Lewis Carroll’s Birthday

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Born: January 27, 1832 Died: January 14, 1989) was an English author better known under his pen name, Lewis Carroll.  His most famous book was “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the sequel “Through the Looking Glass”.

In 1856, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) became friends the Liddell family.  This friendship became an important part of his life and he enjoyed taking the children (Harry, Lorina, Edith and Alice) on trips into the English countryside and he would tell stories to entertain the children.   It was on one of these trips in 1862, that Dodgson came up with a story about a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a wonderful fantasy world.  Later, little Alice Liddell begged Dodgson to write the story and so he presented her with a handwritten, illustrated book called “Alice Adventures Under Ground” in 1864.

Dodgson eventually took the book to Macmillan Publishers, who promptly rejected the original name of the book.  Under the pen name of Lewis Carroll, the book was finally published in 1865 as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and the sequel, “Through the Looking Glass” was published in 1871.  It is believed that Dodgson used Alice Liddell as the inspiration for the books, even though Dodgson denied that he based the character on a real person there are in fact many references to her hidden in the pages of both books.  With the commercial success of the first Alice book Dodgson’s fame overwhelming grew as Lewis Carroll.  Queen Victoria enjoyed the first book so much that she wanted him to dedicate the next book he wrote to her, this never happened.  The Alice sequel sets a darker mood then the previous book and these changes reflect Dodgson’s life and the deep depression that he felt at the death of his father.

Dating back to 1923, the Walt Disney Company has had a long association with Carroll’s Alice books.  When the 21 year old Walt was working in Kansas City for the Laugh-O-Grams he produced a short film combining live action and animation called “Alice’s Wonderland”.  Eventually Walt moved to Hollywood and partnered with his brother to create the Disney Brothers Studio.  From 1924 to 1926 their new studio began producing a series of “Alice” short films.

These short films proved to be very successful and established Walt as a major film producer and the newly named Walt Disney Company began making feature length animation films.  In 1951, Disney released a new fully animated version of “Alice in Wonderland” that was based on both of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. Focusing on the whimsy and fantasy of the story, the film cleverly sets Carroll’s prose into wonderful songs and is artistically designed with Mary Blair’s wonderful and very colorful backgrounds.  Originally the film was a financial disappointment and received criticism from the British fans of Lewis Carroll but Walt’s version was intended for a large family audience and not literary critics.  Several years later, in 1974, “Alice” became Disney’s first re-released animation film into movie theatres and it proved to be very successful the second time around.  With the introduction of the home video market, in 1981 Disney once again chose “Alice” as their first animated film release.  (This wonderful Disney animated film is probably the version of the Lewis Carroll story that we remember from our childhood!)

In 2010, the Walt Disney Studio released another version of “Alice in Wonderland”.  Directed by Tim Burton, this computer-animated and live action film stars Johnny Depp as the infamous Mad Hatter.  Using Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” poem as the main focus and inspiration, Burton hoped to create a cohesive story instead of a series of disjointed events of Alice wandering from one strange fantasy character to another.  The live action exterior Victorian scenes were filmed in England and the “green screen” special effects scenes, which are 90% of the film, were filmed at the Culver Studio in California.  This new Disney version proved to be very successful becoming the twelfth highest-grossing film of all time as of 2012.