ⓘ Alice in Wonderland (1999 film)

Alice in Wonderland (1999 film)

ⓘ Alice in Wonderland (1999 film)

Alice in Wonderland is a 1999 made-for-television film adaptation of Lewis Carrolls books Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It was first broadcast on NBC and then shown on British television on Channel 4.

Tina Majorino played the lead role of Alice and a number of well-known performers portrayed the eccentric characters whom Alice meets during the course of the story, including Ben Kingsley, Ken Dodd, Martin Short, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Ustinov, Christopher Lloyd, Gene Wilder, Robbie Coltrane and Miranda Richardson.

The film won four Emmy Awards in the categories of costume design, makeup, music composition and visual effects.


1. Plot

The film follows the storyline of the book closely, save for adding some scenes from Through the Looking-Glass. It also changes the opening real world scene from Alice and her sister sitting at a riverbank to Alice in her bedroom, reluctantly practicing the song "Cherry Ripe", which she is expected to perform at a garden party. The party guests are played by the same actors as the Wonderland characters and are shown as resembling them in appearance and personality, in a similar manner to the MGM version of The Wizard of Oz. The toys in Alices room also reflect the residents of Wonderland. Thanks to stage fright and constant nagging from her confident governess Dilys Laye, Alice runs out of the house and hides herself in the woods nearby, planning to stay hidden until the party has ended. However, an apple floats down from the tree and seems to hover in Alices face. She is suddenly distracted by a human-sized White Rabbit voiced by Richard Coombs rushing by. Curious, Alice follows the White Rabbit, falling down his rabbit hole and ending up in Wonderland.

Alice travels throughout Wonderland, meeting a large number of bizarre people and challenges. Alice first has problems keeping her size the same while attempting to go through a small door leading to a beautiful garden, growing massively tall and flooding the room she is in with her tears before shrinking to the size of a mouse. She then meets Mr. Mouse Ken Dodd and his avian friends who participate in a Caucus Race, where everyone wins. Alice encounters the White Rabbit again who directs her to his house. There, Alice comes across a bottle of liquid that makes her enormous and leaves her trapped in the house. The White Rabbit and his gardeners Pat Jason Byrne and Bill Paddy Joyce attempt to remove Alice by going down the chimney, but Alice shrinks again. Wandering in a forest, she encounters Major Caterpillar Ben Kingsley who advises her to not be afraid before transforming into a butterfly. Alice grows back to normal size by eating part of a mushroom. She ventures to a nearby manor house where she meets the musical Duchess Elizabeth Spriggs, her baby, her pepper-obsessed plate-throwing cook Sheila Hancock and the Cheshire Cat Whoopi Goldberg. The baby is left in Alices care but it turns into a pig and is released. The Cheshire Cat advises Alice to visit the Mad Hatter and his friends the March Hare and the Dormouse.

Meeting the trio at a tea party, Alice is given rather odd advice on how to avoid stagefright, with the Mad Hatter Martin Short leaping onto the table to do his performance he previously did at a concert of the Queen of Hearts, the Queen eventually didnt enjoy the performance by quoting its "murdering the tune" and ordered him to be executed. But the Hatter escapes being decapitated which upsets Time who referred to as a he and was once a close friend to the Hatter and punished the three by stopping "himself" so they will have a never-ending tea party. Alice eventually leaves when the Mad Hatter and March Hare begin smashing cups and plates. They also try stuffing the unfortunate Dormouse into a teapot. She comes across the small door and using her intelligence, succeeds in getting through it into the garden which is actually the labyrinth maze belonging to the Queen. The Queen of Hearts Miranda Richardson invites her to a bizarre game of croquet, but her love for decapitating people annoys Alice. The Cheshire Cats head appears in the sky and is ordered to be executed, but reasoning from Alice stops the Queen. The Duchess arrives to answer the Kings question of who the Cats owner is, but the Cat has vanished. Alice leaves the croquet game, meeting the Gryphon voiced by Donald Sinden and the Mock Turtle Gene Wilder. The two sing with Alice, teaching her the Lobster Quadrille and encouraging her. Alice then wanders into a darker area of Wonderland, meeting a White Knight Christopher Lloyd who encourages her to be brave and also shows her his newest invention.

Alice meets some talking flowers: a Tiger-Lily voiced by Joanna Lumley who is the most sensible out of all of them, some Roses which are not too bothered about Alice being lost and some Daisies who are rascals. Having the flowers helping her, Alice walks off. Alice then meets Tweedledum Robbie Coltrane and Tweedledee George Wendt who have some antics with her before getting into a fight over a dropped rattle. Alice is then captured by a pair of card soldiers and taken to the royal court where the Knave of Hearts Jason Flemyng is put on trial for apparently stealing the Queens jam tarts. The Mad Hatter and his companions appear as witnesses but he is accused of stealing someone elses hat and is recognized by the Queen for singing at her concert, prompting him to sing his Twinkle Song. Alice is then called to the stand but she uses some mushroom pieces to grow to great heights. She sees the jam tarts have been untouched and the trial is pointless. She openly criticizes the Queen, the King and Wonderland. The White Rabbit, who is present at the court, reveals he deliberately lured Alice into Wonderland to conquer her fears. He does so by first asking her if she is self-confident. Upon Alice answering yes, he simply states, "then you dont need us anymore." He then sends her back home using the same hovering apple that brought her there in the first place.

Awakening back home, Alice courageously sings in front of her parents and their guests, but instead of singing Cherry Ripe, she sings the Lobster Quadrille which she finds much more interesting. The audience enjoy her performance to Alices happiness. Alice spots the Cheshire Cat in the audience, who smiles at her in congratulations.


2. Cast

  • Ben Kingsley as Major Caterpillar – A caterpillar major who is first seen smoking a hookah. He gives Alice advice on how to be brave on singing.
  • Mary Healey as Nanny
  • Jason Flemyng as The Knave of Hearts – A clueless knave who is accused of stealing the Queens tarts. The Queen constantly refers to him as an idiot.
  • Miranda Richardson as Queen of Hearts – A spoiled, unkind, impatient, argumentative, tyrannical and childish queen whose most popular catchphrase is "Off with their heads!" She occasionally screams very loud to get her way, causing some peoples ears to hurt. She was the one who started the croquet game and the Knaves trial in the first place. The trial turned out to be completely worthless of beginning.
  • Dilys Laye as Governess
  • Christopher Greet as White Castle
  • Ken Dodd as Mr. Mouse – A very kind, funny and wise mouse who tries to get Alice dry with a very boring lecture. When it fails, the Dodo suggests that they have a caucus race. Mr. Mouse is last seen going home, along with his friends, for a cup of hot chocolate.
  • Donald Sinden as the voice of the Gryphon – A creature with a look of both lion and eagle who is the Mock Turtles best friend. He shows Alice to him and used to go to school in the sea with the Mock Turtle. The Gryphon was operated by puppeteers David Alan Barclay, Adrian Getley, Adrian Parish, Mark Hunter and Robert Tygner.
  • Jason Byrne and Paddy Joyce as Pat and Bill the Lizard, respectively – The White Rabbits two loyal Irish gardeners. Pat is also very reluctant while Bill is a little more trustworthy.
  • Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat – A grinning cat who teaches Alice "the rules" of Wonderland. He was also one of the few characters who was nice to Alice. His favorite pastime is appearing and disappearing.
  • Matthew Sim, Jonathan Broadbent and Christopher Ryan as the Rose Painting Cards – The three cards were first seen painting white roses red because they accidentally planted them white and if the Queen found out she would behead them. The Queen soon found out and Alice saved them by hiding them in her pocket.
  • Elizabeth Spriggs as The Duchess – A duchess who is first seen nursing a baby which turns into a pig. Her pet is the Cheshire Cat. She was occasionally kind to Alice.
  • Jeremy Brudenell as Alices father.
  • Gene Wilder as The Mock Turtle – A weird type of turtle who often cries on remembering his moments at his school in the sea. He sings two songs to Alice: The Lobster Quadrille and Beautiful Soup. His best friend is the Gryphon.
  • Ken Sansom as The Baby - A baby wailing turning into a pig.
  • Peter Ustinov and Pete Postlethwaite as The Walrus and the Carpenter, respectively – Two characters in the Tweedles story.
  • George Wendt and Robbie Coltrane as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, respectively – Two fat brothers who tell Alice the story of The Walrus and the Carpenter. After this, Tweedledum finds his new rattle spoiled, which he thinks was spoiled by Tweedledee. They have a brief battle which is interrupted by a monstrous crow which scares them away.
  • Richard Coombs as the voice of the White Rabbit – A human-sized rabbit who is always running late. He serves as herald to the Queen and King. Alice also got stuck in his house in the film. He was performed by Kiran Shah and Richard Coombs.
  • Janine Eser as Alices mother.
  • Joanna Lumley as Tiger Lily – A very talkative flower who gives Alice directions.
  • Francis Wright as the voice of the March Hare – The Mad Hatters mad tea party companion. His costume scared Tina Majorino because of the asymmetrical eyes. His puppetry was performed by Adrian Getley, Robert Tygner and Francis Wright.
  • Gerard Naprous as the Red Knight – A knight who challenges the White Knight to a fight. In the end, they decided not to fight anymore. The Red Knight then leaves on his horse.
  • Simon Russell Beale as The King of Hearts – The foolish husband of the Queen who constantly tries to be like his wife and fawns over her.
  • Christopher Lloyd as The White Knight – A kind knight who invented a lunchbox which he carries upside down so the sandwiches in it do not get wet. Alice points out that since it is upside down the sandwiches will fall out. He replies with, "So thats what happened to my sandwiches." He is also not very good at riding his horse.
  • Peter Eyre and Hugh Lloyd as the Frog and Fish Footmen – Two footmen who were first seen standing in front of the Duchesss house. The Fishface handed the Frogface an invitation for the Duchess to play croquet, then walked away. The Frogface was also rather stupid.
  • Martin Short as the Mad Hatter– A mad hat salesman who was first seen having a tea party with his best friends the March Hare and the Dormouse. He once sung at the Queens concert, but was sentenced away because of his horrible performance. He was also called as a witness to the Knaves trial, but was soon recognized by the Queen and quickly ran away.
  • Liz Smith, Ken Campbell, Heathcote Williams and Peter Bayliss as Miss Lory, Mr. Duck, Mr. Eaglet and Mr. Dodo, respectively. – The Mouses group of friends who are in the caucus race.
  • Murray Melvin as Executioner – The Queens chief executioner who argues that it would be impossible to behead the Cheshire Cat because the animal doesnt have a body.
  • Nigel Plaskitt as the voice of the Dormouse – The Mad Hatter and March Hares tea party companion who is asleep through most of the tea party scene. He seems to have a fondness for treacle and was later stuffed into a teapot by his companions. His puppeteers were Nigel Plaskitt and David Alan Barclay.
  • Nigel Plaskitt as the voice of the Pig Baby – A rather creepy and ugly baby who is first seen being nursed by the Duchess. He soon turns into a pig. Puppeteered by Adrian Parish.
  • Sheila Hancock as The Cook – The Duchesss crazy cook who enjoys putting pepper in her meals. She also likes throwing dishes at Alice and the Duchess.
  • Tina Majorino as Alice – A kind and curious young girl who is very nervous about performing the song Cherry Ripe at her parents party in the beginning of the film. After her adventures in Wonderland, she finally gets the confidence to sing. However, she sings the Lobster Quadrille a song that the Mock Turtle taught her instead. Everyone loves her performance and she even spots the Cheshire Cat in the audience who grins at her in a term of congratulations.

3. Special effects

The film utilized both puppetry and live-action footage. The puppet designs were created by Jim Hensons Creature Shop.

In all, 875 special digital effects were created for the film. An example is Martin Shorts head; it was enlarged to three times its size to resemble the Hatter in Tenniels illustrations.

In December 2018, composer Richard Hartley was interviewed for Tammy Tuckeys "Rattling the Stars" podcast about his work on the film for the 20th anniversary, providing never-before-heard stories.

In 2019, a behind the scenes documentary of the film was released on YouTube, which had originally been broadcast on the Hallmark Channel in 1999 and had not been included on any VHS, DVD, or digital releases of the film.


4. Reception

The original NBC airing averaged a 14.8 household rating and a 22 percent audience share and was watched by 25.34 million viewers, ranking as the 6th highest rated program that week in terms of households and the most watched program that week in terms of total viewers.


5. Awards

Primetime Emmy Awards
  • 1999 – Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special – Anne Spiers, James Kell, Duncan Jarman and Sandra Shepherd Won
  • 1999 – Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries or a Movie – David Booth, Richard Conway, Bob Hollow, Andy Lomas, Alex Parkinson, Martin Parsons, Jamie Courtier, Avtar Bains, William Bartlett, Nick Bennett, Oliver Bersey, Murray Butler, George Roper, Pedro Sabrosa, Angus Wilson and Ben Cronin Won
  • 1999 – Outstanding Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Movie – Charles Knode Won
  • 1999 – Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Movie Dramatic Underscore – Richard Hartley Won
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