Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Alice in Label Land (1974)


Main image of Alice in Label Land (1974)
16mm, colour, 12 mins
DirectorRichard Taylor
Production CompanyRichard Taylor Cartoon Films
SponsorsCOI, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
CommentatorCarleton Hobbs

Voices: William Rushton, Elizabeth Proud

Show full cast and credits

Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' stories are used to explain certain sections of the Labelling of Food Regulations 1970.

Show full synopsis

This animated film was sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and was intended to explain to housewives, consumer groups and older schoolchildren the impact of the Labelling of Food Regulations 1970, which came into force on 1 January 1973. This extended the provisions of the Food and Drugs Act 1955, which required food to be wholesome, fit to eat, and "of the nature, quality and substance demanded", and the Food Hygiene (General) Regulations Act 1968, which made more specific requirements about hygiene standards in food manufacture.

As the title gives away, the dominant inspiration was Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' (1865), and its sequel 'Through the Looking-Glass' (1872). These were inspired choices, thanks not only to the audience's likely familiarity with the text (even if they hadn't read either book, a high-profile feature film adaptation was released over 1972's Christmas season), but also the number of relevant metaphors that could be extracted from the material.

The bottle marked 'DRINK ME' and cake marked 'EAT ME', both true to Carroll's original, are perfect examples of mislabelled food products with unforewarned side-effects. Alice is also shown trapped in a 'confusing wonderland' of supermarket shelves, bewildered by choice - and a passing shop assistant, the White Rabbit, flees when accosted. Despite his banner proclaiming that he's a MAFF representative, the White Knight isn't much more helpful, reciting the food regulations at speed in barely comprehensible legalese, though the Red Queen (representing local authority) is on hand to behead infringing suppliers.

The various food products that Alice encounters are named after Carroll's characters - appositely in the case of Mock Turtle Soup, used to illustrate a provision in the regulations that permits potentially misleading labelling if the food in question has been known by that name for over 30 years. (Mock Turtle Soup dates from the 18th century, and used easily available meats to substitute for the rarer, more expensive turtle).

After an inventively surreal first half, the film turns into an animated slideshow illustrating the regulations' practical impact, from the basic requirement that all labels need to have a description, a list of ingredients and a contact address, to more detailed explanations and exemptions (some staples like butter and cheese are regulated separately). Other highlighted issues include a ban on depicting ingredients not included in the product and the importance of verifiability in making claims about a specific food.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (11:10)
Alice in Wonderland (1903)
Alice in Wonderland (1966)
Rushton, William (1937-1996)