Through the looking glass: Alice's adventures in film

By Chris Vander Kaay

By Kathleen Vander Kaay

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 4:00 p.m. MDT

As one of many classic pieces of literature given the television movie-of-the-week treatment in the late 1990s (along with “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Odyssey”), this version boasts an incredible cast of names popping up in small roles, from Robbie Coltrane and George Wendt as Tweedledum and Tweedledee to Martin Short as the Mad Hatter. Directed by Nick Willing, who also directed the television version of “Jason and the Argonauts,” the movie earned four Emmys. Willing would later return to Wonderland by directing “Alice,” another version of the story made specifically for the Syfy channel, which reinvented the story in the same way as Willing’s earlier mini-series “Tin Man” had done for “The Wizard of Oz.”

'The Last Mimzy' (2007)

One of the most original (and tenuous) connections to the original Carroll novel came in the form of “The Last Mimzy,” a science-fiction fantasy film about children gaining mysterious abilities after finding a box of toys. Based on the 1943 short story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” the film does not use the story from Carroll’s book, but rather the circumstances around the making of the book, and extrapolates a fake history involving Alice, Carroll himself and a person from sometime in the future. Directed by Bob Shaye, known more for his producing work and for founding film company New Line Cinema, “The Last Mimzy” is a surprising and adventurous film with a good environmental message that uses Carroll’s wild imagination as a great jumping-off point.

'Alice in Wonderland' (2010)

When The Walt Disney Co. announced that a new, live-action version of “Alice in Wonderland” was being planned, it was almost the most obvious choice in the world to have Tim Burton, the director behind such visual feasts as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Big Fish,” directing Carroll’s darkly absurd material. And in this case, the most obvious choice seems to have been the right one; with a Box Office Mojo estimate of more than $1 billion in worldwide gross and Academy Award wins for costume design and art direction, it seems that the time was right, with technology where it is now, to bring that fantastical world to life again. Accroding to screenrant.com, a sequel is currently in the works, and its writer, Linda Woolverton, is aiming to create another blockbuster reimagining of a classic Disney animated film with “Maleficent,” a retelling of the “Sleeping Beauty” story from the villain’s perspective, starring Angelina Jolie.

Carroll could never foresee how perfectly he combined bright fantasy for children with humor and absurdism for adults when he created “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” nearly 150 years ago; his intent was simply to bring joy to the children who heard his stories. However, many children heard those stories through the generations, and some of those children, like Walt Disney and Tim Burton, grew up to be visionaries and marvelous storytellers who never forgot the joy they received from those stories.

And now, because of their films, a new generation will remember them, too.

Chris Vander Kaay is a screenwriter and author who lives in central Florida with his wife and co-writer, Kathleen.

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