THE MAD TEA PARTY - Making Sense out of an Insane Ride

banned books

Crazy Tea Cup Ride Cartoon by Karen Strum

Mad Tea Party By Tenniel

Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865 and it was originally titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground. It was written by Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, using the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of how Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures. Through the Looking Glass, it's sequel, was at one point banned by the Chinese governor of the Hunan Province. He said, “Animals should not use human language and it is disastrous to put animals and humans on the same level.” Lewis Carroll is one of our favorite banned book authors. One of the most iconic drawings from Alice in Wonderland is “The Mad Tea Party”. Due to the ways copyright laws are written, this illustration has been redrawn over the years by many artists.

John Tenniel first illustrated Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it was the most time consuming and important project of his career. Though he created a fresco for the Houses of Parliament and worked on other projects, his illustrations for Carroll are what earned him a knighthood. Both Carroll and Tenniel were very particular in their methodologies. Carroll critiqued Tenniel’s art and Tenniel shared his critical opinions of Carroll’s writing. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was, ultimately, a great success. "The Mad Tea Party" is one of the most recognizable illustrations from the book, and the characters are some of the most loved in children’s literature.

Disney's Mad Tea Party

At “The Mad Tea-Party” there was a table under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea. The Dormouse had fallen asleep, and the two of them were using him as a pillow. They were resting their elbows on top of the mouse and were talking over his head. The lesson to be learned from the Mad Tea Party concerns standing up for yourself. Positive human interaction is dependent upon open communication and respect for others. Alice was being insulted and bombarded with riddles at the party so she ended up leaving, saying it was the stupidest tea party to which she'd ever been.

Walt Disney produced Alice in Wonderland as a fully animated film in 1951. In 1938, Disney bought the film rights, and officially registered the title with the Motion Picture Association of America. He hired Al Perkins to write a script and David S. Hall to create the initial artwork. A storyboard was completed, but Disney felt the drawings resembled Tenniel's illustrations too closely and could not easily be animated, and that Perkins' script was too dark. In 1945, Disney revisited Alice in Wonderland and hired Aldous Huxley to re-write the script. Upon review, Disney felt that Huxley's version was too literal an adaptation of Carroll's book. Mary Blair submitted drawings for the revived film. Blair's concepts stood on their own, using bright, bold strokes. Walt liked Blair's designs, and the script was re-written once again to focus on comedy, music, and the whimsical side of Carroll's books. It is regarded as one of Disney's best animated films today. However the initial reviews for Alice in Wonderland were negative. Since then, it has stood the test of time because who hasn't been on Disney's Mad Tea Party theme park ride? Or, played with Disney's Mad Tea Party Game--a collectible stacking tea cup game by Funko?

MAD TEA PARTY By Karen Strum

Many people have tried their hand at illustrating “The Mad Tea Party” over the years – not just Walt Disney. For instance, in the 1900s Arthur Rackham's illustrations were the most controversial because people were loyal to Tenniel's originals. Karen Strum has recently painted her own rendition of “The Mad Tea Party”. It uses the cartoon characters that are a hallmark of her illustration style mixed with the swirls that she so loves from her henna tattoo background and the classic art nouveau style from which she draws inspiration. The illustration was painted with watercolors and the the line work was completed with black gel pens. Strum's cartoons have been used by a wide range clients for their advertising needs.

Most people don't realize that banning books has been happening for centuries. There are many reasons given why certain books are challenged and banned. In China, Alice in Wonderland was banned because the animals were anthropomorphized. The Hunan Providance is not the only group of individuals that argue having animals talk in stories can be dangerous. “Anthropomorphism can lead to an inaccurate understanding of biological processes in the natural world,” one woman said. “It can also lead to inappropriate behaviors toward wild animals, such as trying to adopt a wild animal as a 'pet' or misinterpreting the actions of a wild animal.” However, if individuals and political groups such as these were successful in removing books like Alice in Wonderland from the general public, we wouldn't have artwork like Tenniel's to inspire future generations. Who would teach us about standing up for ourselves if not for an obnoxious March Hare who took advantage of a sleeping Doormouse? If you want to keep books like Alice in Wonderland freely available and illustrations like “The Mad Tea Party” being drawn--you need to fight censorship, keep books available in libraries, and promote the freedom to read!

View our current selection of Alice in Wonderland products.

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About the Author: Karen Strum is a Tampa Bay illustrator available for freelance projects. A unique cast of characters in her style can be designed for use in advertisements and materials for which you want something extra special. Karen's cartoons use retro imagery and vintage color palettes that add charm to every image she creates whether it is a comic, logo, diagram, book cover, or concept image. [Send an Email]


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