Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Alice in Wonderland 1951

Personal Overview: Alice in Wonderland was one of the first Disney films I can remember being released to video and that was how I first saw it. By that stage I’d already read and reread Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, so was very familiar with the source material.

I personally thought Disney did an excellent job of translating it. He combined the two books and cut out some things that just didn’t work. Admittedly he made Alice a blonde when I think she’s described as being dark haired in the books, or is portrayed that was in Tenniel’s iconic illustrations. While I like Tenniel I’ve always seen Alice as blonde in my head, so I liked that change. I also think Disney’s White Rabbit is perfect.

It’s a fairly short film and it moves at a cracking pace. Kathryn Beaumont (who also voiced Wendy Darling in Peter Pan) did a fantastic job with Alice. Her voice just sounds right.

Hero/es: again the title gives it to us, that’s Alice. I liked Disney’s Alice, but then again I also like the Alice from the books and while Disney took liberties with the story he stayed true to the character of Alice from the books. She is classic TSTL (too stupid to live) with her impulsiveness or maybe it’s that she’s been conditioned to do what she’s told, so if a cake has ‘eat me’ written on it, she does so without question. She’s polite to a fault, but can break that when she feels she has to like getting away from Tweedledum and Tweedledee when after telling her the story of The Walrus and the Carpenter they get set to launch into You Are Old Father William, and she does lose her temper with the Red Queen, but then again as the Queen is threatening to cut her head off at the time that can be excused.

Villain/s: it could be argued that the Cheshire Cat is actually a villain. He seems to work to his own agenda. That habit of just appearing and reciting snatches of Jabberwocky is unsettling and creepy and every bit of advice he gives to Alice gets her in deeper trouble, however despite that Alice seems to like him. Maybe she’s just a cat person. Maybe at heart Dinah really wants to be a Cheshire Cat. Arguments about the Cat aside the accepted villain of this is the Red Queen. She’s not a particularly competent villain or even that scary, her over the topness kind of prevents that, but she is psychotic and has definite anger management issues, fortunately she’s mostly bluster and as her guards are really just a pack of cards they’re easy to escape from.

Cuteness Factor: it’s kind of hard to say with this one. Plenty of things are cute. The oysters, but as the Walrus eats them all they don’t last and meet a pretty messy end. The flowers started off cute, but became quite nasty when they realized Alice wasn’t a plant, and in fact insulted her by referring to her as a weed. Probably the cutest thing is the dormouse, although the hedgehogs that the Red Queen uses as croquet balls also rate high on the cuteometer.

Animation: I see Alice as a bit of a triumph for animation. The whole thing was written to be animated. It works so well as a cartoon. Disney was allowed to let his animation department have their head, go nuts with the colours and the ideas and they did just that. This time they were able to do it for an entire film, not just the odd sequence. I don’t think it was matched until they tried to match their art with Robin Wiliams largely adlibbed script at the Genie in Aladdin. Even with our improved technology Tim Burton wasn’t able to translate the story particularly well as a live action version a few years ago. Not even Johnny Depp saved it for mine.

Final Words: it doesn’t get a lot of kudos and it performed disappointingly at the box office. Not many people seem to rate it as a strong entry in the series. I personally really like it, but I can see why others don’t go for it. I like fun, light things that don’t take themselves seriously. Despite the lack of success and how people seem to feel about it, the show did spawn one of the best known and most popular rides at the Disney parks with the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

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