Alice in Wonderland (1939 David Hall Leica Reel)
|The iconic Mad Hatter signpost.|
The Disney film Alice in Wonderland has been planned out since the 1930's, as the first ever animated film by Disney. Ultimately, the film was not released until the year 1951. There were many different drafts of the film through the years, but probably the most intriguing one was the 1939 draft.
The draft had beautiful artwork done by talented British artist David Hall, a script by Al Perkins, and songs by Frank Churchill. The Leica reel composed for the film even had a voice cast, such as Cliff Edwards portraying the Talking Bottle. Walt Disney ultimately turned the draft down, as the denizens of Wonderland looked far too monstrous for his tastes, and were hard to animate, as they resembled the Teniel illustrations too closely. The tone overall was also incredibly grim and frightening, with most of the inhabitants of Wonderland being outright bloodthirsty towards poor Alice (such as the Mad Hatter and March Hare about to dice Alice into pieces with scissors and a knife, Alice being attacked by hordes of birds, and even being placed on a guillotine near the end).
Ultimately, the Disney studios instead went for a lighter, more modern approach with the final film. However, bits and pieces of this early version have emerged from time to time.
The film opens with Alice on a riverbank like in the final. She eventually sees the White Rabbit and follows him down a hole leading to a massive void of gems, stars, and ferocious bats. The bats warn her that the Queen of Hearts will kill her if she arrives down there, but then Alice tells of her cat Dinah and her eating of bats, and the bats flee in terror. Alice ends up racing on a great ribbon into a hall where she notices the White Rabbit entering a door. She then meets the talking bottle (voiced by Cliff Edwards), who offers to give Alice a drink of his magic to shrink her and allow her to enter the garden. She finds, to her dismay, that the door is locked. She is then given the "vice-versa", growing her immensely. The Bottle mocks her, and she begins to cry. The Bottle then flings a small shrinking cake into her mouth and she is washed into Wonderland by her own tears. She is rescued by the Mouse, and then whisked off to the island of the Gryphon and Mock Turtle and participates in the Lobster Quadrille. She then mentions her cat. They are all terrified, because they dread the word "Cat".
She is left all alone in the undersea forest, when she sees the true source of the creatures' terror (how would a griffon be scared of just a mere cat?); The Cheshire Cat. He shows off his many tricks to Alice, and mentions if Alice would want to play croquet with the Queen, and promises to lead her there. She comes up to the caterpillar, who offers her some advice. He introduces her to the shrinking and growing mushrooms. She uses the left piece, and mis-shrinks until she is only a head and feet! Her tiny, t-rex arms desperately reach for the right piece, and then she grows and grows until her brontosaurus neck reaches through the trees, and into a bird's nest! Several bully birds are picking on a baby bird with more than a passing resemblance to Donald Duck. She shouts at the bullies and they are driven away. Alice asks the grateful baby bird to retrieve the shrinking piece of the mushroom again, so she can grow small again.
The bird nearly chokes on the mushroom before growing to a gigantic size and confronting the bullies, who are now attacking Alice. The bullies are scared off and Alice is given the mushroom piece to shrink again. Continuing through the woods, Alice encounters many creatures, including a soldier centipede mounted on a spider and a large puppy. The Cheshire Cat ends this by scaring off the puppy and telling her where to find the Mad Hatter. Alice then heads to the iconic Mad Hatter signpost and then finds her way to the Mad Tea Party.
While the party is initially civil (if annoyingly ludicrous), it turns dangerous when the White Rabbit arrives. The Mad Hatter and March Hare completely ruin his look before turning to Alice. Suddenly, they prepare to slash off Alice's legs with a knife and scissors! Alice screams in terror as they attempt to chop her legs off. She escapes through the tabletop, which leads to a dark and gloomy wood. Then, she encounters the unsuccessful Monkey Gardener attempting to pick eggs from the ground. As she investigates the garden, she finds she is finally at the White Rabbit's house!
Getting inside, she tries on many strange glasses in her search for new ones for the White Rabbit. She also finds some cookies, that give her a familiar sensation of growing, just as the White Rabbit is conversing with Mary Ann. When she has grown, she grabs the White Rabbit, as Mary Ann sends for an army of Wonderland creatures (amongst which is the Centipede from earlier) to take down Alice. Bill is sent in to investigate by a terrified fire chief, but is kicked out and fired like a missile by Alice into a fire engine, which is sent chuttering into the distance, startling Alice, who drops the White Rabbit. She turns to see Bottle laughing at her misery once again. Many rocks are flung at Alice by the army of creatures, annoying her.
The terrified bottle patches himself up after being struck by a stone, and proceeds to shrink Alice. She ends up escaping on a literal battering ram, and resumes her quest to get to the party. Alice encounters the Fish Footman and Frog Footman, as they discuss invitations. Alice gets inside the Dutchess's house, and discovers a huge crisis going on with the Dutchess carrying her screaming baby as the cook is going mad with cooking and agitation. They play a grotesque tune using the baby as an instrument before Alice saves the baby and carries it out. The whole time, the Cheshire Cat is watching. In an instant, the baby changes into a pig, and Alice comments that it makes a lovely pig, but a dreadfully ugly child. The pig races up a road of cards that Alice follows.
She is finally in the garden! Inside, she sees gardening equipment operating by itself, just before the White Rabbit bugles for the Queen of Hearts. Croquet begins, as everyone in Wonderland participates. A royal procession of doom leads to a dark trial, where Alice is put on trial for unknown reasons. She watches as the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and March Hare sentence the Knave of Hearts to being blown to bits. Alice is then sent on the run, but is captured by the Queen and then put on the guillotine! Just as the blade falls down, she wakes up from this horrible nightmare and awakens back in her world.
These songs were written by Frank Churchill. Some of them appeared in the limited-release Disney's Lost Chords, volume one, but no official demos were released.
- "It's Crazy to Be Sane"
- "Lobster Quadrille" (present in Disney's Lost Chords volume one. This song would evolve into "Never Smile at a Crocodile in "Peter Pan".)
- "Garden Snips"
- "Alice in Wonderland" (different from final version, present in Disney's Lost Chords volume one)
- "Pepper Lullabye" (present in Disney's Lost Chords volume one)
- "Mock Turtle Soup Song" (present in Disney's Lost Chords volume one)
- "Alice and Bottle" (present in Disney's Lost Chords volume one)
Score pieces mentioned in script
- ""In Wonderland" Theme" (possibly the same as "Alice in Wonderland" mentioned above)
- "Falling Theme"
- "Bottle Theme"
- "Alice's Shrinking Theme"
- "Alice Growing Theme"
- "Quadrille Accompaniment"
- "Screwy Revision of Growing Theme"
In 1944, 30 of Hall's illustrations were used in the book Walt Disney's Surprise Package, which contained a telling of the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland story. As this book has not been available for years, it is thus quite rare. In 1986, a full-sized Alice's Adventures in Wonderland reprint was available with dozens of Hall illustrations. The 1995 Archive Collection laserdisc also contained a recreation of the Leica reel of the film, but it was incomplete, as the last quarter of the script was missing (and the reel was never officially re-released, but can be found here). The songs commissioned for the film were also on the disc in a separate section, and some of them have been published in "Disney's Lost Chords".
A later DVD (Un-Anniversary Edition) incorporated an excerpt of the film under the guise of a "deleted scene" from the final draft. This was kept in every subsequent home entertainment release.
Thad Komorowski once compiled a zip file of these boards, but the file has disappeared. Many of the the sketches that can be found are below.
- The film was coded as "Feature 1017" as opposed to the final's "Feature 2069"