Alice in Wonderland has become a popular icon--the subject
of 16 movies, the first three of which are in black-in-white.
How do you explain the popularity of a story told to children
by an unusual man in an unpopular era?
I think those very facts are a part of the explanation. Alice in
Wonderland was written for children. Like other classic
children's stories, it taps into universal emotions, no matter
what our age. It says that our world is wonderful, that is, full of
wonder. And yet, it reminds us that it's threatening as well.
We never know what lies ahead.
Lewis Carroll was an unusual man. He managed to reach
adulthood without losing touch with his inner child. He recalled
both the beauty and the fears of childhood. He was able to
express his personal individuality without the filters of
self-consciousness. He writes with an unusual freshness and
And his era, the Victorian Age, though stuffy and unpopular
today, has an over-the-top sensuous quality that appeals to set
decorators and other artists and translates well to film.
Of the early versions, the most famous is the 1933 Alice (top
left), with an all-star cast that included Cary Grant, Gary
Cooper and W. C. Fields.
Most of us set our concepts of Alice through the 1951 Disney
cartoon version (below).
More recently, we've been awed by Tim Burton's version
starring Johnny Depp (bottom left). It seems to combine the
psychedelic 1960s and the heavy and oppressive 1850s.
There also have been a number of televised versions,
including 1985 (top right) and 1999.
An immersive theater experience is available through
the Artichoke Project's live performance, Dining with
Alice, set at Elsing Hall near Dereham, England.
Music and drama based on the stories includes
Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and Edward
Albee's play, Tiny Alice.