Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland practically begged for animated treatment, featuring an assortment of oddball characters, fantastic settings and a heroine who grows and shrinks by her choice of food. Walt Disney loved the book (as well as its sequel, Through the Looking Glass) and decided it would make a perfect follow-up to 1950’s Cinderella.
Alice is an imaginative young girl in 19th century England who spots a very late White Rabbit diving into a burrow. Alice follows, landing in a bizarre new world inhabited by caterpillars, living flowers and a not-at-all-helpful Cheshire Cat. Twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee recite “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” one of Carroll’s poems from the novel. The film also includes excerpts from other poems: “Jabberwocky” and “How Doth the Little Crocodile.” In the movie’s best-remembered scene, Alice attends a zany tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse, who are all celebrating Unbirthdays (“364 days a year!”)
Trouble comes when Alice is accused of stealing the Queen of Hearts’ tarts (a departure from the book, which had the Knave of Hearts accused). This is especially bad news as the Queen is prone to lop of the heads of those she dislikes. Alice flees, chased by the Queen’s army of playing cards, desperate for a way back to her own world.
Despite the lively animations of Carroll's creations, Disney's Alice in Wonderland flopped in its initial release, but audiences realized the mistake and begged for a re-release. The film eventually found redemption, continuing to be a popular draw in video reissues and on television.