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Film / Alice in Wonderland (1999)

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Produced by Hallmark Entertainment, directed by Nick Willing and featuring an incredibly stocked All-Star Cast, this Made-for-TV Movie version of Lewis Carroll's classic novel premiered on the NBC on the 28th February 1999. The show was a success, pulling in a viewership of nearly 26 million people, which led it to be the sixth-highest rated program that week in terms of households and the most watched program of the week in terms of total viewers.

In this adaptation, Alice is expected to sing at a garden party hosted by her parents but is showing reluctance due to despising the chosen song for her, and fears singing in front of an audience of strangers. Hiding out in the bushes in the land of her country home, Alice is met with the bewildering sight of an apple breaking from a tree branch and slowly spinning down through the air to meet her at her eye level. This is followed by the appearance of a white rabbit dressed in a waistcoat and shouting he's late. If you are familiar with the story from here, you know where this goes.

Alice ends up in Wonderland, intending to follow the White Rabbit until she opens a door and sees a beautiful garden that she thinks will be a safe haven for her to hide. The problem is, she's too big to fit through the door. Sooner than she thinks, Alice is on a whirlwind of an adventure, where she will meet characters strange, mad and even inspiring.

These tropes can be found somewhere in Wonderland. Just watch your head.

  • Abusive Parents: The Duchess, as usual.
  • Adapted Out: Alice's sister.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Thanks largely to the Disney film, Alice is usually expected by a film audience to have blond hair and be wearing a blue dress. Here, she has brown hair (which, incidentally, is what her real-life namesake Alice Liddell had) and her dress is yellow.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: The film begins with Alice suffering from stage fright when her parents ask her to sing in front of their guests at a party they're hosting.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: The Duchess isn't anywhere near as ugly as her book counterpart, least of all because her head is normal sized.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The Mouse in the original was French. Here, he's British.
  • Adaptational Personality Change: The Gryphon and the Mock Turtle's appearance are made integral to the plot in that the two are made to be much kinder and they encourage Alice to overcome her stage fright issues, creating perhaps the biggest segment of progress for her Character Development.
    • The caterpillar becomes an Army Major, and his bossing Alice around comes off more as an attempt to help her gather herself rather than just being a contrarian.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The King of Hearts comes across as being just as menacing as his wife the Queen if not more. He is also just as fond of executions.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Averted mostly, but downplayed so much for the Caterpillar that when he transforms into a butterfly, the results are amazing.
  • Amusing Injuries:
    • A particular Running Gag occurs to the White Rabbit when he, Pat and Bill are trying to get the giant-sized Alice out of his house. Bill is climbing up on the roof, attempting to get to the chimney, and he slips on some loose roof tiles. Each time this happens, a slate comes off and falls on the White Rabbit's head. By the time he's realised he's being subjected to this trope, the White Rabbit hardly reacts to the last slate and turns his head to face the audience, twitching his nose in annoyance.
    • After he gets kicked out of the chimney by Alice and is launched into the air, Bill comes falling back to Wonderland and comes crashing into a greenhouse.
  • And Starring: Tina Majorino as Alice
  • And You Were There: The guests at the party being held by Alice's parents bear a strong resemblance to the majority of the characters from Wonderland:
    • The man in brown playing chess resembles Mr. Mouse.
    • The fellow in the straw hat resembles the Mad Hatter. His friend, who playfully sticks two loaves of bread on his head like rabbit ears, is the March Hare.
    • The flirty man in the top hat is the Knave of Hearts.
    • The old general smoking a hookah pipe is the Caterpillar.
    • The two ladies in black represent the Duchess and the Cook (and appropriately enough, the pepper at their table makes the one who becomes the Duchess sneeze).
    • The couple playing croquet represent the King and Queen of Hearts.
  • The Artifact: The film adapts a few segments from Through The Looking-Glass featuring the chess piece characters and furnishes a number of sets with chessboard patterns despite not adapting the overarching plot of the chess game from the second book.
  • Behind a Stick: The flamingo Alice is trying to use for the game of croquet hides from her like this.
  • Book Ends:
    • Alice enters and leaves Wonderland after seeing a levitating and spinning apple
    • The first scene displays Alice's fear of singing in front of an audience through a nightmarish vision of her singing Cherry Ripe. The conclusion has her confident and singing The Lobster Quadrille instead.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Knave of Hearts, annoyed at not being the centre of attention in the trial, mentions that he should have the biggest part and that he hasn't said a word for pages and pages — which could mean either pages of the script or pages of the original Alice book.
  • Casting Gag: Miranda Richardson is clearly channeling her previous role Queenie from Blackadder.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Nearly all of the Wonderland characters apply for this, but the Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar, the Duchess and the Mad Hatter take special note.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Knave of Hearts.
    • When the Queen of Hearts whispers to the King that the Knave is an idiot, the King smarmly replies that he's her nephew.
    • The Queen gets in on some snarkiness too. When the Knave asks if she thinks he'd ever lie to her, she quips "Yes" without skipping a beat, and later claims that the only way she'd ever get an intelligent conversation is if she were talking to herself.
  • Disney Villain Death: Parodied with the Hatter, who trips over while performing and appears to fall to his death through an unseen hole. He pops out from under the table unharmed. A rare case where the faller is a neutral character instead of evil.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: The polite argument between the Frogfaced Footman and the Fishfaced Footman over the correct way to state the delivery of an invitation.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The monstrous crow.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The White Rabbit crosses from door to door in the Room of Doors without ever noticing the giant Alice towering above him.
  • Foreshadowing: Granted it's kind of a Foregone Conclusion, but at the Mad Tea Party, the Hatter refers to Alice by her name despite the fact that she never told him her name before then. This subtly hints at the fact that Wonderland is part of Alice's dream.
  • Fourth-Wall Observer: The Knave of Hearts interrupts the trial just because he "[hasn't] said a word in pages and pages" (of script, here, presumably).
  • Gender Flip: The Cheshire Cat is played by Whoopi Goldberg, although the character is still referred to as male.
  • Good-Times Montage: As Alice takes up the courage to sing in the final scene, her singing of The Lobster Quadrille is interspersed with some of her more positive meetings with the Wonderland characters.
  • Have We Met?: When the Mad Hatter is called to the witness stand during the trial, a suspicious Queen of Hearts asks him if they have met before. A stammering Hatter replies no. She eventually works things out and is apoplectic with rage. See Noodle Incident for why.
  • Inner Monologue: Alice does this multiple times throughout the film.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • The King of Hearts is aghast of Alice's breaking of Rule Forty-Two as it's the oldest rule in the book.
    • Averted with the executioner when the King and Queen want him to chop the head off the Cheshire Cat. Since the cat is only appearing as a head in the sky, there is no way he can behead her unless the head is attached to a body.
    • The White Knight keeps his satchel upside down so the sandwiches inside it will not get wet. Alice points out to him that this means the sandwiches would fall out.
    White Knight: Ah. So that's what happened to my sandwiches.
  • It's the Journey That Counts: It turns out that the whole reason Alice was brought to Wonderland was so she could build up her confidence until she was ready to overcome her stage fright and perform at her parents' garden party.
  • Large Ham:
  • Lighter and Softer: Despite the Adaptational Villainy involved for the King and Queen, no one ends up getting beheaded. Then again, unlike some Darker and Edgier adaptations, this is Truer to the Text of the original book, which makes it clear that none of the beheadings the Queen orders are ever really carried out.
  • The Mad Hatter: We're in Wonderland. Who else would we mean?
  • Manchild: Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
  • Mythology Gag: Alice uses "lions and unicorns" as a possible password for Wonderland. This alludes to the rhyme The Lion and the Unicorn, which appears in the second Alice novel, Through the Looking Glass.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The White Rabbit, the King of Hearts, the Knave of Hearts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are given the first names of Frederick, Cedric, Jack, Ned and Fred respectively.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • References are made to two events: The Great Cat Massacre of '28 and The Flamingo Plague of '26
    • The Mad Hatter outperformed the Queen of Hearts at a musical concert once. Although it takes a while for her to remember him when they encounter each other again in the present day, it's clear she still holds a grudge.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: While most of the cast are British or put on a British accent for their roles, the ones who don't are Whoopi Goldberg as the Chesire Cat, Christopher Lloyd as the White Knight, Gene Wilder as the Mock Turtle, and George Wendt as Tweedldee.
  • Only Sane Man: The Knave of Hearts comes off as this in the royal family.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: After Alice has gained her confidence from her trip to Wonderland and has performed The Lobster Quadrille to an applauding audience, she sees the Cheshire Cat among the crowd, who gives her a congratulatory grin.
  • Power Glows: The Caterpillar, especially after he turns into a butterfly.
  • Psychopathic Manchild:
    • A gender inversion, the Queen of Hearts. For this adaptation, her appearance and personality are accompanied with a high-pitched squeaky voice, which only gets higher whenever she loses her temper.
    • The King of Hearts may seem a harmless version of the trope when we first see him, but choose to interfere with one of his trials and he will snap.
  • Related in the Adaptation: The Red King is made to be the King of Hearts' "lazy, no good brother".
  • Running Gag: A gigantic Alice pounds on the ground, causing a small tremor which sends the White Rabbit tumbling into one of his garden rows.
    Pat: Why do ya keep fallin' like that, Your Worship?
    White Rabbit: I like it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The White Rabbit flees out of the Room of Doors when the gigantic Alice starts flooding the room with her tears.
  • Secret Test: The entire journey through Wonderland is revealed to be one of these to help Alice get over her stage fright.
  • Smoking Is Cool: The Caterpillar, played by Ben Kingsley
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: The Queen of Hearts treats the Duchess as this
    Queen of Hearts: I gave you clear warning. Either you or your head must be OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFF!!!
  • Trapped in Another World: It is strongly implied that the White Rabbit himself was the one responsible for bringing Alice into Wonderland until she was ready to face her fears in the real world.
    White Rabbit: Are you really so confident, young lady?
    Alice: Yes I am. Yes, I am confident.
    White Rabbit: don't need us anymore.
  • Visual Pun: The Mad Hatter makes one at the tea party regarding a pile of suitcases.
    Mad Hatter: Well then, I rest my case.
    March Hare: Where?
    Mad Hatter: [points at the pile] There.
  • Vocal Dissonance: The Duchess's baby cries and sneezes with an obvious grown man's voice.
  • Wham Line: The following:
    White Rabbit: Are you really so confident, young lady?
    Alice: Yes I am. Yes, I am confident.
    White Rabbit: don't need us anymore.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Alice saves the three playing card gardeners who were about to be beheaded for painting the roses, telling them to get into her pocket. They jump in, and that's the last we ever hear of them.
    • The Tweedles vanish after the monstrous crow chases them away.
  • White Bunny: The White Rabbit
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Noticing that the Mad Hatter is looking panicked while at the witness stand, the King of Hearts warmly tells him not to be nervous and deliver his statement. Then comes this.
    King of Hearts: Or ... I will have you executed on the spot.
    Mad Hatter: [horrified] Gasp!
    The King of Hearts cackles loudly
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: One of the biggest inspirations for Alice gaining her confidence is her meeting the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle, two of Wonderland's more kinder characters who teach her this trope.