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To what extent could Tim Burton's Alice in

Wonderland be discussed as Surrealism?

Paris Lucke

Introduction (100 words)

What surrealism is (deifnition) and how it can be
applied to Alice in Wonderland.
A little bit of background information on Tim Burton's
Alice In Wonderland (2010) and the book that inspired
it: Alices Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
What question Im exploring in my essay: To what extent
could Alice in Wonderland be discussed as Surrealism?

Main Body - Argument: IS Surrealism

(500 words)
1. The appeal to surrealists - influence on Dali.
2. The film tries to make out that Wonderland is a real place, Alice realistically thinks she is
imagining this place and that its just a dream but when she cant wake up and leave thats
when the surreal becomes real which makes it ultra surreal. I feel anytime you enter a
dream world its like youre working out things they go through this weird journey thats
not real, and theyre going through this journey psychologically. (Burton, T 2009.) (Page 3).
3. Concepts that are surreal like: rocking chair horse flies, or a rabbit in a waist coat, or
talking flowers. All versions and adaptations of Alice have surreal illustrations and
concept art.
4. Alice has, I understand, become a patron saint of the Surrealists, (William Empson, 1935)
5. Curiouser and curiouser! This enchanting exclamation of a fictional little girl of
nineteenth-century, English literature might have functioned as a motto for
surrealism. (McAra, C 2013)

Main Body - Argument: Is NOT

Surrealism (300 words)
1. The original story was the start of surrealism (an ancestor to it) not
surrealism itself. Page 12 of visual companion: At the time there was
nothing like it The closest thing or the strangest prior to that was
probably J.J. Granvilles Un Autre Monde, which is 1844. Johnny Depp
2. This version of Alice is very real, she doesn't have the perspective of the
femme enfant everyone knows already, what she sees she believes to be a
dream and knows it cannot be real, as she is falling down the rabbit hole
shes terrified. (Page 155 of disney book).
3. In his 2006 book Surrealism and Cinema, Michael Richardson argues that
surrealist works cannot be defined by style or form, but rather as results
of the practice of surrealism. Richardson writes: "Surrealists are not
concerned with conjuring up some magic world that can be defined as
'surreal'. Their interest is almost exclusively in exploring the conjunctions,
the points of contact, between different realms of existence. Surrealism is
always about departures rather than arrivals."

Curious and curiouser

Conclusion (100 words)

Summarise key points and come to a


Fig 1: Movie

Fig 2: Horsefly

Fig 3: Talking Flowers

Fig 4 Salvador Dali Alice In Wonderland inspired painting

Mad Hatter Tea Party
Fig 5: John Tenniels original illustration

Fig 6: Alice in Wonderland compare/contrast realism/


Key Words:
Femme Enfant (idea that women are childlike and closer to nature and thus can easier connect to their
Mis en scene (the arrangement of an environment/stage/place/set.)
Surrealism (A 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature which sought to release the
creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.)
(began in 1917 as a literary movement, associated with Freudian psychoanalysis and automatism,
complete embracing and surrounding to the unconscious).
Predated (exist before).
Psychoanalysis (explores what culture calls taboos in art by analysing the unconscious mind).
Nom-de-plume/pseudonym (other name).
Avante-garde (new modern ideas in art that go against the mainstream).
Modernism (a form of art to stray away from the old ways of expressionism).
Juxtaposition (putting two contrasting things next to each other for effect).
Recuperation (where mainstream culture is changed/manipulated into something else)
Bourgeois (middle class).
Innocuous (not harmful or offensive).
Automatism (actions done unconsciously).

(Salisbury, 2010:page number)
Salisbury, M. (2010) Alice in Wonderland: A Visual
Companion. (First edition). New York: Disney Editions.
(Fanning, 2015:155)
Fanning, J. (2015) The Disney Book: A Celebration of the
World of Disney. London: Penguin Random House.
(Alice in Wonderland, 2010)
Alice in Wonderland. (2010) Directed by Burton, T. [DVD]
United States: Walt Disney Pictures.

Published Report/Articles:
(McAra, C 2013)
McAra, C. (2013) Alice Undone: Re-reading the Work of Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning
Through the Influence of Lewis Carroll - Surrealisms Curiosity: Lewis Carroll and the
Femme-Enfant. [online] At:
(Boudreaux, 2016)
Boudreaux, A. (2016). Couldn't Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland be considered surrealist
even though he and his work predated the official Surrealist Movement? [Online] At: https:// (Accessed on 23 October
(Jenkyns, 2011)
Jenkyns, R. (2011). What Alice Did [Online] At:
(Anders, 2015)
Anders, H. (2015). How Lewis Carroll Invented Surrealism [Online] At: http://

List of Illustrations
Fig. 1. Anonymous. (2010). Alice in Wonderland. [Poster].
Fig. 2. YouTube. Disney Movie Trailers (2010).
Figure 2. Disney Movie Trailers (2010) [YouTube webpage] At:
v=truHqdF50Hg (Accessed on 23 October 2015).
Fig. 3. YouTube. Disney Movie Trailers (2010).
Figure 3. Disney Movie Trailers (2010) [YouTube webpage] At:
v=truHqdF50Hg (Accessed on 23 October 2015).
Fig. 4. Mad Hatter Tea Party Dali, S Painting. (1969).
Figure. 4. Mad Hatter Tea Party by Dali, S. (1969). [Painting] At:
Fig. 5. Alices Adventures In Wonderland, The Dodo original illustration by John Tennie. (1865).
Figure. 5. Tenniel, J. (1865). The Dodo [Illustration] At:
The_Dodo (Accessed on 23 October 2016).
Fig. 6. Alice in Wonderland compare/contrast realism/surrealism.
Figure 6. Alice in Wonderland compare/contrast realism/surrealism. In: Fanning, J. (2015) The Disney
Book: A Celebration of the World of Disney. London: Penguin Random House.