“Johnny Depp has made it cool to like Alice,” was Miss Alice Llandudno Nicol Thompson’s answer to my question — Why do children today still love Alice in Wonderland? With Johnny Depp’s 3-D visual spectacle of a movie currently standing at a worldwide gross of $1,024,299,904, I suspect he made Alice in Wonderland very cool for a lot of Disney executives too.
But what about serious Carroll fans? How do they view Disney’s 21st-century technological efforts to keep the legacy “cool”?
“Despite the errors and license used by Disney in the story, it is Disney that continues to bring Aliceto the children of today,” comments Lewis Carroll Society member Keith Wright (Chairman and Editor, Daresbury Chronicle). “Tim Burton’s Alice, although not an Alice that Lewis Carroll would recognize, did contain the Wonderland characters and used some of the text from the books.”
Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) wrote his Alice books for children. His inspiration for Alice, namely Alice Liddell, is the focus of a magnificent 160th birthday celebration in Llandudno, Wales on May 4, 2012.
“Charles Dodgson was a man who enjoyed teaching children; he liked a child with an inquiring mind but he was not a disciplinarian,” adds Wright. And Alice Liddell was indeed a child with an inquiring mind. Her favorite expression was “Let’s pretend,” and so it didn’t take long for her to become Mr. Dodgson’s favorite child. She adored the fun escape an undisciplined teacher offered in the disciplined world of Victorian life at Christ Church, Oxford during the mid 19th century. Mr. Dodgson would take Alice and her siblings on fun outings, which always included exciting storytelling. The most famous outing of all is the one credited with Dodgson’s first full telling ofAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This took place on Friday, July 4, 1862. Soon after hearing the story, young Alice pestered Mr. Dodgson to write it down for her. Thanks to Alice’s persistence, Mr. Dodgson (who had never written down any of his amazing tales) finally did create the book and presented it to her as an early Christmas gift on Nov. 26, 1864. The book, which took Dodgson 18 months to finish, and which he originally called Alice’s Adventures Underground, was handwritten and hand-illustrated by him.
Miss Alice Llandudno, Nicol Thompson
Over 145 years later, artists and creators are still reaping huge rewards from adapting Lewis Carroll’s classic books for every form of media and for each new generation of audiences. Tim Burton and Disney opted to update the story so that it would be “cool” for today’s younger movie going audience. But how do literary societies such as the Lewis Carroll Society, which strive to preserve Carroll’s classics in their original format, feel about staying “cool” in terms of appealing to younger fans?
“There is no doubt that literary societies in the UK have their backs to the wall,” explains Keith Wright. The younger generations do not join literary societies. They see them as elitist organizations, which does not help. Meetings containing research papers are not accessible to a generation brought up on getting their knowledge in a fairly unchallenging way — that is via TV or the Internet.”
Mr. Wright is a good friend and in ways a teacher to Miss Alice Llandudno, Nicol Thompson, who admits she prefers “reading the book to watching the films.”
There are currently Alice weekends in many towns around England supported by the Lewis Carroll Society, including Oxford (where the book was born), Lyndhurst in Hampshire (where Alice Liddell lived after she was married), Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge, and of course Llandudno in Wales (where Alice Liddell vacationed with her family), which is preparing for its commemorative Alice affair on May 4, 2012. All these towns attempt to appeal to fans both young and old.
Llandudno has historically enjoyed a healthy tourist trade thanks to its connection to Alice Liddell. This connection grew stronger in the 1970s when local residents Muriel Ratcliffe and her husband Murray began to consider an idea for an Alice adventure.
The couple found a basement in a property in the town that was damp and often flooded. With the help of local tradesmen, they created and launched the Rabbit Hole. The Rabbit Hole tourist attraction complete with life-size models of the book’s characters remained very popular with tourists from 1990 until Muriel Ratcliffe decided to retire in 2009.
At this point the content was put up for sale and was purchased by entrepreneurs and owners of Alice In Wonderland Ltd., Barry Mortlock and Simon and Eileen Burrows.
Much like the approach taken by Burton and Disney, Mortlock and the Burrows saw an opportunity to build a bigger and grander Alice adventure, utilizing cutting edge technology to create a 21st-century experience that was both modern and educational for children of all ages.
They worked with local government to conceptualize a Llandudno Alice Trail, which would utilize key locations around the town, including a popular tourist spot known as Happy Valley.
“The upcoming Alice Day is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm the connection that Llandudno has with Alice, and also with the Alice Trail that the County and Town Councils have funded to be built in the town. This will feature sculptures, a giant pocket watch and a new bandstand in Happy Valley, which will have the various characters from the stories cast into it. We already have a Cheshire Cat in the Happy Valley!” says Llandudno’s Mayor, Greg Robbins.
Mortlock and the Burrows will continue development over the summer with a young creative team of 3D artists and technical wizards. Their big picture concept? A visual spectacle such as has never been seen before in any other attraction in the UK.
So what might Alice Liddell have said about these creative upgrades to her favorite story in her summer vacation town?
I don’t know for sure of course. I do know Alice was a talented artist herself whose favorite expression as a child was “Let’s pretend.” Hence I like to imagine she might be thinking “Cool!”
Photos courtesy of Alice In Wonderland Ltd. and Keith Wright
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
Alice Pleasance Liddell, Summer 1858. Courtesy of © National Portrait Gallery, London
In the year 2143, will we be able to say Harry Potter lives, Harry Potter is global, or even thatHarry Potter’s enduring legacy continues to inspire all age groups?
None of us really know for sure what will happen to Harry Potter between now and then. What you should know is that there is one book, which, 146 years after it was first published in 1865, has accomplished all these things and is also one of the most loved books in today’s world. The book to which I am referring is of course Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I like to call “Alice.”
A great many people saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie, which, despite its short theatrical window, grossed $1.02 billion worldwide. That was just an appetizer in comparison to the massive global run up to “Alice’s” 150th birthday in the fall of 2015.
Much like the closing ceremony of one Olympics and the heralding of the next one, the road to “Alice’s” sesquicentennial ceremony has already inspired a magnificent exhibition to be seen in some of the world’s greatest museums, with more exhibitions and events in the works along the way to the lighting of “Alice’s” torch in four years time.
As a passionate “Alice” fan and a relative of Alice Pleasance Liddell, the original inspiration for the book, I never tire of immersing myself in the rich culture that was born from Lewis Carroll’s fantastical dream world. In every age since the 19th century, “Alice” has inspired artists and scientists from the worlds of mathematics, fine arts, literature, puzzles, games, toys, film, dance, music, poetry, video games, photography, cartooning, and well, let’s just say you’ve got your work cut out, Harry Potter!
So now…… are you ready for a little more tea?
Come Away From Her (After Lewis Carroll) 2003 — Kiki Smith Acrylic on Paper. Courtesy of © ULAE, Inc.
I had the great pleasure of chatting with Eleanor Clayton, Assistant Curator of the Tate Liverpool’s fantastical new Alice In Wonderland exhibition currently showing in England before heading out to other parts of Europe.
“Alice” lives on — Why is “Alice” so inspiring to all ages and to generation after generation?
One of the things we notice about “Alice” is that it is one of the few books that have never been out of print since it was first published. It has literally stayed in fashion the entire way since 1865. “Alice” just continues to appeal. I think that it’s the nature of the story. You have a child heroine. Alice is beset by trials and tribulations that she has to go through and yet she always remains calm. Whether it’s the Mad Hatter or the Queen (trying to chop off her head), she meets the challenge and prevails. There is something about Alice’s journey that everyone can relate to.
The other thing that we have actually focused a lot on in the exhibition is that when the original manuscript was created, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) included pictures. The pictures were an integral part of the story. There aren’t actually a lot of descriptions of the book’s characters including Alice. Instead, on the first page of the original manuscript, there is a picture of Alice. It doesn’t tell us that Alice wears this kind of a dress or has this kind of hair. It leaves it very open for generation after generation to reinvent Alice. In our exhibition there are Alices from the 1930’s, Alices from the 1960’s, and even more contemporary Alices. Each generation has been able to reinvent Alice in the style of that generation. This says something about the richness of the book too. Each generation finds it appealing and wants to contribute something new.
How many Alices do you have in total in the exhibition?
In just one room we have over 40 illustrated editions of the book from 1907 onwards. I would say we have over a hundred Alices (character depictions) in the exhibition.
“Alice” is global — How represented is “Alice” on a global basis throughout the exhibition?
We have illustrated editions from the western world but we also have Eastern European and Russian illustrated editions. We have work by an artist called Nalini Malani, who’s done a series called Living in Alice Time. She finds in Alice a figure that relates to the political situation in India and her work is representative of that. Unfortunately, we don’t have “Alices” from Australia and New Zealand but we do have most of the Northern Hemisphere covered.
Alice’s Adventures Underground, the original manuscript, was handwritten and hand illustrated by Lewis Carroll and presented to Alice Liddell as an early Christmas gift. How significant is this manuscript?
I think it is very significant. We’ve found it incredibly interesting as an early form of book art, which became hugely popular in the 1860’s and beyond. The images are such an integral part of the original manuscript that it is a visual work of art in itself. Even Carroll’s text has visual elements. In the 19th century, art was about paintings, and books were books, but when you look at the original manuscript it is definitely an art object in itself, which is why it is really significant. Later on after the “Alice” books were published, Carroll published a facsimile of the original manuscript.
Alice in Wonderland Magic Lantern Slides 1900 - 1925. Courtesy of © University of Exeter
The manuscript’s sale by Alice Pleasance Liddell in 1928 for £15,400 ($77,000) set a new auction record for a book at that time in history, not to mention the fact that the buyer was an American, Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach.
The book has now become so iconic that the original manuscript itself is almost like a relic. We are very lucky to be exhibiting it. It has only left the British Library once (for a trip to New York City) since it was presented as a gift to the British Library by a group of American businessmen. The security we have had to go through to protect it is incredible. It has to be kept in a metal (versus wooden) vitrine with glass that is thicker than 11 millimeters. It also has to have two special Abloy locks. Then there is CCTV on it and security guards. It’s this little book the size of a hand. People come into the exhibit and are drawn to it. Then they very quickly fall down the rabbit hole into all of these artifacts that have built up because of this one little book.
What will people like most about the exhibition?
Children will see the original manuscript, Tenniel’s drawings, toys and games that were around in the 19th century after the publication of the book. There are also beautiful paintings, colorful artworks from people like Max Ernst and Dali as well as other “Alice” art from the 1960’s. There is a reading area in the exhibition. There’s also a participative artwork by Allen Ruppersberg where visitors can make their own books.
Highlights or personal favorites of the exhibition?
One of the highlights is an opportunity to learn more about Dodgson’s photography. We have his photographic equipment and a number of his own beautiful photographs. Charles Dodgson was a writer but he was also an artist who thought in pictures, and it makes you realize why the imagery in “Alice” is so vivid.
A personal favorite is a beautiful oil painting called Alice by Max Ernst from 1941. In Ernst’s painting, Alice, we see the figure of Alice being reinvented for the first time as a young woman, no longer a young girl. Ernst started the artwork when he was a prisoner of war in France and then completed it in New York after he escaped; and so it brings out this important image of Alice as a symbol of hope.
My final favorite is the enormous painting of Wonderland by Luc Tuymans. When you stand in front of if you feel as if you could just walk into Wonderland. It was made in 2007, and it just shows again that even today, artists are still finding the idea of Wonderland such an inspiration.
For more information: Tate Liverpool
On January 29, 2012, Alice in Wonderland leaves the Tate Liverpool and travels to the MART (The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Trento and Rovereto, Italy before moving to the Kunsthalle in Hamburg, Germany.
Eleanor Clayton and C. M. Rubin
C.M. Rubin is the author of the widely read on-line series, The Global Search for Education, and is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld
Tim Burton and Dariusz Wolski. Woody Allen and Carlo di Palma. James Cameron and Russell Carpenter. Francis Ford Coppola and Gordon Willis. Claude Chabrol and Jean Rabier. The best pictorial biographies, like the best films, are made through great director/designer collaborations. My designer Deb Frano and I would like to share some experiences with you after creating The Real Alice In Wonderland book.
The Author must play the role of Director. You have the vision. The Designer must play the role of the Cinematographer. She will execute your vision. Make sure your designer is experienced with all the current design software, including Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, MacFreelance, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, QuarkXPress,Quicken and Stuffit. Phew!
You will need to source visual materials for your book before the design process can begin. There are a number of online visual sources where authors and designers can find and purchase graphics. I Stock is one of the biggest, but also try Gettyone, BigStock, Dreamstime.com, and Illustration Works. The Real Alice In Wonderland had a large visual component. It involved collecting artwork and photographs from museums, libraries, and private collectors all over the world. This was no easy task (it took years). Permissions to use these materials would have been impossible to get without the help and support of my business and legal partner, my husband Harry Rubin.
I asked Deb if she would be willing to answer a few questions about the creative process:
1. How did you get involved with design?
I’ve always been creative, and I have loved to draw and paint as far back as I can remember. I double majored in college – fine art and graphic design. I wanted something art-related that I could make a living at, and still satisfy my need to be creative. Actually, designers are very much like fine artists in their own right. The difference is that designers create their art with a computer instead of a paintbrush or pencil. I find that my fine art background sometimes influences my design work. A good design should evoke an emotion and communicate a message or feeling, much like a painting or a sculpture.
2. Are there certain types of projects you find the most attractive?
I really enjoyed working on The Real Alice In Wonderland. It was challenging. It pushed me to raise the level of my creativity and the flow of my ideas. Getting inside the author’s head and trying to graphically interpret her vision was challenging. Although she knew what she wanted the end result to be, she was ready and willing to take risks to create something that was really cutting edge. We shared ideas – some ideas panned out and some did not. You have to “wrestle” an idea out – discarding what doesn’t fit and refining what does, until the design communicates what the author is looking for. Sometimes a design seems great until you hit upon something better. For example, well into the design of the book we realized we had raised the bar on our artistic translation. It meant going back and reworking some of the spreads to reinforce the visual thread that tied everything together. It was worth it. I would love to do more projects like this in the future.
3. How do you see your role as a book designer changing as the industry moves more towards digital media?
My field has changed enormously in the past ten years, and the next ten will bring even more changes. With The Real Alice In Wonderland, I was constantly aware that many of the designs for print would ultimately get translated into digital media for the promotion and marketing of the book. However, even when books with a significant visual component move into the world of digital transmission, there will still be things that only print media can do. Texture, quality and design of a paper book all affect the way art communicates. Think about it this way. Will a digital image ever replace an actual painting? I don’t think so.
Thank you Deb. Last and not least, it really helps to find a designer you are comfortable and compatible with, and especially someone you enjoy spending a lot of time with. Deb Frano and I have a similar work ethic. We don’t give up until we get what we want. We respect each others talents. We feed off each others ideas. We like working together. Some other places where you can check out designers and their work are Illustration Mundo, Etsy, SBWI, Society of Illustrators, Illustration Friday, and Theispot. To contact Deborah Frano directly, please go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the request of J.K. Rowling, the blockbuster Harry Potter films were set entirely in Britain. Many of the Hogwart’s School scenes were filmed at Oxford University, centered at one of Oxford’s most magnificent colleges, Christ Church. The historic locations used at the College included the setting for Hogwart’s staircase, where schoolchildren are greeted upon their arrival, the Great Hall, which became Hogwart’s dining room, and Oxford’s Bodleian Library, which provided the setting for Hogwart’s infirmary. Christ Church College, founded by Henry VIII in 1546, was also used by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) as the setting for his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass books.
The Christ Church math professor, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), became good friends with the children of Christ Church Dean, Henry Liddell, in the 1850’s and 60’s. He was especially close to Alice Liddell, the Dean’s fourth child who became Carroll’s inspiration for his heroine, Alice in Wonderland. Carroll used Alice Liddell’s familiar surroundings as the setting for the story which he wrote for her in 1864. The Great Hall (Hogwart’s dining room), where Carroll ate his meals, holds many Wonderland secrets. It is believed that the real “rabbit hole” is the door that the Dean used to get to the senior common room. Henry Liddell himself is thought to be Carroll’s inspiration for the White Rabbit
C. M. Rubin’s and Gabriella’s Rubin’s bestselling book, The Real Alice In Wonderland, features stunning photographs of many of the same Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland locations which inspired these blockbuster books (and films). The Authors, who are descendants of the real Alice, spent time in Oxford as guests of the current Dean of Christ Church researching their book, and discovered how large a part the college played in not only the creation of the Harry Potter films, but also in the creation of the Alice in Wonderland books. The Rubins’ story behind the story takes readers to many other Oxford locations, including Alice’s garden at Christ Church, the original Cheshire Cat tree, the river banks where Carroll was urged to create his story by Alice, and to the Oxford museums to view the many Wonderland treasures held there today.
Authors Gabriella and C.M. Rubin doing research at Christ Church.
A visit and tour of Oxford town and Christ Church College is a must for fans of Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland, but first you can discover many of the sights and wonders in C. M. Rubin’s and Gabriella Rubin’s book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, on sale in bookstores nationally.Look Inside The Real Alice Book
This has been an amazing week. Three years after my daughter and I discovered that we had a connection to the real Alice In Wonderland (thanks to her school’s selection of Alice In Wonderland for Book Day), our coffee table book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, is finally moving into stores across the country (www.cmrubin.com). Our book recreates the dramatic life saga of the inspiration and role model for Alice in Wonderland. The Real Alice, Alice Pleasance Liddell, always treasured the book Lewis Carroll spent nearly two years creating for her. It had pride of place in her family home. We wanted to make Alice’s book special too — a collector’s item — with a unique collection of art and photos never before seen in one place.. Creating it has been a labor of love, and soooo I want to take this first opp on my blog to thank the amazingly talented artists (including Lizzy Rockwell, Vik Muniz, Annie Leibovitz, Helen Oxenbury, Tom Otterness, Jewel, Frances Broomfield, Jeanne Argent, Tatiana Ianovskaia, Bruce Fuller, Theresa Blake, and David Cooper) who helped us! I also want to thank Victoriana expert, Nancy Rosin (owner of the Rosin Victorian Treasury), who made things look period authentic with what I consider to be the greatest Victoriana collection around. Theresa Blake - your recreation of Alice’s wedding dress is stunning and unforgettable. Deborah Frano, my friend, collaborating with you on the artistic design of this book was a joy. Neither of us slept for a few months but I hope you feel as I do —it was worth it. If you love the idea of a collectable book like this one (please excuse the promotional spot) for you or your Mom or sister or teenager or friend, we hope you’ll check our book out in all the usual places. And of course, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.