Friday, March 26, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (1999 film)

Alice in Wonderland was a television movie first broadcast in 1999 on NBC and then shown on British television on Channel 4 . It is the 14th film based upon Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

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, Martin Short, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Ustinov, Christopher Lloyd, Gene Wilder, and Miranda Richardson.

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

The movie will be re-released on a special edition DVD on March 2, 2010 featuring an additional five minutes of footage.


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 Alice's room also reflect the residents of Wonderland). Thanks to stage fright, and constant nagging from her confident music teacher, Alice runs out of the house and hides herself in the woods nearby until the party has ended. However, an apple floats down from the tree and seems to hover in Alice's 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, eventually she grows massively tall and floods the room she is in with her tears before shrinking to the size of a mouse. She then meets a 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 trapped in the house. The White Rabbit and his gardeners Pat and Bill attempt to remove Alice by going down the chimney, but Alice shrinks again. Wandering in a forest, she encounters Major Caterpillar (Ben Kingsley) who advices 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 manorhouse where she meets the musical Duchess (Elizabeth Spriggs), her pig-like baby, her pepper-obsessed plate-throwing cook, and the Cheshire Cat (Whoopi Goldberg). The baby is left in Alice's care but it turns into a pig and is released. The Cheshire Cat advices 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, the Mad Hatter leaping onto the table to do his performance he previously did at a concert of the Queen of Hearts. Alice eventually leaves when the Mad Hatter and March Hare begins smashing cups and plates. They also try stuffing the 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 Cat's head appears in the sky and is ordered to be executed, but reasoning from Alice stops the Queen. The Duchess arrives to answer the King's question of who the Cat's owner is, but the Cat has vanished. Alice leaves the croquet game, meeting the Gryphon 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 flowers: a Tiger-Lilly who is the most sensible out of all of them, some Roses which aren't too bothered about Alice being lost, and some Daisies who are rascals. Having the flowers helping her, Alice walks off. Alice then meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee who have some antics with her before getting into a fight over a dropped rattle. Alice is then taken to the royal court where the Knave of Hearts is put on trial for apparently stealing the Queen's jam tarts. The Mad Hatter and his companions appear as witnesses but he is accused of stealing someone else's 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's self-confident. Upon answering yes, he simply states, "then you don't 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. The audience enjoy her performance and applaud. Alice spots the Cheshire Cat in the audience who smiles at her in a term of congratulations.

Cast and Characters

Alice (Tina Majorino) - 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.

The Queen of Hearts (Miranda Richardson) - A spoiled and unkind childish queen whose catchphrase is "Off with their heads!" She occasionally screams very loud to get her way, causing some people's ears to hurt. She was the one who started the croquet game and the Knave's trial in the first place. The trial turned out to be completely worthless of beginning.

The Mad Hatter (Martin Short) - An insane 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 Queen's concert, but was sentenced away because of his horrible performance. He was also called as a witness to the Knave's trial, but was soon recognized by the Queen and quickly ran away.

Cheshire Cat (Whoopi Goldberg) - 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.

The King of Hearts (Simon Russell Beale) - The foolish husband of the Queen who constantly tries to be like his wife and fawns over her.

Mr. Mouse (Ken Dodd) - 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 for a cup of hot chocolate.

The Mock Turtle (Gene Wilder) - 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.

The March Hare (Adrian Getley, Robert Tygner, Francis Wright {also voice}) - The Mad Hatter's insane tea party companion. His costume scared Tina Majorino because of the asymmetrical eyes.

Tweedledee and Tweedledum (George Wendt and Robbie Coltrane, 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.

The White Rabbit (Kiran Shah and Richard Coombs {also voice}) - 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.

The White Knight (Christopher Lloyd) - A kind knight who invented a lunchbox which he carries upside down so the sandwiches in it don't get wet. Alice points out that since it's upside down the sandwiches will fall out. He replies with, "So that's what happened to my sandwiches." He is also not very good at riding his horse.

The Duchess (Elizabeth Spriggs) - 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.

Major Caterpillar (Ben Kingsley) - A caterpillar major who is first seen smoking a hookah. He gives Alice advice on how to be brave on singing.

The Walrus and the Carpenter (Peter Ustinov and Pete Postlethwaite, respectively) - Two characters in the Tweedles' story.

The Gryphon (David Alan Barclay, Adrian Getley, Robert Tygner, Donald Sinden {voice}) - A creature (with a look of both lion and eagle) who is the Mock Turtle's best friend. He shows Alice to him and used to go to school in the sea with the Mock Turtle.

The Knave of Hearts (Jason Flemyng) - A clueless knave who is accused of stealing the Queen's tarts. The Queen constantly refers to him as an idiot.

Pat and Bill (Jason Byrne and Paddy Joyce, respectively) - The White Rabbit's two loyal gardeners. Pat is also very reluctant while Bill is a little more trustworthy.

Miss Lory, Mr. Duck, Mr. Eaglet, and Mr. Dodo (Liz Smith, Ken Campbell, Heathcote Williams and Peter Bayliss, respectively) - The Mouse's group of friends who are in the caucus race.

Tiger Lily (Joanna Lumley {voice}) - A very talkative flower who gives Alice directions.

The Cook (Sheila Hancock) - The Duchess's crazy cook who enjoys putting pepper in her meals. She also likes throwing dishes at Alice and the Duchess.

Dormouse (Nigel Plaskitt {also voice} and David Alan Barclay) - The Mad Hatter and March Hare's 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.

The Pig Baby (voice of Nigel Plaskitt) - A rather creepy and ugly baby who is first seen being nursed by the Duchess. He soon turns into a pig.

The Frog and Fish Footmen (Peter Eyre and Hugh Lloyd) - Two footmen who were first seen standing in front of the Duchess's house. The Fishface handed the Frogface an invitation for the Duchess to play croquet, then walked away. The Frogface was also rather stupid.

The Rose Painting Cards (Matthew Sim, Jonathan Broadbent, and Christopher Sim) - 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.

The Red Knight (Gerard Naprous) - 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.

Mother (Janine Eser) - Alice's mother.

Father (Jeremy Brudenell) - Alice's father.

Nanny (Mary Healey)

Governess (Dilys Laye)

Special Effects

This movie was a mix of puppetry and live-action. The puppet designs were created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. They are the Cheshire Cat, the Gryphon, the March Hare, the Dormouse, the pig baby, the flamingos, and the White Rabbit.

In all, 875 special digital effects were created for the film. An example is Martin Short's head; it was enlarged to three times its size to resemble the Hatter in Tenniel's illustrations. Another one is the large books. Both of these examples were done by computer effects and Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

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