Learn about Walt Disney’s First Film – Alice in the Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland is an animated musical fantasy comedy film based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories that got released in 1951. It got created by Walt Disney Productions.

The picture premiered in London on July 26, 1951, and in New York City on July 28, 1951, as the thirteenth release of Disney’s animated movies. 

In the 1930s, Walt Disney attempted to turn Alice into a feature-length animated film, which he later renewed in the 1940s. The picture aimed to be a live-action. However, Disney changed his mind in 1946 and made an animated film.

A Sneak Peek Into The Plot

A young girl named Alice is distractedly listening to her sister’s history lesson in a park in England, and she begins thinking of a bizarre world. 

She notices a passing White Rabbit in a waistcoat who laments his tardiness. Alice pursues him into a burrow, where she falls into an immeasurable pit. Upon arriving, she gets confronted with a mini door. The handle instructs her to drink from a bottle on a corner table. 

She shrinks and finds the key to the door. However, she leaves the key on the table after opening it. 

In another scene, she consumes a cookie that causes her to expand. 

Infuriated by these shifts in her mood, the room gets filled by the spills of her tears. She sips further from the bottle and rides the empty bottle through the keyhole.

In Wonderland, Alice meets with many characters, including Tweedledum and Tweedledee. 

A caterpillar, who becomes agitated when Alice laments its mini size. Alice gets stranded in the woods between numerous paths and meets the Cheshire Cat.

After a sequence of events, Alice discovers a new character, Queen of hearts. She is the only way back to Alice’s home. Hours later, Alice awakens from her slumber and returns home to have tea with her sister. 

Production Of Alice’s Wonderland

1. Development

In 1923, Walt Disney was a 21-year-old wannabe filmmaker working at the Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, producing the flop Newman Laugh-O-Grams short cartoon series. You can also check out and watch great anime free online and see how it differs from old school cartoon shows. 

Disney relocated to Hollywood and utilized the picture to pitch to possible distributors. Margaret J. Winkler of Winkler Pictures agreed to distribute the Alice Comedies. Disney teamed up with his older brother Roy O. Disney and rehired Kansas City coworkers Ub Iwerks, Rudolph Ising, Friz Freleng, Carman Maxwell, and Hugh Harman to form the Disney Brothers Studios, later renamed Walt Disney Productions. The series premiered in 1924 and ended in 1927. Disney explored developing a full-length animated and live-action adaptation of Alice starring Mary Pickford in 1933.

Due to Disney’s displeasure with Paramount’s live rendition of Alice in Wonderland in 1933, the plans got eventually abandoned in favor of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

 Disney did not desert the notion of adapting Alice completely, and in 1936 he released the Mickey Mouse animation Thru the Mirror. Around this time, Disney pondered making a live-action and animated version of Alice in Wonderland starring Ginger Rogers and utilizing the newly developed sodium vapor method (similar to his short Alice Comedies).

Luana Patten and Lisa Davis (who later played Anita Radcliffe in 101 Dalmatians) were also considered for the role of Alice. However, Disney quickly concluded that developing an all-animated picture would be the only way to do the book credit, and production on Alice in Wonderland began in 1946. With a preliminary release date of 1950, the animation workers on Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella practically battled to see who could complete the film first. Cinderella had progressed further than Alice in Wonderland by early 1948.

2. Writing 

Disney insisted on matching the text because the novel’s prose contains the most humor. However, many scenes got deleted!

The Fish Footman is passing a message to the Frog Footman to go to the Duchess, indicating that she got invited to play croquet with the Queen of Hearts. The scene got deleted from the 1939 treatment of the film.

Alice overhears this and enters the manor’s kitchen, where she discovers the Duchess’ Cook cooking maniacally and the Duchess nursing her infant.

The cook is sprinkling pepper over the room, making the Duchess and Alice cough and the baby scream. The hot-tempered Cook starts flinging pots and pans at the noisy baby after a hurried exchange between Alice and the Duchess. The infant is rescued by Alice. 

However, as she leaves the house, the baby reshapes into a pig and flees.  This sequence also got deleted for pace considerations.

In Tulgey Wood, Alice encountered what appeared to be a sinister-looking Jabberwock hidden in the dark, before showing himself as a comical-looking dragon-like beast with bells and factory whistles on his head, which was cut from a later edition. Not only this, beware the Jabberwock, the song got cut in favor of a poem.

Another scene from Tulgey Wood that got cut showed Alice consulting with The White Knight, who was supposed to be a parody of Walt Disney. Even though Disney enjoyed the moment, he believed it would be better if Alice learned her lesson, for that the song “Very Good Advice” was written.

Moreover, for pace considerations, the character of Mock Turtle and the Gryphon got dropped.

3. Release

On July 26, 1951, the Leicester Square Theatre in London hosted the world premiere of Alice in Wonderland. 

Following its initial mediocre reception, the picture was never re-released in theatres throughout Disney’s lifetime, instead of being broadcast on television on rare occasions. On November 3, 1954, Alice in Wonderland premiered on ABC as the second installment of Walt Disney’s Disneyland television series, in a heavily edited version that lasted less than an hour. 

The film was exhibited in multiple sold-out locations on college campuses beginning in 1971, and in certain cities, it became the most rented film. In 1974, Disney released Alice in Wonderland for the first time in theatres. The corporation also used radio advertising incorporating Jefferson Airplane’s song White Rabbit to sell it as a picture in touch with the psychedelic era.

 The initial release was so popular that it got re-released in 1981.  On July 26, 1979, it got re-released in the United Kingdom for the first time.

Bottom Line

Alice in Wonderland was among the first movies offered for rent and commercial sale on Beta and RCA’s brief CED Videodisc formats. The picture grossed $2.4 million in domestic rentals during its initial theatrical run.  Alice in the wonderland was a great hit, and for its remembrance, it has condensed into stage acts, short films, and cartoons.  Do you want to learn about more films like this? Then we advise you to take a look at the oldest movies of Disney!