Fairytales to rival Burton’s ‘Wonderland’

You’re late. To a very important date – with Wonderland. By “Wonderland,” we mean your couch, TV and a few DVD rentals.

The recent release of Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ has revived a story that has been read, animated, imitated and appreciated for decades. However, Burton is definitely not the first film-maker inspired by the classic tale, so iMPULSE would like to give you a few other Wonderland-based movies to watch as soon as you get the chance.

Lewis Carroll introduced his leading lady to the world in his 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Since then, Alice has inspired numerous films and won the hearts of moviegoers. In fact, Alice landed her first role on the silver screen in a 1903 silent film that showcased Carroll’s book. Since then, she has showed up in some bizarre and unlikely places, including Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Porno (1976) as well as a Japanese anime adaption, Fushigi no Kuni no Alice, in 1983.

We understand that you might not fancy silent films, musical pornos or anime, but we have a list of three other Alice-inspired films we think you may enjoy.

Alice in Wonderland (1951), Disney animation

There’s a good chance mum and dad showed you Disney’s animation based on Carroll’s work when you were a kid. This well-known film actually combines the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with another one of Carroll’s books, Through the Looking Glass. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great place to start. Walt Disney himself worked on the project for years, extending Carroll’s books into a full-length feature film. Time to attend a tea party – in Technicolor!

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

This Spanish language film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2007. While the film does not directly mimic the story of Alice in Wonderland, Rotten Tomatoes (a movie critique website) described Pan’s Labyrinth as an “Alice in Wonderland for adults.” The site also gives the movie an incredibly high rating. Alice in Wonderland is thought to be one of the inspirations for the film, which chronicles the main character Ofelia’s fearsome adventures within the labyrinth. Pan’s Labyrinth does hold some historical basis, too: the movie is set in post-Civil War Spain. If you don’t mind subtitles and a somewhat graphic fairytale, this is one that you shouldn’t miss.

Phoebe in Wonderland (2008)

Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning’s younger sister) stars in this independent film that aired at the Sundance Film Festival. Fanning plays a young girl, Phoebe, with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s syndrome. Phoebe is cast in the role of Alice for a school play. Phoebe shines on stage, as acting as Alice is her therapeutic escape, but has trouble functioning at school and in her home life. Phoebe in Wonderland looks at some tougher issues in life surrounding psychological disability, parenting and family structures, but does so with a sweet sense of hope.

Alice is a powerful literary figure because her story embodies more than a tyrant Queen of hearts, a hookah-smoking caterpillar and a crazy Mad Hatter. Her story holds true to a basic idea that readers can identify with – escape. Alice was simply trying to escape boredom. In Pan’s Labyrinth, Ofelia hopes to escape oppression and tyranny. In Phoebe in Wonderland, Phoebe desires an escape from her own mind and psychological disease. These movies all go in different directions and take place in different settings. However, they resonate with us film-watchers, as we become sympathetic toward the main character in each movie, visiting with each of them in a different wonderland.

Words by Megan Pieper

Photography by Lindsay Cavanaugh

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