The Mad Hatter (called Hatta in Through the Looking-Glass) is the main protagonist in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Often, he is referred to as the Mad Hatter, though this term was never used by Carroll. The phrase "mad as a hatter" pre-dates Carroll's works and the characters the Hatter and the March Hare are initially referred to as "both mad" by the Cheshire Cat, with both first appearing in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in the seventh chapter titled "A Mad Tea-Party".
The Mad Hatter is a supporting character from the 1951 Disney film Alice in Wonderland, and the the deuteragonist in the 2010 Tim Burton version.
Appearances in the Alice books
The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at her celebration, she gave him the capital punishment for "murdering the time," but he escaped decapitation. In retaliation, Time (referred to as a "Him") halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterised by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away. He appears again as a witness at the Knave of Hearts' trial, where the Queen appears to recognise him as the singer she sentenced to death, and the King also cautions him not to be nervous "or I'll have you executed on the spot."
When the character makes his appearance as "Hatta" in Through the Looking-Glass, he is in trouble with the law once again. However, this time, he is not necessarily guilty: the White Queen explained that quite often subjects are punished before they commit a crime, rather than after, and sometimes they do not even commit it at all. He is also mentioned as being one of the White King's messengers, and the March Hare appears as well as "Haigha", since the King explains that he needs two messengers: "one to come, and one to go." Sir John Tenniel's illustration also depicts him as sipping from a teacup as he did in the original novel, adding weight to Carroll's hint that the two characters are very much the same.
Mad as a hatter
Although the name "Mad Hatter" was clearly inspired by the phrase "as mad as a hatter", there is some uncertainty as to the origins of this phrase. Mercury was used in the process of curing felt used in some hats, making it impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off during the hat making process; hatters and mill workers thus often suffered mad hatter disease, mercury poisoning causing neurological damage including confused speech and distorted vision.
Hat making was the main trade in Stockport, near where Carroll grew up, and it was not unusual then for hatters to appear disturbed or confused; many died early as a result of mercury poisoning. However, the Hatter does not exhibit the symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include "excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive." The Hatter and the March Hare are initially referred to as "both mad" by the Cheshire Cat, and both first appear in the seventh chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which is titled "A Mad Tea-Party". The first mention of both characters occurs in the previous chapter, "Pig and Pepper", in a conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat: (Alice): 'What sort of people live about here?' (Cheshire Cat): 'In THAT direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, 'lives a Hatter: and in THAT direction,' waving the other paw, 'lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'
It has been claimed that the Hatter's character may have been inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer. Carter was supposedly at one time a servitor at Christ Church, one of the University of Oxford's colleges. This is not substantiated by university records. He later owned a furniture shop, and became known as "the Mad Hatter" from his habit of standing in the door of his shop wearing a top hat. Sir John Tenniel is reported to have come to Oxford especially to sketch him for his illustrations. There is no evidence for this claim, however, in either Carroll's letters or diaries.
Tenniel's illustrations show a card or label in the Hatter's hatband reading "In this style 10/6". This is the hat's pricetag, indicative of his trade, and giving the price in pre-decimal British money as ten shillings and six pence (or half a guinea). In decimal money, this would be 52½p.
The Hatter's riddle
In the chapter "A Mad Tea Party," the Hatter asks a much-noted riddle: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" When Alice gives up, the Hatter admits: "I haven't the slightest idea." Lewis Carroll originally intended the riddle to be without an answer; but after many requests from readers, he and others — including puzzle expert Sam Loyd — suggested possible answers. In his preface to the 1896 edition, Carroll wrote:
Loyd proposed a number of alternative solutions to the riddle, including "Because Edgar Allan Poe wrote on both" (alluding to The Raven) and "Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes."
The Hatter has been featured in almost every adaptation of Alice in Wonderland to date; he is usually the male lead. The character has been portrayed in film by Edward Everett Horton, Sir Robert Helpmann, Martin Short, Peter Cook, Anthony Newley, Ed Wynn, Andrew-Lee Potts, and Johnny Depp. In music videos, the Hatter has been portrayed by Tom Petty, Dero Goi, and Steven Tyler. He has also been portrayed on stage by Nikki Snelson and Katherine Shindle, and on television by John Robert Hoffman, Pip Donaghy and Sebastian Stan. In ballet adaptations, Steven McRae also portrayed him as a mad 'Tapper'.
In the 1951 Disney animated feature Alice in Wonderland, the Hatter appears as a short, hyperactive man with grey hair, a large nose and a comical voice. He was voiced by Ed Wynn in 1951, and by Corey Burton in his later appearances (Bonkers, House of Mouse). Alice stumbles upon the Hatter and the March Hare having an "un-birthday" party for themselves. She sits at the table and they both run toward her, telling her "it's very very rude to sit down without being invited", although they immediately forgive her after she compliments their singing. Alice asks what an "un-birthday" is and they explain that "there are 364 days of the year that aren't your birthday; those are un-birthdays." They throw Alice a small un-birthday party. They ask Alice where she came from but they never give Alice a chance to answer. The Hatter and the Hare offer Alice tea several times, but each time she is unable to even take a sip before being ushered to another seat at the table so that the members of the party may each have a "clean cup" to use.
The Hatter asks her the infamous riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" but when she tries to answer, the Hatter denies asking her the riddle. The White Rabbit then bursts in exclaiming that he is late. The Hatter and the Hare (unwittingly) vandalize his watch by putting numerous food items into it (claiming the watch is two days slow). The Hatter and the March Hare then kick the rabbit out and Alice follows him, as the Hatter and the Hare begin singing the un-birthday song yet again. Later in the film, the Queen of Hearts calls the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse to Alice's trial. She asks them what they know of the disaster during the croquet game. Instead of answering, they throw the Queen an un-birthday party that cheers her up.
Throughout the course of the film, the Hatter pulls numerous items out of his hat, such as cake and smaller hats. He and the Hare also break the laws of physics more than once; they pour tea cups and plates out of tea kettles, and the Hatter is seen eating plates and other inedible items at the tea party, also the March Hare asks the Hatter for half a cup of tea, and the Hatter cuts his tea cup in half and pours him the tea. His personality is that of a child: he is angry one second but happy the next. He also takes an immediate liking to Alice after she tells him she's a fan of his singing.
The Hatter and March Hare make a cameo appearance in a painting in the Tea Party Garden in the Kingdom Hearts video game, and the Hatter is also a greetable character at the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland. This version of the character was also a semi-regular on the Disney Afternoon series Bonkers and one of the guests in House of Mouse, where he even made a cameo appearance in one of the featured cartoon shorts.
2010 filmThe Hatter appears in Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland portrayed by Johnny Depp and given the name Tarrant Hightopp. In the film, the Hatter takes Alice toward the White Queen's castle and relates the terror of the Red Queen's reign while commenting that Alice is not the same as she once was. The Hatter subsequently helps Alice avoid capture by the Red Queen's guards by allowing himself to be seized instead. He is later saved from execution by the Cheshire Cat and calls for rebellion against the Red Queen. Near the end of the film, the Hatter unsuccessfully suggests to Alice that she could stay in Wonderland and consummate his feelings for her.
Mia Wasikowska, who plays Alice in the film, said that the Hatter and Alice "both feel like outsiders and feel alone in their separate worlds, and have a special bond and friendship." Burton explained that Depp "tried to find a grounding to the character ... as opposed to just being mad. In a lot of versions it's a very one-note kind of character and you know [Depp's] goal was to try and bring out a human side to the strangeness of the character." The Hatter's orange hair is an allusion to the mercury poisoning suffered by milliners who used mercury to cure felt; Depp believes that the character "was poisoned ... and it was coming out through his hair, through his fingernails and eyes". Depp and Burton decided that the Hatter's clothes, skin, hair, personality and accent would change throughout the film to reflect his emotions. In an interview with Depp, the character was paralleled to "a mood ring, [as] his emotions are very close to the surface". The Hatter is "made up of different people and their extreme sides", with a gentle voice much like the character's creator Lewis Carroll reflecting the lighter personality and with a Scottish Glaswegian accent (which Depp modeled after Gregor Fisher's Rab C. Nesbitt character) reflecting a darker, more dangerous personality. Illusionary dancer David "Elsewhere" Bernal doubled for Depp during the "Futterwacken" sequence near the end of the film.
Critical reception to Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Hatter was generally positive. David Edelstein of New York Magazine remarked that while the elements of the character suggested by Depp don't entirely come together, "Depp brings an infectious summer-stock zest to everything he does: I picture him digging through trunks of old costumes and trying on this torn vest and that dusty cravat and sitting in front of his dressing-room mirror playing with makeup and bulging his eyes and sticking out his tongue." J. Hoberman of The Village Voice simply referred to Depp's Hatter as "amusing". Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic said that "Depp is exactly what you'd expect, which is a good thing. Gap-toothed and leering, at times he looks like Madonna after sticking a fork in a toaster. How he finds his characters is anybody's guess, a sort of thrift-store warehouse of eccentricities, it seems like. But it works." Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News stated that Depp's "wide eyes and high whimsy feel a bit derivative of his Willy Wonka (another collaboration with Burton), but he invests so much of his ample energy and instinct in these roles that it's hard to complain."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly had a more mixed opinion and commented that Depp as the Hatter is "a fantastic image, but once Depp opens his mouth, what comes out is a noisome Scottish brogue that makes everything he says sound more or less the same. The character offers no captivatingly skewed bat-house psychology. There isn't much to him, really — he's just a smiling Johnny one-note with a secret hip-hop dance move — and so we start to react to him the way that Alice does to everything else: by wondering when he's going to stop making nonsense." Then there's Johnny Depp, who plays the Mad Hatter with radioactive emerald eyes, an exploding Bozo carrot top, and a gaze of luminous dementia. He's a fantastic image, but once Depp opens his mouth, what comes out is a noisome Scottish brogue that makes everything he says sound more or less the same. The character offers no captivatingly skewed bat-house psychology. There isn't much to him, really — he's just a smiling Johnny one-note with a secret hip-hop dance move — and so we start to react to him the way that Alice does to everything else: by wondering when he's going to stop making nonsense. Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times stated that "there's no denying Depp's gifts and abilities, but this performance feels both indulgent and something we've all seen before."
His Mad Hatter is a genuine fashionista whom we get to see designing wacky headgear like there is no tomorrow. There's no denying Depp's gifts and abilities, but this performance feels both indulgent and something we've all seen before. Christopher Rosen of The New York Observer observed that acting-wise, "Mr. Depp is tasked with the heavy lifting, but, festooned in an orange fright wig and some very uncomfortable-looking contact lenses, he can’t even be bothered to keep his accent straight (it vacillates between an effete lisp and an angry Scottish brogue) [...] he acts like even being on set was a chore. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him break the fourth wall, take the blue pill and return home to Paris. Frankly, with how much the film drags, you’ll probably wish he had." Not one moment during the 108-minute film feels authentic. Neither does Mr. Depp’s central performance as the Mad Hatter. While Ms. Wasikowska is fine enough, her Alice is written as a straight woman; she’s required to do nothing more than react to the green-screen creations surrounding her. Mr. Depp is tasked with the heavy lifting, but, festooned in an orange fright wig and some very uncomfortable-looking contact lenses, he can’t even be bothered to keep his accent straight (it vacillates between an effete lisp and an angry Scottish brogue). When he was donning black eyeliner and doing an elaborate Keith Richards impression in Pirates of the Caribbean, you could sense the fun Mr. Depp was having while nailing a tricky performance. In Alice in Wonderland, though, he acts like even being on set was a chore. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him break the fourth wall, take the blue pill and return home to Paris. Frankly, with how much the film drags, you’ll probably wish he had."
Wonderland: A New Alice
Frank Wildhorn composed the music to and co-wrote the music to Wonderland. In this adaption the Hatter is portrayed as the villain of the story, and Alice's alter-ego. Unlike most other adaptations, which portray the character, traditionally, as a male, the character in the show is instead a mad woman who longs to be Queen.
It is also to be noted that she has an exceptionally strong right handed punch. It is referred to as a sledgehammer, she misses a punch with it and breaks a stone column with it and seems capable of knocking people out with one punch when she uses her right. She also can do tricks with her hat like throwing it into the air and the hat achieving hang time before coming back down.
American McGee's Alice
In the videogame American McGee's Alice, The Mad Hatter is portrayed as psychotic, literally gone "mad" and obsessed with time and clockworks, and considers himself to be a genius. He invents mechanical devices, often evidently using the bodies of living organisms for the base of his inventions, as he plans to do to all of Wonderland's inhabitants. His victims include the March Hare, the Dormouse, and countless insane children. This interpretation of the Mad Hatter has green skin, wears a loosened straitjacket, and has a large gear protruding out of his back. He wields a cane, and his hat is covered in astrological symbols. He appears in "Alice: Madness Returns" in the same appearance, although this time, he requests Alice's help in retrieving his lost limbs from his former compatriots the March Hare and Dormouse.
In an interview, American McGee has stated that the Mad Hatter is the embodiment of Alice's emotional state, which explains why he is psychotic in the first game, yet more preserved in the sequel.
The Looking Glass Wars
A spin-off of the traditional Alice in Wonderland story, Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars features a character named Hatter Madigan. In the Looking Glass Wars trilogy, Hatter Madigan is a member of an elite group of bodyguards known in Wonderland as the "Millinery" (After the business of selling women's hats). He is based on and in many ways resembles the Hatter but with a twist, most notably that his well-known hat is in fact a deadly weapon. He acts as the bodyguard of the rightful Queen, and as guide/guardian to the protagonist, Alyss Heart. While based on the character of Hatter, Hatter Madigan is anything but mad, and is known and respected throughout Wonderland for being a fearsome fighter and loyal servant of the Queendom.
Alice in the Country of Hearts
The Japanese manga Alice in the Country of Hearts has been translated into English, and has been recently sold in the United States. In this interpretation, the Hatter role is played by Blood Dupre, a crime boss and leader of a street gang called The Hatters, which controls one of the four territories of Wonderland.
Sir John Tenniel's drawing of the Hatter, combined with a montage of other images from Alice in Wonderland, were used as a logo by Charisma Records from 1972 onwards.
The Mad Hatter in the Pandora Hearts manga series is a chain (creature from the Abyss) that was contracted by Xerxes Break. The hatter basically looks like a large top hat with flowery decorations (similar to Break's top hat). When summoned, it can destroy all chains and objects from the Abyss within a large area. The Mad Hatter resembles the Alice in Wonderland character of the same name but gives off a more sinister feel. The character of Break himself, in fact, seems to be a melding of both the Mad Hatter and the White Knight (possibly because Break's first chain was the White Knight).
The TV series Futurama has a robot named Mad Hatterbot who is based off the Hatter. Seen only in the HAL Institute (an asylum for criminally insane robots) the Mad Hatterbot only says one line: "Change places!", which all in the room comply with when spoken. The price tag on his hat reads "5/3", a simplified form of the fraction 10/6.
A minor character, he has been in the episodes "Insane in the Mainframe" and "Follow the Reader" as well as the film Futurama: Bender's Game.
Once Upon a Time
The character was featured in a Season One episode of Once Upon a Time, "Hat Trick." Portrayed by Sebastian Stan, the character is a dual role: a man named Jefferson in one world and an out of work Hatter in the other. In Storybrooke, he is aware of the Dark Curse used by the Evil Queen, and Emma's role in destroying it. In his debut episode he takes Emma and Mary Margaret hostage, forcing Emma to help him build another magical hat to replace his missing one so that he can escape to the enchanted forest where he and his daughter, Grace can be together. However, Jefferson is defeated when Emma fakes belief in the Dark Curse and cracks him over the head with a telescope after he lowers his guard. After a rather lengthy altercation that involves freeing Mary Margaret and the eventual defenestration of Jefferson, Mary Margaret and Emma discover that Jefferson has not been killed by his fall, but has vanished. His origin as the Mad Hatter is also revealed in the episode. Apparently, the Hatter once worked for the Evil Queen to help her enter Wonderland in exchange for giving Grace a life of ease. The Queen betrays him, revealing that her plan was to retrieve her father from the Queen of Hearts, escape with the magical hat, and due to the nature of the hat, trap the Hatter in Wonderland for the Queen of Hearts' forces to capture. The Hatter is then illustrated as spending many years in Wonderland, sewing hat after hat, attempting to create one that "works".
This is not the end of the Hatter in Once Upon a Time, however. Jefferson is shown, again in Storybrooke, assisting the Queen in her attempt to rid herself of Emma in "Land Without Magic". When Regina produces Jefferson's original hat and demands his help, Jefferson understandably refuses since he has been tricked by Regina on numerous occasions. However, when Regina suggests that she may be able to help Jefferson and Grace (or Paige as she is known in Storybrooke) return to the enchanted forest, an offer he cannot refuse, he reluctantly agrees to help her figure out how to make the hat work. Ultimately, Regina is forced to sacrifice the only bit of magic that she has in this world, a ring that is imbued with the magic of her true love for her fiance, Daniel. The ring does indeed cause the hat to work, allowing Regina to retrieve the poison apple that caused Snow White's near death experience, and eventually leads to the enchantment of Henry and the breaking of the curse when Emma kisses the forehead of her son, whom she believes to be dead.
He appears again in three episodes of the second season where he reunites with Grace after the curse is broken and it is also revealed that he used to work for Rumpelstiltskin in the Enchanted Forest.
Mad T Party
The Mad Hatter appears on stage at Disneyland's California Adventure park as the lead singer of the Mad T Party Band alongside Alice, Dormouse, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, and the Caterpillar.
Ouran High School Host Club
In the episode, "Haruhi in Wonderland" from this popular anime and manga series, the main male character, Tamaki Suoh, dresses up as the Mad Hatter.
Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland
The popular Japanese anime series, Code Geass, has had a spin-off OVA (Original Video Animation) titled Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland in which the series' protagonist, Lelouch vi Britannia, tells the story of Alice in Wonderland to his younger sister, Nunnally who acts as Alice and all the other characters of the Code Geass anime begin acting as the various Alice in Wonderland characters. Near the end of the story, the characters realize Lelouch was responsible for their acting out the story and they get revenge by turning him into the Mad Hatter.
Alice: Madness Returns
The Mad Hatter freed by Alice. The Mad Hatter had been ironically torn apart at the hands of his former victims, the March Hare and the Dormouse. Alice found his head and torso in the garbage dump of his domain. She offered to collect the rest of his limbs in exchange for help. After successfully retrieving his arms and legs, Hatter became delighted, but refused to reveal any information and resorted to jabbering nonsense when Alice asked him about the Infernal Train. He did, however, lead her to the main part of the factory, where the Train was built.
After the Train passed through, the Dormouse and Hare appeared in a huge imposing looking mecha, taunting the pair and promising to destroy them. The Hatter became furious with them for their part in Alice's potential downfall by unleashing the Train. The two new leaders responded to his scolding by snatching him up with a hook. Hatter was able to free himself and destroy the mech within seconds by dropping a giant teapot on it. The weight of the teapot caused March Hare and Dormouse's deaths.
The severity of Hatter's actions finally reached him and he suffered another break with reality. He cradled his dead friends in his arms and told them that all he wanted was another tea party as his domain crumbles around him. He wrapped them both in his arms and offered them tea. Alice persistently demanded information about the Train, but Hatter does not answer her and only told her to talk to the Mock Turtle just seconds before the roof fell and crushed him.
The Hatter later appeared on the Infernal Train, criticizing Alice for her methods of solving her problems, reminiscing about a party he had with Hare and Dormouse before they turned on him. He remarked that insanity was no excuse for forgetting, and told Alice that he had tried to forget what Alice had done, but was unsuccessful.
We're All Made Here
"We're All Made Here" is an editorial and digital adventure sponsored by HOGAN REBEL and created by Italian director Bruno Miotto. This video is the first of “The Rebel Journey.Dream, believe and create”, a project celebrating the icons of the past, a journey in search of the Rebels of today. In this modern and realistic transposition of one of the best-known characters from Lewis Carroll's novel, Nick Fouquet plays himself: an American hatter. The backdrop changes from Wonderland into Venice Beach – California; the “madness" of its protagonist changes as he tells his own story, that of his ethics, his work, his lifestyle and his inspiration in an interview where his off-screen voice unleashes a maelstrom of thoughts.
Other Animated Features