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Camera Obscura: Jan Svankmajer’s Alice in Wonderland

Jul 8, 2009

by Tara Young

“Alice thought to herself, ‘Now you will see a film made for children. Perhaps. But I nearly forgot: you must close your eyes. Otherwise, you won’t see anything.’” — Jan Svankmajer’s Alicealicesun.jpg

When I was in college in Arizona, a friend of a friend had a screening of some films he had rented through the mail from Facets. Many years before that I had seen A Clockwork Orange (1971), Pink Floyd The Wall (1982), and other films that opened my eyes to the power of cinema. But it wasn’t until this screening in a small apartment in Flagstaff that I understood cinema as an art form. That evening, we watched the classic film, Mystery of Picasso (1956), and a contemporary work by Jan Svankmajer called Alice (1988).

Svankmajer’s surreal retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story was like nothing I had seen before. Part stop motion animation, part live action, this fantastical film was a dark alchemy of poetic beauty and sorcerer’s brew.

Art doll by dollings, $55.




What I love most about the work of Svankmajer — and that of his proteges, The Brothers Quay — is the use of ephemera and curiosities to animate their tales. Antiquated-looking toys, doll parts, skeleton keys, bones, and taxidermy infuse these surreal visions with an other worldly darkness that I personally find uncanny and riveting.


I am constantly on the lookout for unusual pieces that are dark and mysterious. Etsy’s Cabinet of Curiosities Team has an amazing array of shops that feature curios of the past. Whether it be old porcelain dolls or Victorian taxidermy, you can find everything you need for your own fantastical stop motion animation.

Odds and Ends Skeleton Key Trio by missemilygene, $45.


Old Sarah by Bella’s Atelier, $2,000.

What are the best Alice in Wonderland inspired items you’ve seen on Etsy? Leave a link in the comments below.



Browse Items Tagged “100 Years Old” on Etsy | Alice DVD from First Run Features

Check out Etsy’s Cabinet of Curiosities Team


I'm Late 5\/100
I'm Late 5\/100
Alice's chair. Gilded 14k gold necklace. Fairytale remnants collection.
Alice's chair. Gilded 14k gold necklace. Fairytale remnants collection.
Baby Rabbit - Canvas Giclee of Original Oil Painting - 9x12 Stretched Canvas
Baby Rabbit - Canvas Giclee of Original Oil Painting - 9x12 Stretched Canvas
Silver Whimsical Teapot Silhouette Necklace
Silver Whimsical Teapot Silhouette Necklace
Alice in Steampunk Wonderland Lolita EGL Tea Party CROWN - Handmade OOAK
Alice in Steampunk Wonderland Lolita EGL Tea Party CROWN - Handmade OOAK


  • FancifulForm

    FancifulForm said 8 years ago

    Great article. Very interesting.

  • zeropumpkin

    zeropumpkin said 8 years ago

    the vid its cool :D love all the selection too...aww alice :)

  • zwzzy

    zwzzy said 8 years ago

    OHMYGOD I looooooooove this Alice version!!!! So stoked to see this here!!

  • foamywader

    foamywader said 8 years ago

    I'm so glad someone else loves this movie too!

  • DevilMakesWork

    DevilMakesWork said 8 years ago

    YAY! Jan is one of my favorite directors ever. The new Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton will NEVER compare to Jan's genius. Too bad his lovely wife, who did the majority of the art for his films passed a few years ago.

  • PrimaryRedux

    PrimaryRedux said 8 years ago

    Oh that is so weird, crazy, cool! Love it! Thank you so much for this weirdwolf. You gave me a mini fantasy vacation just now. hmm gonna have to check out the rest of that film for sure.

  • BeadinBabe

    BeadinBabe said 8 years ago

    Wow, how awesome!!!! Alice in Wonderland rocks :D

  • edor

    edor said 8 years ago

    I love Alice in Wonderland! I fancy myself to be somewhat like her. :)

  • PlushroomSoup

    PlushroomSoup said 8 years ago

    I love Jan Svankmajer's Alice! Great article and fantastic finds. I keep meaning to put together and Alice treasury, but have never quite gotten around to it!

  • EJPcreations

    EJPcreations said 8 years ago

    Sooooo pretty!!!

  • beachhouseblues

    beachhouseblues said 8 years ago

    LOVE it!!

  • PipocaHandmade

    PipocaHandmade said 8 years ago

    Great article! Jan Svankmajer's Alice and the Brothers Quay Street of Crocodiles are 2 of my favorite films! I've always loved this Alice in Wonderland by danita's shop...

  • beautifulbridget

    beautifulbridget said 8 years ago

    So incredible! I lurve TopsyTurvy!!

  • aimeesarmoire

    aimeesarmoire said 8 years ago

    Reminds me that it's time for a nice pot of tea!

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards said 8 years ago

    that is sooo great! whimsical selection too, love it!

  • kabaliwan

    kabaliwan said 8 years ago

    Jan Svankmajer's works of art are really awesome :D


    LORiOLA said 8 years ago

    When I bought "Alice" on video in the '90s I had to special order it and it cost a fortune! It was so worth it. I've never stopped being inspired (and creeped out!).


    ANORIGINALJEWELRY said 8 years ago

    What an AWESOME spotlight article! I'm so so honored to be included :)

  • greenstreetfolkart

    greenstreetfolkart said 8 years ago

    Excellent article.

  • Itybitybags

    Itybitybags said 8 years ago

    One of my all time favorite movies and directors...Said Alice.

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 8 years ago

    An inspired collection.

  • Faeriedtreasures

    Faeriedtreasures said 8 years ago

    I LOVE this movie. I actually have a collection of pieces inspired by it. LOL.

  • vanessamoore

    vanessamoore said 8 years ago

    I have to see this movie!! :-) Thanks for sharing!

  • missindie

    missindie said 8 years ago

    Stunning! I love how romantically gothic this Alice is...can't wait for the movie!!

  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake said 8 years ago

    That video was spectacular, I have to see the rest! In answer to your Alice inspired question...[]=tags&includes[]=title

  • auberginesea

    auberginesea said 8 years ago

    How wonderfully odd! That white rabbit is just the right mix of creepy and fascinating.. An Alice-esque print:

  • livingstonandporter

    livingstonandporter said 8 years ago

    Love Alice in Wonderland- love your whimsical take on it!

  • MagnetGames

    MagnetGames said 8 years ago

    did you go to nau? here are some of my faves <3 susan. ps sorry there are so many, I just couldnt choose one

  • heidiburton

    heidiburton said 8 years ago

    I heart svankmajer, studied his films during my degree, and have seen one exhibited at the Tate gallery in London. Haven't seen his 'Alice' though!

  • daniellexo

    daniellexo said 8 years ago

    Jim introduced me to Jan Svankmajer a few years ago. Blew my mind. Cabinet of Curiosities Team was definitely a great place to find work for this post!

  • TeenAngster

    TeenAngster said 8 years ago

    I love everything you've highlighted here! Alice is aces.

  • SusanMoloney

    SusanMoloney said 8 years ago

    i'm a HUGE fan of jan svankmajer! :D he rocks!!! definitely an inspiration to many!

  • Starrbeads

    Starrbeads said 8 years ago

    Every single scene, animation, set, particulars are gems! Svankmajer's work is so, So fullof artistic microcosms. Superlatives of: incredible and genius pale, and i just leave it all for inspiration to any of us who watch!

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 8 years ago

    Love Alice in Wonderland.

  • CodyPendent

    CodyPendent said 8 years ago

    Brilliant film, all his work is pretty amazing though his later stuff became a little less interesting due to lessened use of puppetry. I particularly like Faust. Y'all should check out Ladislaw Starewicz and The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb Weird, brilliant stuff.

  • LeLapinTriste

    LeLapinTriste said 8 years ago

    ahhhh! love svankmajer and this article!!!

  • TheInvitation

    TheInvitation said 8 years ago

    Just amazing! Excellent selections too!

  • rejive

    rejive said 8 years ago

    A hauntingly beautiful piece, but I must admit I will be combing the house tonight for white rabbits before I go to bed!

  • popettes

    popettes said 8 years ago

    Alice is fantastic, but be sure to check out his other works......

  • PonderandStitch

    PonderandStitch said 8 years ago

    This is a fantastic article!! Thanks for posting it.

  • ParlorOfCuriosities

    ParlorOfCuriosities said 8 years ago

    One of my favorite stories of all time. I have a 1923 colorbook from Great Britian thats a real treasure to me.

  • ladylavona

    ladylavona said 8 years ago

    There is an amazing film called Blood String and Red Tea that was inspired by Jan Svankmajer's Alice in Wonderland. The film was made by Christiane Cegavske "Creator Extraordinaire". She opened an Etsy shop recently, selling Top Hats and Bloomers! Her shop is set on vacation...but add her to your favorites! If you are one who delights in will love my shop too! Love & Magick! xo Lavona

  • JAdamsDesigns

    JAdamsDesigns said 8 years ago

    OK that was SWEET! Gonna have to look into this a bit more! I have always loved the Alice in Wonderland story. It has always gave me weird feelings ever since I was a child, like everything was dark and more sinister than it appeared, one of the reasons I love it and the art it inspires so much. Good job with this article!!

  • LushPunk

    LushPunk said 8 years ago

    that vid was amazing! Thanks for sharing it :D

  • voleurdebijoux

    voleurdebijoux said 8 years ago

    Wonderful film! I love Alice In Wonderland! Such creative and amazing work!

  • DuBuhDuDesigns

    DuBuhDuDesigns said 8 years ago

    If you like that movie or Brothers Quay you should check out "Madame Tutli-Putli"(by Lavis & Szczerbowski) or "Peter and the Wolf" and "Dog" by Suzie Templeton. These animators are a huge inspiration to me as a doll maker. Great post!

  • DuBuhDuDesigns

    DuBuhDuDesigns said 8 years ago

    ..I just saw that you are a film maker probably own those :) Love Dollings work and Anne Julie's as well~

  • 1AEON

    1AEON said 8 years ago

    amazing!!! great story by Tara!!! no surprise!!

  • blueberryshoes

    blueberryshoes said 8 years ago

    OOOOOOOOOOOH MYYYYYYYYYYYYY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDD THAT VIDEO IS AMAZING!!!!! Sigh, the lace and the expressions, and every single second is a dream. THANK YOU!

  • JaneBoFelt

    JaneBoFelt said 8 years ago

    Great article!

  • HoneyBoo

    HoneyBoo said 8 years ago

    Loved it!! Great video!

  • evihan

    evihan said 8 years ago

    thanx for sharing...well done:-)

  • babastudioPrague

    babastudioPrague said 8 years ago

    Jan Svankmajer lives very close to us in Prague - and actually let us use the carriage from Alice for one of the illustrations for our "Shadow of the Vampuss" book - amazingly generous of him. It's great to see him acknowledged in this article.

  • Pizpireta

    Pizpireta said 8 years ago

    great video!!!! and great article

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 8 years ago

    Nice stuffs!

  • lostintheforest

    lostintheforest said 8 years ago

    My favourite film ever! Pretty much everything I ever create is based on it in some way :)

  • seaurchin

    seaurchin said 8 years ago

    You have me pining again! I used to work as a sculptor and puppet maker at Aardman Animations (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, etc) I must admit that I was always drawn to the darker side of stop frame animation....I now have a hankering to make some surreal puppets!

  • steinschmuckdesign

    steinschmuckdesign said 8 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this, Lovely!

  • PawPawsWorkshop

    PawPawsWorkshop said 8 years ago

    Great article

  • AnniesWearableArt

    AnniesWearableArt said 8 years ago

    Love the imagery and resulting mood this evokes. Wonderful way to share and expand upon Svankmajer's cinematic prowess.

  • HoneysuckleLane

    HoneysuckleLane said 8 years ago

    Very interesting! I'd never seen this version of Alice before.

  • MouseTrapVintage

    MouseTrapVintage said 8 years ago

    LOVE Svankmajer and "Alice"!!! You can watch it instantly on Netflix instant watch! Check it out:

  • capitalcitycrafts

    capitalcitycrafts said 8 years ago

    very unique and imaginative!

  • thestapeliacompany

    thestapeliacompany said 8 years ago

    I love Alice in Wonderland stuff! More artwork inspired by Alice:

  • mozui

    mozui said 8 years ago

    didn't know you did the handmade portraits, i love them!all the details, fantastic!

  • BetaBoutique

    BetaBoutique said 8 years ago

    Love Jan Swankmajer.

  • tldgrainwear

    tldgrainwear said 8 years ago

    It's such a surprise to see this video here! One my top 3 favourite directors...cheers!

  • BetaBoutique

    BetaBoutique said 8 years ago

    I have light cotton pink vintage dress with Peter Pan collar in my shop. Very similar to Alice's attire:

  • PamLefcourt

    PamLefcourt said 8 years ago

    Great but strange video and nice Article ~ I do have an old porcelaine doll I might want to put on Etsy for sale...

  • weirdwolf Admin

    weirdwolf said 8 years ago

    Thanks to everyone for the wonderful shop links and animation suggestions! Keep them coming.

  • worksandfinds

    worksandfinds said 8 years ago

    I love this article and the video.

  • moonovermaize

    moonovermaize said 8 years ago

    Whoa! That clip was fascinating and definitely makes me want to see more.

  • lizjewelry

    lizjewelry said 8 years ago

    Love it!!!

  • Radness

    Radness said 8 years ago

    Ooooh lovin' all the Alice picks!

  • lindsaybytof

    lindsaybytof said 8 years ago

  • Xenotees

    Xenotees said 8 years ago

    I love his work! Wonderful article! Brothers Quay are also out-of-this-world:

  • dadadreams

    dadadreams said 8 years ago

    Great article! I love Jan Svankmajer!

  • tigersanddragons

    tigersanddragons said 8 years ago

    This is a cool drawing of a Victorian Rabbit

  • Xenotees

    Xenotees said 8 years ago

    Oh & you should check out Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic if you haven't seen it.

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 8 years ago

    Great article and video!! I love Alice in Wonderland. I have reinterpreted Alice as a Japanese manga character. Check this out:

  • analiza123

    analiza123 said 8 years ago

    That was very interesting vedio I like it

  • Kitcameo

    Kitcameo said 8 years ago

    You completely forgot Etsy's Dark Side team T_T We even did an Alice in Wonderland theme a little while ago!

  • BrianaEdelmanDesigns

    BrianaEdelmanDesigns said 8 years ago

    I absolutely love this, brilliant!

  • TeacupAdventure

    TeacupAdventure said 8 years ago

    I've been wanting to see Alice for a while now, it looks like the perfect mix of creepiness and antiquity.

  • HansenSoapCo

    HansenSoapCo said 8 years ago

    This was amazing to watch! I saw all 9 parts. It was brilliantly done.

  • TheNebulousKingdom

    TheNebulousKingdom said 8 years ago

    LOVE this video!! thank you for posting an Article about Alice in Wonderland, this is my very favourite book. Thank you for including my "I'm Late!" print as well!!!

  • CubistLiterature

    CubistLiterature said 8 years ago

    Uhm, HELLO?! Have you seeeen my t-shirt?

  • weirdwolf Admin

    weirdwolf said 8 years ago

    CubistLiterature I love it!

  • mousesong

    mousesong said 8 years ago

    I think this print is awesome:

  • Talula

    Talula said 8 years ago

    Ooooooh, such inspiration..... thank you! Off to create...

  • junquerevival

    junquerevival said 8 years ago

    OH! I'm so inspired by this article and can't wait to follow some of the links you shared with us....

  • WingsDove

    WingsDove said 8 years ago

    Cinema IS art and the creativity in this medium is endless. Lucas and Starwars were just the "tip of the iceberg."

  • MissMinoes

    MissMinoes said 8 years ago

    Great selection of items. =^x^= Alice in Wonderland just keeps inspiring.

  • mykonos

    mykonos said 8 years ago

    I appreciate Jan Svankmajer’s work!!

  • littleSnoring

    littleSnoring said 8 years ago

    Jan Svankmeyer's Alice has been my favourite film for years. It was a favourite book when I was a kid, and when I saw Svankmeyers Alice on tv in Australia about 10 years ago - I was in love. Thanks for featuring this fantastic Czech animator and artist!! ps, is wife is a sculptor too!

  • excely

    excely said 8 years ago

    Awesome collection! One of my very favorite inspirations.

  • aminyitray

    aminyitray said 8 years ago

    Jan Svankmajer so rocks my world!!

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