Author: Brianna (bri_chan)
Fandom: Alice in Wonderland (Disneyland)
Pairing: Alice/Mad Hatter
Spoilers: None. The good news is you can't really have spoilers for theme parks.
So hold one here. I'm shipping Alice and the Mad Hatter? Not only that, I'm shipping Disney's Alice and Mad Hatter? Isn't that kinda wrong? Well, if you're going by the animated versions, then you would be right. But I'm not here to talk about the animated film, I'm here to discuss the relationship between their true life counterparts, the Alice and Mad Hatter who live in the Disneyland Resort theme park in southern California.
First, to understand where I am coming from, it's very important that you completely disregard the Disney animated film, and for good reason. When Alice and the Mad Hatter came to live at Disneyland, their relationship was completely redefined, something I had to discover on my own. I have been an annual pass holder for some time but it wasn't until recently I began to take note of the characters in the park. At first it was all about the rides, but for my 21st birthday I received my first digital camera and I quickly became addicted to "Character Hunting" (which I find to be a glorious and diverting hobby. In more recent years my friend convinced me to get a job at the park and I now work there during peak seasons). Alice and the Mad Hatter became my favorite characters, because they were the most entertaining to watch. While the Princesses were friendly and beautiful, they were always sophisticated and almost overly polite. Which is okay because hey, they're royalty. But with Alice and the Wonderland crew, they could let loose, play games, and be silly to their hearts' content. The more I saw Alice and the Hatter, the more I began to notice something - they had an odd but unmistakable chemistry! In fact they often acted as if they were a couple, which led to my theory that they were secretly married, unbeknownst to the public. Sound a little far-fetched? I shall explain. But first allow to clarify some things about the Disneyland fandom.
First off, it is very difficult to gather canon facts about the characters, because as we all know (and forgive me for breaking the "Disney Magic" here) each character is played by several different actors, or "Cast Members". This means that while the character stays the same, individual personality traits change and fluctuate in drastic ways. I've noticed some Mad Hatters to be very sweet and funny, while others are devious and crafty. If you were to ask one Mad Hatter when his birthday is, he may reply that he doesn't have one, he only celebrates unbirthdays. But if you were to as the same question to another actor, he may answer that he simply doesn't remember his birthday. So what do you accept as canon? The truth is I don't know, but I do think you can choose to believe either one. The point is that canon facts about the characters at Disneyland are always changing. Therefore the evidence I present in this essay is the information that I have gathered myself. The facts may change with the passing of time, but for now I'll simply discuss what I know.
Gathering facts is also tricky, because you have to know what to say and do. In fact, answers rely on who is asking the question and where. For example, you couldn't simply approach the Mad Hatter and ask him if he and Alice are dating. In my opinion, this is where the character ends and the actor emerges. His answer would most likely be something like "Good heavens, NO! What are you, MAD?" because this is what his employers would require him to say. But if a fellow cast member were to ask him the same thing backstage (where characters have a reputation for being "naughty") he could very well answer with "Oh absolutely, we shag all the time!". No wonder this can be tricky.
Any Disney fan should be familiar with the Wonderland story. Alice is a strange, quirky young girl who fell into Wonderland while chasing the White Rabbit. She often lets her curiosity get the best of her, so she doesn't always make the right decisions. If you meet her in person, you'll find that she is an absolute sweetheart, but hanging around the Wonderland cast for so long has made her a bit strange (Alan Thompson, the piano player at the Main Street Corner Cafe, once introduced Alice to the theme of The Twilight Zone). Alice is only known to get a bit snappy with the Mad Hatter. She tries so hard to be the logical counterweight to his madness, but she often ends up as nonsensical and mad as him. Which is probably why she's still stuck in Wonderland.
The Mad Hatter
The best word to describe the Mad Hatter is, well...mad. If he weren't so gosh-darn lovable, he would probably be thrown into the nearest asylum or mad house. He's one of the strangest people you'll meet in Disneyland and depending on the actor who plays him (pictured above is one of my personal favorites), the Hatter's moods can range from playful to downright mischievous. He often entertains guests with games like Musical Chairs and Duck-Duck-Goose, and he even does the occasional magic show. Although, as he described himself, if you love amazing, mystical magic shows with astounding tricks, then you're going to hate his show. He may be a goof, but he's a charming goof. As you can see, his appearance has changed drastically from the animated film. Instead of a short, stocky man with buck teeth, he's transformed into a tall, thin, attractive man complete with freckles. Oh how I love those freckles. The Mad Hatter is also a surprisingly good dancer, escpecially in the Parade of Dreams. If they do hold a royal ball at Disneyland, I'm sure he would make Alice a very good dancing partner (if she can get him to behave of course).
The Age Difference
Perhaps it would be best to get this part out of the way. One of the things that might squick some people is the rather large age difference between these characters. But just exactly how old are they? The truth is there's no way of knowing. There are in fact three different ways of interpreting their ages.
The first and most obvious would be their biological ages. Alice is a young girl, most likely around the age of 12, which the Mad Hatter implied himself ("What do I look like, a twelve year old girl?" - referring to either Alice or Wendy, or both). The Mad Hatter appears to be a middle aged man in his fifties, give or take a decade. While I don't go with this theory myself, I should remind you that young girls being romantically involved is nothing new to Disney. Most every Disney Princess was 16 years or younger, and Snow White herself was married at the age of 14. And hey, even I know many people who are into the older man/younger woman relationship. If that's your cup of tea, then go for it.
The second way of looking at it is not going by the age of the characters, but rather the ages of the actors. The minimum age requirement to be a face character is 17, which usually makes Alice and the Mad Hatter in their early to mid-twenties. The only problem with this theory is that it takes away from the Disney Magic, which most people generally dislike.
The third idea, and probably the one that CAN be accepted as canon, is that all the Wonderland characters are essentially ageless, and I recently discovered new evidence to support this idea. On one of my recent trips, I did ask the Mad Hatter when his actual birthday was, out of curiosity. He told me that he honestly couldn't remember his birthday because he stopped celebrating it nearly 60 years ago (which, by the way, is about the time the animated film was released). He said that long ago he celebrated his birthday with the March Hare and the Door Mouse but the next day they were all very sad because it was over. But then they realized they could celebrate unbirthdays 364 days a year, and it's been that way ever since. So essentially, the Mad Hatter and everyone else in Wonderland stopped having birthdays, and thus they ceased to age. Even Alice herself has become deathly afraid of birthdays. I've seen her shy away from children because she feared their birthdays were "contagious". When a woman approached the Mad Hatter and told him it was her birthday, the Hatter shrieked, ran from her, and tried to hide behind other guests (A BIRTHDAY? OH NOES!). And lastly, I did once hear a child ask Alice how old she was. The piano player beside her told the boy that she was at least 50 years old (due to the 50th Anniversary of the park). Therefore, age doesn't appear to be an issue in this relationship.
I Love to Hate You
Don't let the picture fool you. Alice and the Mad Hatter have one of the most unstable and confounding relationships in the park. In fact, they have one of the most extreme love/hate relationships I've seen in a good long while. These two bicker, argue, fight, tease, and torment each other to no end. If they fought any more, I'd probably have to take this essay over to lovethineenemy.
One of the Hatter's favorite hobbies is to constantly remind Alice of how not pretty she is. It's a classic example of being cruel the person you like, as a twelve year old boy would tease the girl he secretly has a crush on. I've heard so many accounts of the Hatter insulting Alice, here are some of my favorites.
"Be careful Alice, your face might break the camera"
- Mad Hatter, when Alice was asked for a photo
Me: Hey, I happen to think Alice is very cute!
Mad Hatter: Oh dear, you need to have you eyes checked!
Hatter (to a young boy): Repeat after me. 'I think Alice is very pretty'.
Boy: I think Alice is very pretty.
Hatter: Wonderful! You must be an actor. You sound like you actually believe it! Because she's really not pretty at all.
"I can still see out of my left eye. Barely. But I am very fortunate to have my own seeing-eye dog: Alice."
- Mad Hatter, when he got flour in his eye while helping bake cookies
There was another time I saw the Mad Hatter doing impressions of other characters, such as Peter Pan, the Queen of Hearts, and Pluto, which were all fine and dandy. But when asked to do an impression of Alice, he made a grotesque face with his eyes crossed, mouth open, tongue hanging out, and arms raised in a Godzilla-like pose.
My belief is that the Hatter acts this way because, let's face it, he's a very unstable man. He probably has difficulty expressing his feelings around Alice, and especially to other people and random guests. So what's the best way to cope with it? Pretend he doesn't like her. But I have found evidence to prove that this is just an act and he really does have some feelings for her, even if they are buried deep deep down.
Cast Member Testimonials
I have asked many a Cast Member about Alice and the Mad Hatter and I've gotten some interesting responses. Character Hosts and escorts are scattered throughout the park, usually with the characters. Sometimes I'll ask them if Alice and the Mad Hatter are coming out into the park that day and here are some of the answers I've gotten.
It was about 5pm when I asked a Host if they had any more plans to come out for photos. Her reply was "Well, Alice and the Mad Hatter go to bed early, so I don't think they'll be out for the rest of the evening." Let's take a look at that one more time. They go to bed early. Notice she didn't say "separately" and neither did she mention anything about the other Wonderland characters. I feel this implies that perhaps Alice and the Hatter live together. My theory is that they share a secret apartment above the Mad Hatter's hat shop in Fantasyland. She could have easily said something like "Oh Alice goes to bed early and the Mad Hatter goes to have evening tea with the March Hare." But nope! They go to bed early. In all honestly, I had to stifle my giggles when I heard that.
Other Hosts have told me that Alice and the Mad Hatter would be out later in the day, but they were backstage "having tea together" or "they're off playing a game of croquet and they'll be out later." What's very sweet is that when they play croquet during one parade, the Mad Hatter actually takes Alice by the hand and walks with her down the street. But I think the best one by far was when a Host told me they were "off having a picnic together." Romantic images filled my mind of a red and white checkered blanket spread beneath a tree with tea and cakes spread about. Alice leans against the tree while the Hatter's head rests in her lap, as they enjoy the sunny day and fresh air. My goodness, for a pair that argues constantly, they sure do spend a lot of time together, both backstage and out in the park. They are also quite comfortable with each other's company, and don't mind being physically close to each other. Think about it, if the Mad Hatter really hated Alice, why would he spend nearly all of his time with her?
May I Have This Dance?
Here's something that many people tend to forget: in nearly all the Disneyland theme parks, it's tradition for the couples to appear and dance together in the parades. Aurora and Philip, Cinderella and Charming, Ariel and Eric, Belle and the Beast, etc. But everyone seems to overlook the fact that Alice and the Mad Hatter dance together as well! In fact, in the Christmas parade of 2005, Alice and the Hatter held hands while walking together, and not in the 'politely leading her down the street' way, but in a possessive 'this is MY girl' way. As far as I know, the video of this parade is still available to download at LaughingPlace.com. Watch the video and see for yourself.
What I also love about this pairing is that Alice and the Hatter are a very natural couple, very different from the Princesses. They have their faults and downsides, just like any other couple would. They call each other names and they have pointless competitions, like seeing who can stir their bowl of cookie dough the fastest. Please note that I'm not dissing the Princesses and their Princes, I'm a fan of all Disney couples! But I saw something quite adorable in the Parade of Dreams one night. When the Princess float passed by, Prince Charming spun Snow White in a beautiful and well choreographed manner. But when I saw the Wonderland float pass by, the Mad Hatter tried to spin Alice in the same way but they got horribly confused and failed miserably. And even during the parade show stop, they fumble and trip over each other. It's so cute to see them goof up, because it makes them that much more real.
Oh, and I'm posting this photo I caught just for the hell of it, because it was too funny to pass up. It looks like the Hatter is doing some kind of provocative dance while Alice covers her eyes, and seems to shout "Mr. Mad Hatter, not in public!"
Why Do I Ship Them?
So with all the canon Disney couples running around the park, why choose Alice and the Hatter? Well, because to me they're a breath of fresh air. Since it's never been confirmed that they are a couple, I've had so much fun watching them and trying to interpret their relationship for myself. Princess Aurora will scold Philip for wanting to braid her hair while she's trying to spend time with children, and it's remarkably adorable. Cinderella and Charming are the picture perfect couple and they look fabulous together. But with the Mad Hatter and Alice, there's always the mystery. The question constantly plagues my mind, are they together or aren't they? And these are the things that make fandom fun. It's possible to interpret their relationship in so many different ways, and hell, I needed something to distract me from the enormously long lines and large crowds.
Following and studying the characters has given me new motivation and an even deeper love of the park. And the best of all, this fandom is never-ending. Each time I go, I discover something new that keeps me fascinated with one of the oddest couples in Disneyland history.
Sadly, I am one of the very few to ship Disneyland!Alice/Mad Hatter, so I'm sorry to say there's not much material out there. In most of my searches, I have found Alice/Hatter fanfics, but most of them are very poorly written and take place in American MacGee's Alice, an entirely different fandom which I won't even begin to discuss here. I have found one fanfic that I absolutely love, and while it may not say it's based on Disney, it could certainly be interpreted that way.
A Tranquil Diversion - Beautiful and bittersweet, the author uses a very Carroll-esque style of writing.
There are a few Alice in Wonderland communities, although none of them are Alice/Hatter specific. mad_teaparty is one of my favorites. For more Disney-centered communities, there's disneyland and disneyfreaks, where Alice in Wonderland is always welcome.
EDIT: My good friend Jenny and I have actually started our own community at curiousinsane. There you will find short stories, photos, and musings about the Alice/Mad Hatter pairing.
The good news is I can offer plenty of my own fanart from my gallery at deviantART. There's plenty of Alice/Hatter works scattered throughout the site.
And lastly, I'd like to provide you with my Disneyland Character Gallery, where I've posted hundreds of my own photos of Alice, the Mad Hatter, and all the other major characters that appear in the park.