It all started with a mouse part 6- 1951 – 1953.

part one, part two, part three, part four, part five

In this part of the disney timeline I will be going though the years 1951 to 1953. These years gave us Alice in wonderland, the story of Robin Hood and his merry men and peter pan.

1951 – Alice in wonderland

Walt first attempted to adapt Alice in wonderland in the 1930s. He was originally intended the film to be a live-action/animated film; however, Disney decided to make it an all-animated feature in 1946. At the time, these creative decisions were met with great criticism from Carroll fans, as well as from the British film and literary critics who accused Disney of ‘Americanizing’ a great work of english literature.

Through various drafts of the script, many sequences that were present in Caroll’s book drifted in and out of the story. However, Walt insisted that the scenes themselves keep close to those in the novel since most of its humor is in the writing. However many scene were still cut from the film. One scene from the 1939 treatment of the film occurred outside the Duchess’ manor, where The Fish Footman is giving a message to the The Frog Footman to take to the Duchess saying that she is invited to play croquet with The Queen of Hearts. Alice overhears this and sneaks into the kitchen of the manor, where she finds the Duchess’ Cook maniacally cooking and the Duchess nursing her baby. The cook is spraying pepper all over the room causing the Duchess and Alice to sneeze and the Baby to cry. After a quick conversation between Alice and the Duchess, the quick-tempered Cook starts throwing pots and pans at the noisy baby. Alice rescues the baby, but as she leaves the house the baby turns into a pig and runs away. The scene was scrapped for pacing reasons.

Alice in wonderland was filmed the same way as Cinderella were they filmed live acton footage of the actors acting out the story and animating it afterwards.

The film was met with lukewarm response at the box office earning an estimated $2.4 million at the us box office in 1951. The film was never re released theatrically in Disney’s lifetime airing instead every so often on network television. Almost two decades after it’s original release the feature was re- discovered as something of a ‘head film’ (because of the art style it was associated with drug culture) among college – aged and was shown in various collage towns. Disney resisted this association, and even withdrew prints of the film from universities. In 1974 Disney gave Alice in wonderland it’s first theatrical re release. This re-release was so successful it warranted a subsequent re- release in 1981.

Later with the advent of home video market, Disney chose to make alice on of its first titles available for the rental market on VHS and Beta.  The film currently sits at 79% on rotten tomatoes.

Fun facts:

  • The doorknob was the only character in the film not to appear in the book
  • This movie is actually a combination of two alice books ‘Alice’s adventures in wonderland’ and ‘Through the looking glass’.
  • The mad hatter was drawn to resemble his voice actor Ed Wynn


  • While recording the voice of Alice, actress Kathryn Beaumont dressed as Alice to better aid her with getting in to characters.


1952- The story of Robin Hood and his merriemen.


The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men is a 1952 live action Disney version of the Robin Hood legend made in Technicolor.

Production began in April 1951 in London. This was the second movie Disney made in the UK the first was Treasure Island in 1950.

The world premiere was in London on March 13, 1952; the New York opening was on June 26, 1952. In the wake of this film a promotional short entitled The Riddle of Robin Hood was produced. The film was one of the most popular in Britain in 1952.

Fun facts 

  • The film was made using British funds that had been frozen during WW2.


1953 – Peter Pan


Peter Pan was one of Walt Disney’s favourite stories but when he finally gained the rights to make the movie he had a hard time deciding exactly how Peter should be portrayed both in terms of appearance and characters.

During this time Disney explored many possibilities of how the story could be interpreted. In the earliest version of the story, the film started by telling Peter Pan’s back story. But on May 20, 1940 during a story meeting Disney said “We ought to get right into the story itself, where Peter Pan comes to the house to get his shadow. That’s were the story picks up. How Peter came to be is really another story.” Walt also explored opening the film in Neverland and Peter Pan coming to Wendy’s house to kidnap her as a mother for the Lost Boys. Eventually, Disney decided that the kidnapping was too dark and went back to Barrie’s original play where Peter comes to get his shadow and Wendy is eager to see Neverland.


Bobby Driscoll was both the live-action reference model, mainly used for the close-up scenes, and the voice actor for Peter Pan. Peter’s flying and action reference shots, however, were provided by dancer and choreographer Roland Dupree. Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Wendy, eldest of the Darling children, also performed for the live-action reference footage. Similarly, Hans Conried, the voice of both Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, also performed the live-action reference footage for those characters.

Peter Pan was praised by most critics during its initial release. As of 2016, the reviews have remained mostly positive with a 76% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, praising the animation itself, but also declaring that the film was not really true to the spirit of the original Barrie play.However Time Magazine gave the film a highly favorable review, making no reference to the changes from the original play.

Fun facts:

  • A sequel titled return to Neverland was released in 2002.
  • Rumor has it that Tinkerbell’s design was based on Marilyn Monroe, but it is based on live action reference model Margaret Kerry.



1953 – The sword and the rose.


The Sword and the rose is a family adventure film directed by Ken Annakin. The film features the story of Mary Tudor a younger sister of Henry 8th of England and is based on the 1898 novel ‘ When Knighthood was in flower’ by Charles Major.

The main plot of this movie is that Mary Tudor falls in love with a new arrival to court, Charles Brandon. She convinces her brother King Henry VIII to make him his Captain of the Guard. Meanwhile, Henry is determined to marry her off to the aging King Louis XII of France as part of a peace agreement.

The film’s budget exceeded that of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, but earned only $2.5 million. The film disappointed at the US box office but did better in other countries. However the relative failure of this and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue caused Disney to become less enthusiastic about costume pictures.


1953- The living desert


The Living Desert is a 1953 American nature documentary film that shows the everyday lives of the animals of the desert of the Southwestern United States.

The documentary was filmed in Tucson, Arizona. Most of the wildlife shown in the film was donated to what would soon become the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The film was inspired by 10 minutes of footage shot by N. Paul Kenworthy Jr., a doctoral student at the University of California at Los Angeles. Kenworthy’s footage of a battle between a tarantula and a wasp intrigued Disney, who funded a feature-length production following the lives of diverse desert species.

The Living Desert received some criticism for bringing unsubtle humor to its scenes of desert life – Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called Disney to task for adding jokey musical effects to several of the film’s scenes, including hoedown music for a sequence involving a scorpion battle.Nonetheless, the film was a commercial success: the US$300,000 production grossed US$4,000,000 at the box office.

The Academy Award that Disney earned for The Living Desert helped the producer make history as the individual with the most Oscar wins in a single year. At the 26th Academy Awards, in addition to winning the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, Disney also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject for The Alaskan Eskimo and the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel) for Bear Country.


Well that it for this part of the Disney timeline hope you guys enjoyed and found it interesting. In the next post we will go though the years 1954 to 1956 which include lots of films including Lady and the tramp and we will go in to the opening of Disneyland.

Follow me on Instagram @ellienickless and Twitter @NicklessEllie for updates.

See you next time




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