Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
Illustrator: Sir John Tenniel
Original Publication Date: November 26, 1865
While listening to her older sister read her lessons, young Alice spies a White Rabbit in a vest with a pocketwatch proclaiming itself to be late. She follows the White Rabbit down his rabbit hole into a confusing, maddening and colorful world full of weird people and creatures such as The Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Caterpillar before having to confront the terrifying Queen of Hearts in her kangaroo court.
Like several other famous children’s fantasy stories, Alice began its life as a story told orally to a few girls who were neighbors of Prof. Dodgson. It grew over the course of a few months before he decided to write it down. The earliest existing manuscript (although at least 1 or 2 others are thought to have existed and been destroyed by Dodgson) was called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. The most notable additions between the first manuscript (which was a gift to Alice Liddell, the presumed inspiration for Alice) and the final version was the addition of The Cheshire Cat and The Mad Tea Party, which are, arguably, two of the most dominating images of the story.
A sequel/companion book followed in 1871, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. This notably introduced the non-sensical poem “Jabberwocky,” the classic “The Walrus and the Carpenter” as well as the introduction of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.
Both books have very heavy mathematical allusions in them, which isn’t surprising, given that Dodgson was a mathematician at Christ Church. These include references to converse and inverse relationships, positional numeral systems and the game of chess. [Garrett’s note: Please do not ask me to explain any of these. Especially chess.]
The book, but more specifically the Disney adaptation has been popular among the drug cultures for years, due to the use of mushrooms and the insane dream like way Alice moves through Wonderland, including her varying cases of the munchies and other strange interactions.
The book was an almost instantaneous hit. Not only has it spawned numerous film adaptations, but opera, theatre, ballet and even water ballet adaptations.
There have been numerous film adaptations of the story, starting as early as 1903. The most famous adaptation is the 1951 Walt Disney animated film which features the voices of Kathryn Beaumont (Alice), Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter), and Sterling Holloway (Cheshire Cat). This version is one of the most cohesive films overall, especially given the source material’s…scattered nature. It also manages to combine both Wonderland and Looking-Glass remarkably well, bringing in Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum to the proceedings. This film actually contains more songs than any other Disney film to date, however you only really hear a line or two at a time.
A season five episode of “The Muppet Show” with guest star Brooke Shields did their own version, with Brooke and Miss Piggy dueling over the role of Alice, a confused Fozzie Bear thinking they’re doing Peter Pan and showing up as the Tin Man, Statler and Waldorf as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum and Gonzo as the Mad Hatter. It’s about what you’d expect of the Muppets.
My personal favorite version is the 1985 CBS Mini-series. Broadcast over two nights, it fairly faithfully adapts the two books into 4 hours. It was an Irwin Allen production, so the thing is cram packed full of random celebrities, like Sammy Davis, Jr. (Caterpillar), Red Buttons (White Rabbit), Martha Raye (The Duchess), Imogene Coca (The Cook), Telly Savalas (Cheshire Cat), Anthony Newley (Mad Hatter), Ringo Starr (Mock Turtle), Jayne Meadows (Queen of Hearts), Steve and Eydie (Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum), and Carol Channing (White Queen). It featured a handful of songs and is a lot of fun to watch just to see how many people they cast in it. Most recently, (well, if 1999 is recent) NBC did a new adaptation with Whoopi Goldberg (Cheshire Cat), Martin Short (Mad Hatter) and Tina Majornio (Alice) but it pales in comparison.
Among the notable TV ventures for the series, was the 1992-1995 live-action show Adventures in Wonderland. Produced by Walt Disney Television and filmed at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park, the series centered on a pre-teen Alice who could travel to Wonderland through her mirror whenever she pleased. Typical episodes featured some sort of home/school problem that Alice would work through with her friends in Wonderland. This was my other main Alice influence, as was the case for a lot of us who grew up in the early 1990s. The show ran, initially, on The Disney Channel (back when it was a cable bonus like HBO or Showtime) but by 1994 or so was on network TV as part of Disney’s afternoon block.
Lastly, the Jim Henson gang wasn’t quite done with the story and in 2008, a Sesame Street version called “Abby in Wonderland” featuring Elmo as the Red Rabbit, Grover as The Mad Hatter and Bert and Ernie in a quick insert joke as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum was created. It’s an hour long episode that manages to condense everything pretty succinctly for the pre-K set. I believe it was intended as the first in a series of videos centering around Abby in classic children’s stories, but sales weren’t the greatest and the rest of the series never materialized.
Other Cross-Stitching Charts
To my knowledge, not including things by Heaven and Earth or Mystic Stitch, etc., these are the following Wonderland related charts that are still available:
Wanderland, the Game by Prairie Moon (Very difficult to find as these are OOP)
Alice in Wonderland by Brooke’s Books Publishing
I wish I had something fancy to put here, something that would sum up this post neatly and concisely, but to be 100% honest, I don’t. What can I say? I have always really enjoyed this story. Growing up, it was third to Wizard of Oz and The Chronicles of Narnia. I used to love coming home and watching Disney’s Adventures in Wonderland or seeing the different versions in bookstores…and now, as an adult, finding all the fun cross-stitch charts there are for the books. I guess in short, I am super excited to start this project and pretty pleased that one of my favorites is the first block up.