Thursday, November 14, 2013

Alice in Wonderland {1951}

{Animated Disney Film #13 of 52}

In one of the special features on the Alice in Wonderland DVD, someone makes the comment that when you watch a Disney film, it becomes part of your consciousness. Bits and pieces of it are always in the back of your mind, even if it's been years since you watched it. I think that's so true for me, especially with the Disney movies I remember watching repeatedly when I was younger, like this one.

I've always loved the story of Alice in Wonderland. Maybe part of that stems from loving the Disney version as a kid. I read the book several years ago (I need to reread it!), and I've never met with an adaptation of the story so far that I haven't liked. {I just realized that, after this post, I've blogged about every version I've seen so far: 1933 classic movie, Tim Burton adaptation, and the SyFy mini the way, if you haven't seen that last one, watch it! It is so awesome and infinitely better than I expected it to be.} I'm even enjoying Once Upon a Time in Wonderland so far, even though it is really cheesy.

So...Disney's Alice in Wonderland is quite different from the original book. The tone is a lot lighter and it's much condensed and sort of Americanized (or at least that's what the English apparently claimed when it was released). But I feel like the spirit and the kookiness of the story is still there. It's not so different that if this was your first introduction to Alice (as it probably was for most of us), you won't appreciate the original source material later on.

I really love the look of this film...the colors and the backgrounds and the style of everything. That's not surprising, since this is considered the Disney film that Mary Blair had the most impact on. And I'm a big fan of her style. Her concept art for 50s Disney movies is so gorgeous!

Okay, from now on my thoughts about the film will probably be random and rambling, like the film itself. :) I jotted down a bunch of stuff while watching, but none of the things really have any connection to each other...

The movie is really fast paced at the beginning. The whole film is like that to a certain extent, with Alice moving from one strange situation to the next, meeting lots of unusual characters. It's just extremely quick at the very beginning.

Also, there is so much music. None of the songs are very long, but there are tons of them! I think I read or heard in the special features that Alice in Wonderland has more songs than any other Disney feature film. And I pretty much love them all. In a World of My Own, All in the Golden Afternoon, and The Unbirthday Song are my favorites, though.

I love the Walrus and the Carpenter section. I just wish the song followed the poem word for word! That would have been so clever. It is exact in a few places, but they changed a lot of it to fit the tune. Random fact: In sixth grade, I had a very quirky literature teacher who knew the entire poem by heart. And ever since then, I've had a strange urge to memorize the original poem, too, though I haven't done it yet. :)

I've always loved the White Rabbit's house, though I never thought it suited him! It seems like an adorable little dollhouse, and too feminine for him. I wouldn't mind living there, though, thatched roof and all! I remember loving that whole scene, with Bill the Lizard. I remember feeling concerned for Alice when the Dodo was singing that song about smoking her out of the house. :)

Another favorite scene is the talking flowers, though they are rather cruel. The caterpillar, however, has always been one of my least favorite Wonderland characters. I realized something this time around, though. Ever since Once Upon a Time in Wonderland started up, I've always wondered why they decided to include Jafar, genies, and other Aladdin-ish aspects in a Wonderland story. I didn't see the connection. But on rewatching this movie, I can't help but wonder if they took inspiration from the caterpillar? He has an English accent, but between his shoes and the music playing during that section, he seems to have an Aladdin vibe going on. Coincidence or inspiration? I don't know.

I love the mad tea party scene. It's so bizarre and chaotic. It's overwhelming! There's so much going on. Ed Wynn did the voice of the Mad Hatter, of course, and he's just perfect. His animated character even looks a bit like the real-life him! They had the voice actors and actresses actually act out live action versions of the scenes just for the animators to use as inspiration and references. It turns out that Ed Wynn was so perfect in the live action references, with lots of funny ad-libbing and such, that they used those recordings in the film. (When he later went in the booth to record the actual script, it felt flat compared to his informal version.)

I had forgotten that Sterling Holloway was the voice of the Cheshire Cat! If it seems like his name comes up a lot in these Disney posts, that's because he did a voice in eight of the thirteen films we've covered so far. And he's awesome, as usual.

I love all of those strange creatures in Tulgey Wood, too...the ones that seen frightening at first until you really see them.

And then, of course, we get to the Queen of Hearts. It seems like she gets the least screen time in this film, of all the Alice in Wonderland adaptations. And she's just so silly and over-the-top here that it's hard to take her seriously (no matter how many times she shouts "Off with his/her head!"). If she sounds familiar, by the way, it's because this voice actress also did the voices of: a couple of the elephants in Dumbo, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp, Flora in Sleeping Beauty, among others! Go figure. I never would have imagined the Fairy Godmother and the Queen of Hearts being voiced by the same lady. I love that Walt Disney used so many voice actors in multiple films.

As I've been doing this Disney marathon, I've been trying to think about the films in the time period they were released. Sometimes I see connections, but sometimes the Disney films seem so timeless that it amazes me that they were released in that era! But some of the animation with all of the Queen's card soldiers reminds me so much of the spectacular dance numbers of 50s know those shot from above that look like kaleidoscopes?

So yeah, I love this movie. It's one of my childhood favorites. I know I've said that several times, and there are more to come. :) The 50s were just an incredible time for Disney animation!

Are you an Alice in Wonderland fan, or is it just too strange for you?


  1. Not too strange for me! This is another of those usually unliked Disney films that I adore. Mainly because I watched it so often in my wee days. But I love the strange, dream-likeness of it and all the weird characters. And yes, the artwork is delightfully whimsical. The '50s disney era was absolutely spectacular, with such a bright and shiny, yet nostalgic feel--love it!

  2. Honestly, I'm not sure if ever I watched this version or not. As we've chatted about, I adore the miniseries and thought Disney's live-action version was good albeit Alice was a tiny bit "wooden." As for ABC's re-make, it looks fun but as you say, "cheesy."

    This story is strange in a unique kind of way, and I think you either like its brand of whimsy or you don't. :)


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