Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Carroll’

I’m ready to follow Tim Burton’s Alice down the rabbit hole, curious to see how his imagination meshes with Lewis Carroll.  I love Alice ‘s Adventures in Wonderland and its companion Through the Looking-Glass and often find myself quoting from the books. “Down, down, down.”  “Curiouser and curiouser.” “I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” “Oh, my ears and whiskers!”

I admit there’s not much call for “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogroves,/ And the mome raths outgrabe.”  But I love the sound of the words. Jabberwocky!

But as Alice herself says, “what use is a book without pictures and conversations?” Carroll’s tales have many nonsensical conversations and fantastical characters, but the illustrations can make a difference between a nice children’s book and a masterpiece. Like filmmakers, artists are challenged to bring Wonderland to life.

I think my first Alice was a laminated copy with a cover illustration from the 1950s Disney animated version. It disappeared years ago, but I still have a red leather “classic” with the famous John Tenniel illustrations. I can remember drawing pretty good copies of Alice looking up in the tree at the Cheshire Cat.

Tenniel’s Alice is a stumpy little thing (except when her neck grows), quite different from Arthur Rackham’s more ethereal, fairy-tale creature or Mervyn Peake’s sprite. Michael Hague depicts her with long brown tresses in a party dress and Mary Janes, while Barry Moser’s wood engravings show a more modern moppet with a cloud of dark hair. To my mind, Moser has the best white rabbit. Having seen several of Burton’s drawings, I like his Cheshire Cat.

If you’ve read Neil Gaiman’s Coraline with its illustrations by Dave McKean, or seen the animated film, which is up for an Oscar, you’ll know that a talking cat plays quite a large role in that story. Other similarities include a small locked door, a tunnel like a rabbit hole, a beguiling heroine, assorted eccentrics and a rather terrifying adventure in an alternate world.  Watching the movie the other day, I hoped that Burton does as good a job with Alice as director Henry Selick did with Coraline, which has a bit of Burton about it. Turns out that Selick also directed Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Ah! Curiouser and curiouser.

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