar the Killer gets Alice out of the asylum so they came team up and stop the Cheshire Cat, who is killing young girls as a part of his search for his stolen grin. Much like Insanity, American McGee’s Alice game twists the story into something more psychologically horrifying and suspenseful. In an interview, R.J. Berg, the executive producer of the game, had this to say when asked what Carroll would think of the game if he were still with us today:
“I'd like to think he'd appreciate our attempt to expand the spirit of his fantasy - that he'd be complimented by the inspiration his work provided and gratified to discover his unique creation exerts a compelling attraction 150 years after he wrote it. The Alice he wrote for is long gone...but the Alice he wrote about will live forever.”
The game begins with Alice being alerted by the Wonderland characters in her dream warning her to get up and get out the house because it was burning down. She was the only one to escape and her parents died in the fire. Somehow she ends up in an asylum. She returns to Wonderland, but it was not like before. As she goes through Wonderland, it is like going through a puzzle. To defeat the enemies that are in her way she uses items like a croquet mallet, playing cards or a knife. The Cheshire Cat, among other characters, serves as Alice’s guide to help her restore Wonderland and bring an end to the reign of the Queen of Hearts.
When considering Carroll’s works and all the all the adaptations, one may question; could Wonderland be real or it is just a detailed dream that Alice could vividly recall? While reading Carroll’s works, it could be hard to differentiate from dreams and reality. One would think that Alice is considered to be a bit nutty retelling her experience in a whimsical land with thought-provoking creatures. However, in “Through the Looking Glass,” when she is talking to Humpty Dumpty, she states that she is seven years old, where children are known to have an active imagination around that age. This plus she is shown to act in ways that are harmful, but not purposely, to the creatures of Wonderland. That could make her a little unreliable considering we are reading her point of view. However, she is often shown to be bright by demonstrating her abilities to recite poems from memory, even though she is often told that she is saying it incorrectly. If Alice did not act like similar to this, it would not be an “Alice in Wonderland” story. “Alice in Wonderland” has its own structure that people seem to take in mind when creating their adaptation. Some examples of this is the phrase often uttered by Alice “curiouser and curiouser” and the riddle told by the Mad Hatter, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Both have been quoted in adaptations. However in most adaptations they keep the name Alice, or some variation of it. In Wonderland, everyone seems to have their own rules, which in Carroll’s works, causes Alice to be confused by the social norms. Usually Alice loses a sense of identity; for example, in Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” she asks “Who am I?” when the Caterpillar asked her who she was.
In an “Alice in Wonderland” adaptation it is expected that at least one character other than Alice makes an appearance. Common characters are the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, and the Caterpillar. They are all present in these adaptations: the Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, American McGee’s Alice, and Insanity, by Cameron Jace. However, they are all portrayed very differently.
Alice is always intelligent, curious, determined and a little brave. Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, when being in Wonderland after a while she finds it hard to keep her nice and orderly composure, but is stays determined to follow the White Rabbit. Even when she is older, like in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, her curiosity bested her as she followed the white rabbit down the hole. Her bravery is shown when she finally accepts her fate to fight the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky. Insanity’s Alice intelligence shows when she and the Pillar work together to stop the Cheshire Cat’s plans. She shows her bravery when she saves a little girl, whom she does not know, who was kidnapped by the Cheshire Cat. In Alice, the Cheshire Cat describes her as “curious and willing to learn.” Alice is known to go through a change in identity as she goes through Wonderland. In Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, she has trouble with her beginning to when she first got into Wonderland, because and she is expected to defeat the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky. The Caterpillar refers to Alice “not Alice” to “almost Alice” to “the Alice” as the story progresses. Insanity’s Alice has trouble with her identity, as she is the Alice that the Pillar is looking for, but to the White Queen and some others, she is not the Alice. Alice has difficulty coming to terms with her sanity.
The Cheshire Cat is known to be mischievous, and is always seen grinning. In adaptations, his character usually flip-flops in regards to his relationship Alice; he is either with her or against her as she goes through her adventure. For example, in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, the pink and purple-striped cat gets Alice in trouble during the trial. In Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and American McGee’s Alice, he is a help to Alice, and in Insanity, and in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland one can consider that he is both a help and a bother to her.
The Mad Hatter, in the Disney animated film he is portrayed as a silly kooky old man, who sings a un-birthday song with the March Hare. In Tim Burton’s film, he appears much younger but he is brightly colored and dons orange hair. The Hatter’s character goes much more in depth, and his change of emotions come and go. Johnny Depp, the actor of the Mad Hatter in this film, shares his thoughts about the Hatter:
"There’s the whole hatter’s dilemma, really, which was where the term, 'Mad as a Hatter' came from, was the amount of mercury that they used in the glue to make the hats. Everything was damaging. So, in terms of the Hatter, looking at it from that perspective of this guy who literally is damaged goods, physically damaged, emotionally a little obtuse, and taking that and deciding that he should be - as opposed to just this hyper, nutty guy - he should explore all sides of the personality at an extreme level.”
In Alice, the Hatter is one of the antagonists that you have to defeat to move on in the game. The Hatter is mentioned but does not physically show up in Insanity, as he is still in Wonderland; however it is mentioned that he would be worse than the Cheshire Cat if he were to escape from Wonderland.
When people create their adaptation, they tend to keep the characters and their names or some variation of their name. For example, in Insanity, some of the characters have normal human names and personas, but have their Wonderland names. Carter Pillar, or Pillar the Killer, from Insanity would be an example. Character’s famous phrases, or the poems, from Carroll’s works are usual said in adaptations. Alice’s phrase, “curiouser and curiouser”, the Cheshire Cat’s famous phrase, “We’re all mad here,” and the Mad Hatter’s nonsensical riddle “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” to which the Hatter answers “I haven’t the slightest idea.” This riddle is repeated multiple times in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
The idea that the Wonderland characters live by their own individuals shows in all of these adaptations. Disney’s Alice in Wonderland follows Carroll’s when the Red Queen orders to behead anyone who does not bide to her rules. Because of this, it makes the characters involved in her game of croquet to cheat so she could win. In Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, everyone lives from by their own rules; however Wonderland had been taken over by the Red Queen because her rules is that “it is better to be feared than loved.” Also in American McGee’s Alice, Wonderland’s rules as a whole has been twisted under the rule of the Queen of Hearts causing disorder. Insanity’s the Pillar kills people and gets away with it, he leaves the asylum whenever he pleases, and he goes as far as stealing a public bus for his use.
If you compare all of the different adaptions mentioned, one could see the people who have taken their time to create a new perspective of Wonderland and the characters because they are so different from one another. There are infinite possibilities of that someone could recreate with Carroll’s story and still holds the same structure of his works, no matter the medium, genre, or media. Despite the differences, it still holds a connection to the original. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass has been here for over a century and it is evident that it will still remain an inspiration, whether for an adaptation or an influence for an original project, for many years to come.