A young girl named Alice sits beside her sister on a bank when all of a sudden a White Rabbit rushes past her, talking to himself about how late he is. Alice instinctively follows him down a rabbit hole. She falls and falls. Time and gravity seem to stop, so that she can explore the shelves and objects on the walls of the tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, she finds herself in a long hall, surrounded by locked doors of all sizes. She finds a key, which opens the tiniest door of all, but she is too big to fit through into the idyllic garden inside.
Alice finds a bottle labeled “DRINK ME” which she faithfully drinks and feels herself shrinking, but though she is soon the right size for the door, she can no longer reach the key for it. A cake appears labeled “EAT ME” so she eats it and grows, but she grows too much and soon fills the giant hall and starts to cry. As she cries, her big tears form a pool on the floor of the hall. She shrinks again and slips and is swept up by the pool. The pool is occupied by some other swimmers, including a Mouse, who Alice tries to befriend. But she can’t help talking about her cat, Dinah, whom she is very homesick for, and terrifies the Mouse. The animals eventually gather on the shore of the pool and debate how to get dry. The Dodo suggests a Caucus-race, which is a chaotic, rule-less race that everybody wins. Alice gives prizes but when she mentions her cat again, the animals all scurry away and she is left alone.
The White Rabbit returns, having lost his gloves, and, mistaking Alice for his maid, asks her fetch them. So Alice runs off to his house. She goes in and finds another cake, so she eats it hoping to grow back to her original size, but again she grows to gargantuan proportions and the White Rabbit returns to find arms and legs through his windows and chimney. He gets his gardener and some other animal servants to remove her – they try all sorts of methods, eventually throwing pebbles at her. These pebbles turn into cakes as they reach her, and she eats them up and shrinks again and escapes out of the Rabbit’s house and into a nearby forest.
Here, Alice meets even stranger company. First, she encounters a giant puppy, then a Caterpillar sitting on top of a mushroom who interrogates Alice about her identity. Alice isn’t at all sure who she is anymore and, when she tries to recite a nursery rhyme that she used to know by heart, it comes out all jumbled up. The Caterpillar tells her to eat the mushroom. She tries one side of the mushroom and finds it makes her smaller so quickly eats the other side, which makes her grow taller, but mostly in the neck. She swoops around above the forest, frightening a pigeon, who accuses her of being a serpent. She eats some of the shrinking side of the mushroom and sees a little house, with a Frog Footman outside, who has received an invitation for the Duchess to attend the Queen of Hearts’ croquet tournament.
Inside this house, the Duchess is nursing a pig-baby and a cook is having a temper tantrum. Everyone is sneezing because of the pepper the cook is sprinkling everywhere. The Duchess is in a terrible mood and rudely addresses Alice before flinging the baby at her. Alice decides to take the baby outside to save it from the cook’s flying pots and pans, and meets the Cheshire Cat, the Duchess’s curious vanishing grinning cat. The Cat helps Alice find her way. He says that in one direction lives the Hatter and in the other, the March Hare. They are both mad, as is everyone in Wonderland, including Alice, he claims. The baby, meanwhile, has transformed into a little pig. Alice goes off in the direction of the Hare but when she finds him, he is having tea in the garden with the Hatter and a Dormouse.
The Hatter fires riddles at Alice, and is very keen to discuss the properties of Time with her. He tells her about when he “murdered Time” while singing a song for the Queen in March (when the Hare went mad). Alice gets fed up of not being listened to and leaves the party. She soon comes upon a tree, with a tiny door, and uses the shrinking mushroom to get to the right size to go in. She finally finds herself in the beautiful garden she has been aiming for. She goes in and meets some gardeners, who are flat and cardboard like playing cards, tending anxiously to the Queen of Hearts’ rose bushes. The Queen’s procession arrive, a whole set of playing cards, carrying clubs, diamonds and hearts. The Queen manically rules over everybody and regularly orders for playing cards who disappoint or annoy her in any way to be executed – she has already sentenced the Duchess to a beheading.
The Queen takes Alice to join in the croquet game. It isn’t the kind of croquet that Alice is used to – instead of mallets and balls, the Queen’s version uses flamingoes and hedgehogs, who become quite unruly when Alice tries to use them. Also, nobody takes turns, so the pitch is suddenly a mess with animals and playing cards. The Queen gets very irate, calling for mass executions. Meanwhile, the Cheshire Cat has returned and is causing trouble with the King, but when the Queen’s officers try to catch him, he vanishes. So the game is abandoned and the Queen turns her attention to Alice.
The Queen thinks Alice ought to meet the Mock-Turtle and hear his history, so Alice is taken to see him by his old friend, the Gryphon. The Mock-Turtle slowly and sadly tells his story and soon is carried away with remembering the Lobster Quadrille and its accompanying songs, which he and the Gryphon sing for Alice. Alice then starts to tell her story and again finds that she has forgotten certain rhymes and songs, so she gives up telling her adventures and the Mock-Turtle starts a song about soup. He is interrupted by the sound of the Queen loudly commencing the Knave’s trial.
The court room is filled with the creatures Alice has met in Wonderland. The King of Hearts is acting as the judge and the jurors are a collection of dim-witted animals. The White Rabbit tells the story of the Knave’s crime. He is accused of stealing some tarts that the Queen made. The first witness is the Mad Hatter. He begins to describe the day in question, but keeps getting cut off by the Hare and the King threatens him with execution and calls the next witness. The Duchess’s cook comes to the stand, but an argument about the ingredients of the tarts halts progress. To Alice’s astonishment, she is called as final witness. By this time, she has grown again to giantess size, and knocks the jurors flying as she gets up to take the stand. Another piece of evidence is revealed, a letter supposedly from the Knave, though it has no signature. Alice tries to defend the Knave, but the Queen of Hearts is not interested in hearing anything further, she just wants to skip to the sentencing. But by now, Alice has grown not just in stature but in confidence. She will not allow herself to be afraid of a pack of cards.
At this, Alice wakes up on the bank beside her sister. She recounts her adventures, and then bounds off, leaving her sister to contemplate Wonderland herself, and imagine what Alice will be like as a grown woman.