51 Days of Disney (Day 13): Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland was a feature that Walt wanted to make since the beginning of feature animation. The feature went into production hell as soon as Fantasia flopped and ended up being shelved for a while. It was one of the movies put into production with Cinderella, but the film had numerous problems as it was getting made. The biggest problem was the story. Alice in Wonderland is a combination of both of the Alice novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (and What Alice Found There), and that presents an interesting problem when it comes to adaptation. There really isn’t any sort of “story” to Alice in Wonderland, it’s really just a collection of vignettes strung together around the framework of a young girl travelling through a strange world.

Version watched: 2011 Blu-Ray release with DisneyView

This is very much the story of the Disney version, Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) is a young British girl who chases a time-challenged rabbit down a hole and into Wonderland where she meets a host of bizarre characters such as the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn, Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins and was the main characters in one of the best Twilight Zone episodes, “One for the Angels”), Cheshire Cat (Sterling Halloway), Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (who tells her the story of the “Walrus and the Carpenter”, which is my favourite part of the movie. Both of the Tweedles and all of the characters in the “Walrus and the Carpenter” were voiced by J. Pat. O’Malley) and the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton).

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite Disney films, partially because of the general oddness of the film and the characters, but also because of the animation. The days of the cheaper animation from the 40’s are long since gone and the Disney feature animation is back on it’s “A” game for this feature. All of the characters are very distinctly designed and all move very differently from one another. Every thing is fluid and detailed and looks just as good as the earlier features.

This movie is just a lot of fun. Scenes switch up every few minutes and there are new and different characters constantly entering in and out of the movie, but at no point in the movie does the pacing feel rushed. Everything flows well and no segment outstays it’s welcome. The incredibly reactive music captures this very frantic style of storytelling well and is used to great effect with setting the mood for all of the small events that happen throughout. Marc Davis’ masterful animation of Alice herself really helps to ground the film and give people something consistent to hold onto as the movie constantly switches gears.

The look of this movie is distinctively Mary Blair. Everything down to the colour choices are based off of her concept art for the movie and it really shows. She has a brilliant eye for colour and anyone doing a colour study should look at the work she did for this film.

This film profited at the box office, but it was met with some very critical and very harsh reviews, especially in the United Kingdom and by literary scholars. One of the problems people had with the movie was the fact that the social commentary that was present throughout the original novels were barely touched upon in the film. The books were actually a harsh indictment of the Victorian educational system and the only aspect of that intent that still remains in the film is the hookah-smoking caterpillar and his new learning rhyme.

Alice in Wonderland is easily one of the most interesting animated Disney films out there and everyone should take the pleasure of viewing it.


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