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Film / Alice in Wonderland (1949)

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"I'm upside down
I'm downside up
It started early today
I felt like dancing on the ceiling
And I've a feeling I may
I'm upside down
I'm downside up
At last I'm having my way
The rules for what I ought and oughtn't
Are unimportant today."

A 1949 French film based on Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, directed by Dallas Bower and featuring stop-motion puppets created by Lou Bunin. This adaptation features a unique Framing Device in which Lewis Carroll (Stephen Murray) tells the story to Alice Liddell (Carol Marsh) and her sisters on a boat ride. A la The Wizard of Oz, several people introduced during the live-action sequences have counterparts in Wonderland, voiced by the same actors.

Due to a legal dispute with Disney, who were making their own adaptation of the story around the same time, the film was not widely distributed in the United States. To this day it remains largely forgotten, with Disney's influence even having had a negative impact on its preservation. Because of their pre-existing arrangement with Technicolor, this film had to be shot in inferior Ansco Color, which deteriorated badly over time.


The film adaptation provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parent: The Duchess, who beats her baby and tosses him around.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The White Rabbit is depicted here as a self-serving sycophant who frames Alice for the theft of the Queen's tarts while knowing it was the Knave of Hearts who really stole them (having decided to keep the Knave's secret due to wanting to partake of the tarts himself). As a result Alice, rather than the Knave, ends up being the defendant of the trial in this version. The White Rabbit also informs the Queen that the gardeners were painting the roses red (rather than her figuring it out for herself as in the book), leading to what appears to be their real execution.
  • And You Were There: Several people in the film's real world setting have counterparts in Wonderland. The Vice Chancellor is the White Rabbit, the Queen is the Queen of Hearts, the Prince Consort is the King of Hearts, a tailor is the Mad Hatter, Dr. Liddell is the Cheshire Cat, and Lewis Carroll is the Knave of Hearts.
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  • Deadpan Snarker: The King of Hearts.
    The King of Hearts: (after the Queen, in response to hearing her tarts have been stolen, orders beheadings left and right) Before we are entirely depopulated, my dear, hadn't you better find out who did it?
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The Queen of Hearts, who is eager to chop off the heads of any who displease her.
  • High-Class Glass: The White Rabbit wears a monocle.
  • Never My Fault: While the Knave of Hearts admits that "the Knave of Hearts did steal the tarts" during the trial, he then claims that Alice is the Knave of Hearts.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: In this version, the Queen of Hearts was very deliberately designed to be a caricature of Queen Victoria. It was seen as such an unflattering depiction of her that the film was banned in the UK for 36 years after its release.
  • Off with His Head!: The Queen of Hearts threatens to do this to multiple characters, and it is implied that the three cards who painted the roses red were actually executed.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: In the final scene, Alice wakes up on the boat as Carroll is finishing the story. She asks him if the story was real, as she believes it truly happened. Nearby, the White Rabbit appears and says "Naturally".
  • Playing Card Motifs: The King and Queen of Hearts and members of their court.
  • Precious Puppy: Unusual for most adaptations, this one includes the scene where Alice encounters the giant puppy. Here it has a ringing bell around its neck as a reference to Oxford's bell Great Tom, featured prominently in the prologue.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: The White Rabbit sings a song about being this. He says he once heard a woman say that day was night. He thought her a dunce and was about to tell her so until he realized she was the Queen of Hearts. Then he said he absolutely agreed with her.
  • The Scapegoat: Alice is blamed for stealing the Queen's tarts. When the White Rabbit catches the real culprit, the Knave of Hearts, in the act, the latter panics and begs him not to tell the Queen. But the White Rabbit takes a tart for himself and responds "Tell her what? You didn't steal them. Haven't you heard? They were stolen by a stranger", referring to Alice. Later when the Queen discovers the tarts are missing, the White Rabbit is quick to accuse Alice of the crime.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When he looks into the Room of Doors and sees Alice's flood of tears, the White Rabbit takes off running, leaving a glove and his fan behind.
  • Tailfin Walking: The fish footmen walk on their tailfins.

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