Alice Through the Looking Glass (1987) poster

Alice Through the Looking Glass (1987)


USA. 1987.


Directors – Andrea Presciani & Richard Slapczynski, Screenplay/Producer – Jameson Brewer, Based on the Novel by Lewis Carrol [Lewis Carroll], Music – Todd Hayen, Songs – Will Ryan, Lyrics – Jameson Brewer & Will Ryan. Production Company – Burbank Animation Inc/Jambie Productions Inc.


Janet Waldo (Alice/The Red Queen), Townsend Coleman (Tom Fool), Phyllis Diller (The White Queen), George Gobel (Humpty Dumpty), Alan Young (The White Knight), Jonathan Winters (Tweedledum/Tweedledee), Mr. T (The Jabberwock), Alan Dinehart (Father/The Wizard/The White King), Hal Smith (Bandersnatch/Charles Biscuit/Conductor), Will Ryan (Post Gazette), Clive Revill (The Snark/The Goat), Booker Bradshaw (The Centaur)


Young Alice is home on a snowy day when her father, a vet, has to go tend some animals. Alice walks through her mirror and finds herself in a fantastical land on the other side. Joined by the prankster/magician Tom Fool, she tries to find her way back out through the mirror again. She learns that in order to do so she must travel to the other side of the land, which is designed as a chessboard. If she makes it to across the eight squares to the other side, she will be crowned a queen and can move back at will. As Alice sets out, she encounters people and creatures inhabiting each square that are at turns bizarre, nonsensical and threatening.

This little-known animated film is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1871), which was of course a sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). This adaptation, from veteran tv writer Jameson Brewer, does the crass and inconceivable thing – it modernises and Americanises Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Indeed, the film is less an adaptation of Through the Looking Glass than it is a version of Lewis Carroll that has been reconstructed to modern children’s movie formula. It does demonstrate one thing – that Lewis Carroll (who has the ignominy of being credited as Lewis Carrol on the credits) would never have been accepted in today’s children’s tv environment.

The film has only a passing resemblance to the books. There is the central idea from Through the Looking Glass of Alice travelling through a mirror and finding herself in a land modelled on a chessboard and having to make her way across to the other side to be crowned a queen. There are occasional sequences that have been replicated from the book – Alice taking a journey on a train that takes to the air; the meetings with the White Knight, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee (who are now two argumentative joggers) and the Jabberwocky and the Snark (who are now standard moronic and cuddly children’s movie monsters).

Most of the rest of the film has been improvised from scratch. Sadly, the new creations have little of Lewis Carroll’s absurdism and are just fantasy standards – centaurs, unicorns and pegasi. There is the odd surreal moment – Alice finding herself in a carriage with a talking goat and horse and a character made out of newspaper who gets offended and insists that she stop reading him; the train that takes to the air to cross hills and goes underwater to cross rivers; the journey via a paddle boat that travels across an empty riverbed; and Alice’s encounter with the White Knight, where she apologises “I don’t have a lace hanky [to give you], but I do have a Kleenex.”

Even considering the rewriting of the story to children’s movie formula, the way that the quest has been pumped up is irritating. Alice is now given a companion in the trickster/magician Tom Fool but when you have a character that can do fairly much anything – teleport, transform attackers and the like – there is no threat and more importantly in terms of character arc no destiny that is ever earned upon Alice’s part. There are also a number of insipid songs.

The other screen adaptations of Alice in Wonderland are:- Alice in Wonderland (1903), a silent British short; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), a silent American short; Alice in Wonderland (1915); Alice Through the Looking Glass (1928); Alice in Wonderland (1931), the first sound version; Paramount’s Alice in Wonderland (1933) with an all-star cast of the day including W.C. Fields, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper; the partly stop-motion animated French Alice in Wonderland (1949); the classic Disney animated version Alice in Wonderland (1951); the NBC tv version Alice in Wonderland (1955); the modernised Hanna-Barbera animated tv special Alice in Wonderland, or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1966); the NBC tv production Alice Through the Looking Glass (1966); the all-star British film Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972) featuring Michael Crawford, Ralph Richardson, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Dudley Moore; the BBC tv production Alice Through the Looking Glass (1974); the Italian tv mini-series In the World of Alice (1974); a 1976 Argentinean film version; a pornographic version Alice in Wonderland (1976); a Spanish film version Alice in Spanish Wonderland (1979); the Belgian film Alice (1982), which features equivalents of the Wonderland characters in the modern world; a US tv production Alice in Wonderland (1982); a US tv version Alice at the Palace (1982) with Meryl Streep as Alice; a BBC musical version A Dream of Alice (1982) with Jenny Agutter as Alice; a British tv series Alice in Wonderland (1985); Irwin Allen’s all-star tv mini-series Alice in Wonderland (1985) featuring Roddy McDowall, Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters; a BBC tv series Alice in Wonderland (1986); having been combined with the Care Bears in the animated The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland (1987); Jan Svankmajer’s bizarrely brilliant Claymation animated Alice (1988); Woody Allen’s modernised urban spin Alice (1990); the US tv series Alice in Wonderland (1991); the British tv version Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998) with Kate Beckinsale as Alice and an all-star cast; the Hallmark tv version Alice in Wonderland (1999) with Tina Majorino as Alice and an all-star cast; Alice’s Misadventures in Wonderland (2004), a modernised indie film take on the story; Alice (2009), a modernised tv mini-series starring Caterina Scorsone as Alice entering into a dark science-fictional wonderland; Malice in Wonderland (2009), a modernised British film that translates Wonderland into an urban environment; Alice in Murderland (2010), an Alice in Wonderland-themed slasher film; Tim Burton’s big budget Alice in Wonderland (2010) and its sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016); Alyce (2011), another modernised urban translation; the modernised tv series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013-4); and The Other Side of the Mirror/Alice: The Darker Side of the Mirror (2016), a dark retelling. Also of note is Dennis Potter’s tv play Alice (1965), which explores Lewis Carroll’s relationship with Alice Liddell, the young girl who became the model for Alice, and the later film Dreamchild (1985) in which the real-life Alice reminisces back on her memories of Lewis Carroll and the writing of the story.

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