Mary Blair's Alice in Wonderland

When Disney conceived of making its psychedelic masterpiece Alice in Wonderland, it asked master illustrator Mary "It's a Small World" Blair to draw up a series of concept sketches for the art direction of the film. Blair's art was never used, alas -- for she made some of the most striking and lovely and just plain weird-ass art that anyone had ever done in the Alice canon (you can see many of them in this Flickr set).

Now Disney has released an abridged version of Lewis Carroll's book, accompanied by Blair's illustrations, beautifully, lavishly reproduced. This may just be the sweetest, loveliest Alice edition since the original Tenniel. The text abridgment is respectful and well-done, too (though I prefer Carroll's text). Link



  1. It should also be noted that the retelling is done by none other than Jon Scieszka. He’s the brilliant mind that wrote
    The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and the Time Warp Trio books.

  2. i agree with baldhead. it’s not actually very good is it? but that could be my dislike of flat 1950’s art talking

  3. IMO abridging Carrol’s text is disrespectful in itself, regardless how it’s done, and calling it “*Walt Disney’s* Alice In Wonderland” doesn’t make the alteration of a classic any more palatable to me.

    I really hated “The Stinky Cheese Man,” — I guess I’m just an anachronism/curmudgeon/oldfart whose opinion probably isn’t welcome here ;-)

  4. Wow, there really are some grumpy people on BB. I thought I should post my deep appreciation for Jon Scieszka, Mary Blair, Carrol’s original text, and this book. I’ve never understood arguments of the sort that claim that adaptations like this one are disrespectful, or a threat to the original. The original is ubiquitous, and in no danger of being usurped by this book.

    I’m confused by the claim that Blair’s “art was never used.” Her concept art for Alice seems to me to have had a pretty strong and obvious influence on the final film. And given that it WAS concept art or preproduction art, that was it’s intended purpose–as influence and inspiration, not as finished animation.

  5. Android can speak for him- or herself, but I’m at a loss to understand why one has to be “grumpy” to dislike the work of Jon Scieszka, or to think that Lewis Carroll told Alice’s story quite well enough that it stands in no need of retelling. (Though if you insist on a retelling, Dennis Potter did it right years ago, in his script for the criminally underrated Dreamchild.

  6. I didn’t actually say anyone was grumpy for the reasons you state, Diamond Jim, nor did I mean to direct my comments solely at Android. I just thought two or three of the commenters seemed surprisingly negative about what is essentially a pretty art book featuring a couple of beloved children’s story creators.

    And, for the record, Android didn’t simply say he thought Alice didn’t need retelling. He said “abridging Carrol’s text is disrespectful in itself, regardless how it’s done…” As I said in my own comment (which I’m guessing you skimmed rather than read), I don’t agree.

    I sort of doubt Dodgson would have agreed, either, since the story was adapted for the stage in his lifetime, and he himself abridged it for a younger audience. In particular I would expect he’d have liked Scieszka, who’s a fellow teacher and math-lover. But we can never know.

  7. Mary Blair’s got class, but my favorite non-Tenniel illustrations for Alice were by David Hall, also for Disney development. Some of them are in Treasures of Disney Animation Art, a super volume that catalogs a show I once stumbled onto at the Whitney when I was looking for something else. I should scan me some of that.

    There were other concepts as well. I have a 1949 10″ LP of a Ginger Rogers version of Alice that boasts a bit of Disney art on the cover. (Link goes to scanned version on my flickr page.)

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