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The Mad Hatter is a resident of Wonderland and the best friend of the March Hare. Together, the two commonly engage in tea parties; most of which are to celebrate their "unbirthdays". While the Hatter is loud, eccentric, and insane like the rest of Wonderland's residents, he's also rather charming, and can be mild-mannered from time to time, particularly when dealing with visitors such as Alice. According to Hatter, he and the March Hare never get compliments on their singing, and they're usually the only attendants at the frequent unbirthday parties, apparently making the duo outcasts in the realm of Wonderland. This is most likely due to their overbearing antics and personas, as well as the fact that they're both, especially the Mad Hatter, troublemakers, albeit innocently so. This could be seen when the Mad Hatter made an attempt to "fix" the White Rabbit's watch.
As said before, one of the Mad Hatter's traits include being rather charismatic. He tends to use terms such as "my dear" when referring to Alice, is shown to be courteous, and is overall the warmer side of the duo that is himself and the March Hare, who is far more rambunctious and outspoken.
The Mad Hatter is seen when Alice wonders off in the forest and the Cheshire Cat tells her to visit them for directions back home. Alice visits as the Mad Hatter is in the middle of a very odd tea party with the March Hare and the Dormouse. They are singing "The Unbirthday Song" but are interrupted when Alice starts to applaud. At first, they are upset because Alice came without an invitation, but become pleased when Alice compliments their singing and they welcome her to join. As Alice tries to explain her reasons for visiting, the Mad Hatter and March Hare keep changing the subject. Soon the party is once again interrupted by the White Rabbit. Alice tries to converse with him, but the Mad Hatter grabs a hold of the Rabbit's watch and finds out why he's so late: the watch is "two days slow." The Mad Hatter dips the watch in tea and opens up to discover - with a salt container as a lens - the problem: the watch is full of wheels. As a result, he takes out many wheels and springs with a fork in his attempt to fix it. He adds ingredients to the mixture: the very best butter, tea, two spoons, jam, mustard (which is rejected, since it's too silly for him), and lemon. Thinking that it's done the trick, the Mad Hatter closes the watch. Then, the watch goes haywire and spits out springs and wheels all over the place as it moves across the table. The March Hare uses a mallet to crush the "mad watch," bringing tears to the Rabbit. After hearing that the watch was an Unbirthday present, the Mad Hatter and March Hare wish him a "very merry Unbirthday" and get him on the run.
The Disney movie suggested the reason for the many cups was that every day was an "Unbirthday", when in fact in the books it was because the Mad Hatter had argued with his friend Time, and it was now always six o'clock, time for tea.
Later on, the Hatter, March Hare, and Doormouse are brought the Queen of Heart's courtroom when Alice is put on trial for supposedly humiliating Her Majesty purposely. When Mad Hatter bows down the Queen of Hearts one of her Cardguards pokes him in the rear causing him to scream and lands near her who then yells him to take off his hat making him jump out of his shoes. When asked where he was during the incident, the Hatter explains he was home drinking tea to celebrate his unbirthday, which reminds the King of Hearts that it was the Queen's unbirthday as well, thus causing the Mad Hatter and March Hare to bring the trial to a halt to celebrate. However, when the Cheshire Cat appears and his name is shouted by Alice and the Queen, the Dormouse goes into panic, leading to a chase that humiliates the Queen once again, though the Mad Hatter and March Hare are able to escape her wrath, leaving Alice to take the blame.
The Mad Hatter and March Hare are last seen during after Alice tries to escape the Queen and her guards, stopping the girl, insisting she joins them for a cup of tea, as their tea party is still going on. Fortunately, she escapes, and it turns out her adventure in Wonderland was all but a dream.
In the Bonkers cartoon series, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare appeared as Bonkers D. Bobcat's personal make-up artists back when he worked at the Wackytoons Studio. In the series, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare live in the "H" in the Hollywood sign.
Though a recurring character, in a sense, most of the Hatter's roles are brief and minor.
However, he played his largest role as a major supporting character in the episode "In the Bag". Here, Hatter calls fourth Bonkers and Lucky Piquel to uncover the disappearance of his and the March Hare's valuable teacups. Trouble begins to arise when every inch of the Hatter's property, including the March Hare himself, also goes missing. As the Hatter sobs in despair at his loss, Lucky and Bonkers arrive, and the frustrated Mad Hatter takes the opportunity to inform the duo of the most recent missing items, beginning with the Hare. Just then, the Hatter vanishes, as well, and it's soon revealed everything was taken by a klepto handbag, longing for companionship. When Lucky asks the Hatter if he'd like to have the bag arrested, however, he refuses, claiming the bag is now his friend, which eventually leads to the Hatter and the Hare arguing over which the handbag belongs to, as far as friendship goes.
The Mad Hatter has numerous cameos in the popular television series House of Mouse. He usually appeared as one of the guests at the titular nightclub, often having tea with the March Hare as usual. In "Daisy's Debut", he auditioned for the role of Genie. In "Dining Goofy", he showed to be amused with the fact that he was seated with Claude Frollo. In "Max's Embarrassing Date", he is seen "dating" Mrs. Potts and after Goofy's being tipped over; bumping into Mrs. Potts, he asks "Oh, dear! one lump or two?" and later pops his head out of his table in shock after the mess Goofy made to all the guests and their tables. In "Ask Von Drake", during "The Ludwig Von Drake Song", he is seen pouring some tea into Alice's cup through his shirt sleeve, like in the movie. In the episode "House of Scrooge", after the club's massive screen was replaced by a small television set, the Mad Hatter commented on the peculiar size, resulting in the March Hare after a size-reducing "Drink Me" bottle to help. In that same episode, the Hatter and the Hare were the only guests to remain in the club after Scrooge's cheapness ran most of the others away.
In the 1995 series, the Mad Hatter was a recurring character portrayed by John Robert Hoffman. The Mad Hatter lives in a house shaped like a hat, and is usually seen at his perpetually set tea table. He tends to be rather careless with his dishes and cups. The Mad Hatter is Wonderland's chief inventor, often devising crazy machines and potions to get himself and the gang out of trouble. However, the devices tend to get them into further trouble. He also has an affinity for disguises, such as fake beards and nose/eyeglasses. His catch phrase was, "How true that is."
Jefferson, played by Sebastian Stan, is the Mad Hatter and owns a magical hat that he can use to travel between different worlds. In the past, he used his hat to retrieve objects for the Evil Queen. However, he gave his job up as his daughter Grace lost her mother because of it. He lives with Grace in the forest, and they collect and sell mushrooms to survive. When the Queen asks for another favor, he initially refuses, but eventually agrees with the condition that his daughter "will want for nothing" afterward. He takes the Queen to Wonderland, and she rescues her father Henry. However, his hat will only take two back to the Queen's realm because only two left that realm. The Queen tells him that if he truly cared for Grace, he would have never left her. Jefferson is left behind and captured by the knights of the Queen of Hearts. He is beheaded when he does not tell her how he came to Wonderland, but he survives. He is then ordered to make another magical hat to return home. His head is then reattached, leaving a scar around his neck. Although he makes thousands of hats, none are able to take him home, leading him into insanity.
In Storybrooke, he is able to remember life in the house, from which he uses telescopes to spy on Sheriff Emma Swan's office and on his daughter Grace, who is now named Paige. He captures Mary Margaret Blanchard after she escapes from her cell though he says he did this to save her from the curse, as she was intending to leave Storybrooke. He later abducts Emma when she goes looking for Mary Margaret. He orders Emma to make a magical hat that will take him home: a task only she can do as she has brought magic to Storybrooke. He also tells Emma that the curse is real and that his curse is to watch Grace be happy with a different father and know that he does not belong to the world she is living in. She makes a hat, but she is unable to make it take him home. She and Mary Margaret eventually escape by pushing him out a window. He disappears immediately after, leaving nothing but the hat Emma made. Jefferson returns when Regina leaves a White Rabbit playing card on his daughter's bike. She tells Jefferson she can return his daughter to him with her memories returned.
However, Jefferson feels that would be cursing his daughter to remember both of her lives and instead demands he be allowed to forget and have a new life with his daughter. Regina agrees provided Jefferson help her get rid of Emma. With the last bit of Regina's magic, they get his hat working again and he retrieves the cursed apple that put Snow White into a deathlike sleep. When he calls on Regina to uphold her end, she promises that she will after Emma is gone. After Emma's son Henry accidentally eats the poisoned apple, Regina refuses to help Jefferson, blaming him. Furious, Jefferson frees Belle from her cell and instructs her to tell Mr. Gold that Regina held her captive, knowing that Mr. Gold will want to take revenge.
Later after taking advice from Henry, Jefferson finds and reunites with Grace and the two possibly go off to his home.
The Mad Hatter has appeared in various comic stories. He notably plays a role in the Romano Scarpa story The Blot's Double Mystery. His hat shop in Mouseton has been one of the victims of the crime wave of the escaped Phantom Blot, who has also been using hypnotism in an effort to incriminate Mickey. In the English localization, he is called Thomas Topper and not formally identified as the Mad Hatter (the fact that he looks like the character is terefore retconned as a funny coincidence). The reason for the change is unknown; it is likely that the translator thought this crossover character was out of place in an otherwise serious story, although it might also come from the inconsistency of the Hatter owning a shop in Mouseton instead of Wonderland.
In the popular videos game, Kingdom Hearts, there is a location in the world Wonderland and the March Hare's house appears with a portrait of the Mad Hatter and March Hare. His hat also appears on a store's sign in Traverse Town.
The Hatter also makes an appearance as an active, physical character in the mobile game Kingdom Hearts χ.
The Mad Hatter appears as a meet-and-greet character in Fantasyland. He is also present in the Alice in Wonderland-based mini-games where he and the March Hare dance with the player at one of their Unbirthday parties. Like the other characters in the game, The Mad Hatter asks the player to complete several tasks. At one point, the Hatter becomes the coordinator for The Queen of Hearts' upcoming Unbirthday party. He then asks the player to collect some paper so that he may begin creating the invitations. Right after, he asks the player to inform Alice about the event.
The Mad Hatter is a meetable character in the Disney parks and is the most common Alice in Wonderland character from the film other than Alice. In the Disneyland park, he is commonly seen with Alice, Peter Pan and Wendy. Originally, the Mad Hatter appeared as a "fur character" like Mickey and Donald. By the end of the 1980s, park executives changed him to a "face character", allowing him to interact with the guests.
The Mad Hatter is often cited as Alice's closest friend. This is because of the strong relationship in the Disney Parks and the two often being paired in other media and merchandise. However, in the movie, the two were downright antagonistic toward each other.
The Mad Hatter served as visual inspiration for the Hatbox Ghost, who has even been theorized by some fans to have been a hatter in life.
In the book Disney Trivia from the Vault - Secrets Revealed and Questions Answered by Dave Smith, on page 9, it is written that the '10/6' on the Mad Hatter's top hat is not a fraction, but the price of the hat, ten shillings and six pence, in the former currency of Britain. There were twelve pence in a shilling and twenty shillings in a pound. In 1971, this complicated money system was changed to a decimal-based one, doing away with the shilling.
According to some, in the original book, the character of the Mad Hatter was based on the ocurrence of hatters who, after using too much mercury in the fabrication of hats, ended up with psychological problems due innalation of mercury fumes. Other sources have it that he's based on an eccentric acquaintance of Lewis Carroll, Theophilus Carter, who was often nicknamed the Mad Hatter because of his strange habit to stand for hours in front of his furniture shop, wearing a top hat. He might also simply have been based on the expression "as mad as a hatter", which according to linguists does predate the publishing of Lewis Carroll's book.