Disney Modeled The Mad Hatter from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ on American Composer Ed Wynn

Some classics have a way of sticking around, and Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland is no exception. It remains just as loved today as it was when it first came out, which is something few movies can claim. Many of the characters had quirky personalities based on real individuals.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ remains just as charming today as when it first hit theaters

Disney's 'Alice in Wonderland'
Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

Like many films, Alice in Wonderland was based on books. One was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the other was Through the Looking Glass. The books, written by Lewis Carroll, were about a young girl named Alice who found herself going on a strange adventure.

The Disney movie stayed faithful to the source material and portrayed Alice as a daydreamer who got lost in a fantastical place called Wonderland. The movie was initially released in 1951 and was the thirteenth animated feature-length film to be produced by Disney.

Ed Wynn was the inspiration behind the Mad Hatter 

Ed Wynn impressed Disney animators so much that they modeled the Mad Hatter after him, as reported by MSN. Wynn would also go on to voice the Mad Hatter. Many of the Mad Hatter’s hysterical and over-the-top facial expressions were just part of who Wynn was.

Wynn also played Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins, but acting was not his main passion. He was actually a composer who had a career that spanned 65 years in Musical Hall. 

In the book, the Mad Hatter was a rather unusual character who enjoyed having tea parties. It’s suspected that he went mad thanks mainly to the felt hat he wore. During the period when Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, felt hats were produced using mercury. 

Even though the Carroll version was sweet, even if he was a little out there, he went on to inspire one of the top villains in comic book literature. The Mad Hatter from the Batman comics was based directly on the Carroll character, according to Fandom. This version didn’t have Wynn’s charm to level him out, which made him one of the creepiest characters Batman faced.

Kathryn Beaumont was the inspiration for Alice

Alice is not the typical female heroine. She isn’t strong physically, doesn’t have a massive IQ, and tends to go from mishap to the next without considering the consequences. She’s a daydreamer who finds herself in a strange world that’s even more unpredictable than her own imagination. Even so, she manages to capture the hearts of all who meet her, except for the Red Queen of Hearts, of course.

When Disney decided to create an animated version of the book, they chose an English actor named Kathryn Beaumont to be the inspiration for Alice. She was born in 1938, which made her only 13 years old when the film hit theaters. 

Animators used a technique called rotoscoping to draw Beaumont. It’s essentially drawing over each frame of the motion picture footage, creating the sequences we see on our screens. The final product appeared both beautiful and whimsical.

Like Wynn, Beaumont was not just an inspiration for Alice. She also provided the voice for the character. Since then, Alice’s character has taken a darker turn in games such as American McGee’s Alice. Even so, it’s Beaumont’s version that most people remember when they think of Alice.

RELATED: Who Are the Voices in Disney Animated Film ‘Alice in Wonderland’?