Alice in Wonderland “The Un-Birthday Song” (1951)

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Alice in Wonderland- The Cheshire Cat

After a series of nonsensical encounters, Alice makes her way further into Wonderland and encounters the Cheshire Cat. Still determined to find the White Rabbit, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat if he knows where to find him. While the Cat doesn’t know himself, he advises Alice to ask either the Mad Hatter or the March Hare, who is also mad. When Alice objects at the idea of “going among mad people” the Cheshire Cat remarks that “Oh you really can’t help that, most everyone is mad here.” Knowing this, Alice decides to take a chance and visit the March Hare on the grounds that maybe he’s not quite as mad as a Mad Hatter.

alice in wonderland tea party

Alice in Wonderland “The Un-Birthday Song” (1951)

As it turns out, the choice doesn’t really matter because Alice ends up seeing both anyway, as the pair are having a tea party at the  home of the March Hare (along with their friend the Dormouse). And it’s not just any kind of party either, it’s an Un-Birthday party!! The trio are gathered at a long table lined with all kinds of chairs and an eccentric collection of tea sets, all raucously wishing each other a very merry un-birthday.

The Mad Hatter was voiced by Ed Wynn (perhaps best remembered as Uncle Albert, the man who laughed so hard he kept floating up to the ceiling in Mary Poppins (1964)). The March Hare was voiced by Jerry Colonna (who also narrated the Disney shorts Casey at the Bat (1946) and The Brave Engineer (1950)). The Dormouse was voiced by Jimmy MacDonald, who also happened to be the voice of Mickey Mouse at the time (he played the world’s most famous mouse from 1948 until 1977, taking over from Walt Disney when the latter’s voice grew too hoarse to perform as Mickey.)

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As I was saying, the trio were all busy singing about un-birthdays:

A very merry unbirthday to me!
To who?
To me!
Oh you!

A very merry unbirthday to you!
Who me?
Yes, you!
Oh, me!

Let’s all congratulate us with another cup of tea!
A very merry unbirthday to you!

Alice is delighted with the song, but the Hatter and Hare are initially not pleased with her appearance (they insist there’s “no room” at the enormous table); but they’re quickly won over when Alice remarks how much she enjoyed their singing at this “birthday party.” (You’ll note a running gag in this interlude is that Alice is very nearly handed a cup of tea several times only to have it jerked away at the last possible moment). When the insulted Hare, Hatter and Dormouse insist that this is an “Un-Birthday Party,” Alice admits she doesn’t even know what that is, prompting the Hare and Hatter to explain:

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Now, statistics prove, prove that you’ve one birthday
Imagine, just one birthday every year
Ah, but there are three hundred and sixty four unbirthdays!
Precisely why we’re gathered here to cheer

Alice chimes in: Then today is my unbirthday too!

It is?
What a small world this is.
In that case…
A very merry unbirthday,
To me?
To you!

A very merry unbirthday
For me?
For you!

Now blow the candle out my dear
And make your wish come true
A very merry unbirthday to you!

An interesting detail about this film is that it was nearly entirely shot in live action to serve as reference for the animators. Fortunately for us, the live action footage of the Mad Tea Party survived to the present day, and a talented YouTuber by name of Broadway Classixs synced the two pieces of footage together to show the origins of this hysterical scene.

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The Mad Tea Party: Live Action/Animated Comparison

With the song over, Alice is eager to ask the Hatter and Hare if they know where the White Rabbit is, but it soon becomes obvious that holding any type of rational conversation is a near-impossible task. For one, the Hatter and the Hare are constantly interrupting each other (or Alice); second, the group is constantly changing places around the table so they can get clean tea cups and third…there’s no need to look for the White Rabbit because he comes running directly by! Unfortunately for the Rabbit, the Hatter and Hare decide he simply must stay for tea…and also that his pocket watch needs fixing (with butter, jam, sugar and a healthy splash of tea). The miserable Rabbit, still complaining that he’s late, hurries off and a frustrated Alice follows, thoroughly fed-up with the antics of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. Even though Alice sang wistfully about living in a nonsense world at the beginning of the story, she’s quickly finding out that actually living in a nonsense world is quite another matter altogether.

And that’s “The Un-Birthday Song”! I hope you enjoyed it, for more Alice in Wonderland, see the links below. And also let me know if you liked this song in the comments 🙂

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For more Disney songs, see here

See also:

Alice in Wonderland “Painting the Roses Red” (1951)

Alice in Wonderland “All in the Golden Afternoon” (1951)

Alice in Wonderland “In a World of My Own” (1951)

Alice in Wonderland (1951) takes us down the rabbit hole

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6 thoughts on “Alice in Wonderland “The Un-Birthday Song” (1951)

  1. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland “Painting the Roses Red” (1951) | Film Music Central

  2. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland “All in the Golden Afternoon” (1951) | Film Music Central

  3. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland (1951) takes us down the rabbit hole | Film Music Central

  4. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland “In a World of My Own” (1951) | Film Music Central

  5. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (1951) | Film Music Central

  6. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland “Very Good Advice” (1951) | Film Music Central

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