It was filmed in Los Angeles at the MGM Studios (now known as Sony Pictures Studios) in Culver City over a 55-day period from March 12, 1985 to May 28 of that same year. Additional filming took place at Malibu Beach for the oysters scene, and establishing shots of Alice's house took place at the S. S. Hinds Estate, also in the Los Angeles area.
The first part opens with Alice helping Mother set the table for tea time. Although thankful for her daughter's help, Mother tells Alice that she is still not grown-up enough to join the adults at tea. Alice goes outside to see her sister (played by Natalie's real-life older sister Sharee Gregory), but gets bored of reading a book with no pictures. Her sister tells her that she will understand when she grows up, but Alice thinks she is already grown up (after all, she's seven and a half). While playing with her kitten, Dinah, the White Rabbit comes running by, saying he's late. Wondering where he is going, Alice follows him and tumbles into his rabbit hole. (Unlike the book and most movie versions, this rabbit hole appears to be dark and spooky.)
Alice finds herself in a hall with many doors, and all of them locked. On a table is a key which she can use to open one small door. Yet the door is far too small to even fit her head in. A small bottle appears labeled "Drink Me". She comes back to the table and puts it to her lips. Doing this, she shrinks to the right size for the door, but can no longer reach the key to open it. She then sees a small box which she opens and finds a little cake with the words "Eat Me" on it. She then grows to over nine feet tall. Frustrated with the thought of being stuck at nine feet tall, she begins to cry. Her tears fall on the floor and flow under the cracks. The White Rabbit appears, but frightened of the giant Alice runs away dropping his fan and gloves. Using the fan makes Alice shrink again to a size small enough to crawl into one of the cracks, which takes her diving in her pool of tears.
While swimming in the pool of her own tears, she meets The Lory Bird, The Dodo Bird and the Mouse, who tells her why he hates dogs and cats ("I Hate Dogs and Cats"). Alice catches up with the White Rabbit. He mistakes Alice for his housemaid Mary Ann and orders her to go get his fan and gloves from his house. While searching his house, Alice curiously finds another "Drink Me" bottle and it makes her sprout to her full nine-foot character once again. Angry at Alice, the rabbit and his butler Pat the Pig try to employ the Rabbit's head gardener, Bill the Lizard to remove Alice by pulling her out the chimney. Having tried unsuccessfully the White Rabbit and Pat begin throwing berries at her which turn into little cakes. She eats one and shrinks to back to size. After running away she meets the Caterpillar who tells her the story ("You are Old, Father William"). She then goes to the house of The Duchess and her pepper loving, plate throwing cook. Finding the house too violent and hateful, she takes the Duchess' baby away, but then it turns into a pig. She meets the Cheshire Cat, who tells her that she can't get out of this land ("There's No Way Home"). He then gives her directions to see either the March Hare or the Mad Hatter, but warns Alice that they, along with everyone else, are mad. Alice finds the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and the Dormouse having an outdoor tea party, and sits down to join them. As tea time entertainment the Mad Hatter, who does not like her version of twinkle, twinkle little star, sings Alice a song of his own ("Laugh"). Upset by the rudeness of the Mad Tea Party, Alice runs off back on her quest for the White Rabbit, and meets a baby fawn in the forest, the only normal thing she's seen so far ("Why Do People Act as If They're Crazy?").
Alice stumbles upon a doorway that leads to the rose garden of the Queen of Hearts, who always yells ("Off with her Head!") and plays croquet, or at least watches the others play. She leaves to visit the Gryphon as well as the Mock Turtle, who sings about how there is far too much sense in the world ("Nonsense"), but then she is called to attend a trial.
The trial deals with the Knave of Hearts, who is accused of having stolen The Queen's tarts. There is no proof that he did it, but again there is no proof that he did not do it, nor is there proof that anybody else did it, which proves him guilty, according to the Queen. Alice argues with the ways of the court, but inexplicably begins to grow larger again. Alice continues to argue with the Queen and even though she tells her to hold her tongue Alice refuses and tells the Queen to hold hers. The Queen becoming angry, yells "Off with her Head!" and has the guards chase the giant Alice, who is hardly afraid of them as "they're nothing but a pack of cards". Alice keeps running until she trips and falls and finds herself back home, in her normal size.
She runs happily back home, but finds that nobody is there. Hearing her cat Dinah she sees her on the other side of the mirror, along with her parents, who can only see their own reflection, and can't see or hear their daughter. Alice does not know how to get through to the other side so she sits at a nearby chair, and notices a large strange book next to her and starts reading it. It is a poem called Jabberwocky about a scary monster. Trying to prove that she is not afraid, she keeps reading, but she gets very scared as the room becomes dark and the Jabberwocky appears in the house.
The second part opens with Alice at home trapped behind the living-room mirror and invisible to her parents. The Jabberwocky scares Alice and she wishes it away, it disappears as she hides behind the chessboard, knocking it over. She sees that she has knocked all the pieces onto the floor and begins placing them back on the table, but realizes they are all alive, but can't hear her. The White Queen, White King, The Red King (Patrick Culliton) and the Red Queen decide that Alice's lifting them up was a "Tornado". Alice looks around the room and sees that a painting of an Owl has come to life. The Owl explains that until she overcomes her fear of growing up, she will be unable to return to the real world. Until then she will be stuck in Looking-Glass World, where everything is the reverse of what she expected. She is informed by The Owl that the Jabberwocky may come back any time and reveals to her that it is a creation of Alice's own fears. Alice looks around and is back in the forest again.
Along her way once more Alice has an interesting conversation with talking flowers. Alice meets The Red Queen once more, this time she is the same size as her. She tells her that she is to take the place of one of the pawns of The White Queen in a giant game of chess. Alice is to play a pawn, and finds herself now on the second square. The Red Queen tells her that she must reach the eighth square to become a queen, and only when she becomes a queen may she go home.
She boards a train to the fourth square, getting into a compartment with The Goat, The Gentleman in the Paper Suit, and The Horse. Hurt by all their teasing, and gibberish rantings, she calls the goat a silly billy goat. Realizing the train is dangerously picking up speed and has no emergency stop cord, Alice pulls the only thing she can think of, The Goat's whiskers. The train comes to a screeching stop and the Conductor tells her to get off the train.
Once she gets off the train, she asks The Gnat, if she's in the Fourth square. He says that she is and warns her about going into the woods. In the woods Alice meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who sing and dance about the proper edict of greeting one another ("Shake Hands"). After confirming that they aren't in the least bit tired they sing Alice the story of ("The Walrus and the Carpenter"). After realizing that the Walrus and the Carpenter ate all the Oysters, she runs back into the woods. She bumps into The White Queen again, who sings of the logic of ("Jam Tomorrow, Jam Yesterday") "but never ever jam today" as a consequence of living backwards and ends up turning herself into a sheep. She is then chased by a giant bird, which she initially thought was the Jabberwocky, and meets Humpty Dumpty. The Jabberwocky appears again when Alice can't control her fears, and she flees. As it pursues her the Jabberwocky knocks Humpty Dumpty off of his wall.
Alice then meets The White King and his Messenger, Haigha, who bring Alice to see ("The Lion and the Unicorn") who are fighting for the crown. The Lion and the Unicorn call a temporary truce and are intrigued by Alice, whom they perceive as a "fabulous monster". Alice then hands out a tray of cake, but every times she cuts it in half, it turns itself into a whole cake again! They explain that it is "Looking-Glass Cake", and must be past round first, then cut after. She flees the group after a deafening barrage of drums begins to play, which apparently only she can hear. Thereafter, she is captured by the Red Knight, but is rescued by the White Knight, who sings and dances her all the way to the eighth square ("We are Dancing"). Finally, Alice reaches the eighth square, where she becomes a Queen! She meets up with the Red Queen and White Queens, who invite each other to Alice's dinner party. They have a few "Queenly" tests ("Can You do Addition"), and some words of wisdom for her ("Emotions"). The White Queen, exhausted from all the excitement, falls asleep on Alice's lap, and the Red Queen sings her a soothing lullaby ("Hush-a-bye Lady"). Alice pines for her Mother and Father, who she fears she'll never see again. Finally Alice finds her way to her castle, where a great feast has been set in her honor, with many of the characters in attendance from her journey. ("To the Looking-Glass World")
Alice appreciates the feast but tells everybody that what she really wants is to go home. A present is then brought to her, out of which comes The Jabberwock. The beast starts frightening and terrorizing everyone in the castle. The White Knight tries to rescue Alice, but fails. Alice talks to the owl who tells her to act brave which is the only way for the Jabberwocky to be gone proving that it's not real. Alice manages to find her way back to the mirror and into her home, where she gets to confront The Jabberwocky. Telling him that he is just in her imagination and that she does not believe in him, in a billow of smoke and lightning he finally disappears. Alice slumps into a chair and is suddenly woken up by her Mother. She was calling Alice to tell her she is finally old enough to join the grown-ups at tea time. Alice heads upstairs to change for tea, but sees the Wonderland characters in the mirror, and they sing farewell to her ("Alice"). Tearfully, Alice waves them goodbye, as the movie ends.
In order of appearance.
The miniseries was a modest success during its original airing. Out of 71 shows, part 1 ranked at 13, and came in at 21.2 points out of a 31-point share. Part 2 ranked at 35, and came in at 16.8 points out of a 25-point share. In total, the miniseries averaged 19 points out of a 28-point share. Part 1 won easily from 8-9 P.M. opposite Hardcastle and McCormick on ABC, and TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes on NBC. From 9–9:30 p.m., part 1 was 0.6 points ahead of Monday Night Football on ABC.
The film was first released on VHS by Warner Home Video in 1986. It was reissued again in 1993, but in the case of the latter, both parts were released separately in slightly re-edited form. Part One ended with an onscreen quote from the final chapter of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as Alice ran happily towards her house, rather than the original cliffhanger. Part Two began with a "prologue" of sorts (the final minutes of Part One) and was retitled Alice Through the Looking Glass for release.
Sony Pictures Entertainment released the film on DVD in August 1, 2006, with both parts restored to how they originally aired on TV.