REVIEW REWIND: Alice In Wonderland (1951)
Continuing our viewing of Disney animated feature films in chronological order, we have come to Alice In Wonderland.
Based on the book by Lewis Carroll, the film follows a young girl named Alice who is bored by her studies and imagines a world full of nonsense. No sooner does she make this wish than she sees a white rabbit in a coat and pants screaming, "I'm late!" She is so curious about him that she follows him down a hole that takes her to Wonderland. There, she meets some of its denizens, including Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. She eventually ends up meeting the Queen of Hearts who wants Alice's head.
Like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland is one of those films you have to watch occasionally to really appreciate its brilliance. Watching these films in order also made me realize how this film really was inspired by Fantasia and some of the package films of the 1940s. There's some great experimental animation at work in this film, most notably the March of the Cards. Using lighting and color and taking advantage of the flatness of the cards, they were able to create this fantastic number. And, I don't think any of this could have been done if Disney didn't experiment so much throughout the forties.
I love how the world is three dimensional when Alice is in the regular world, but, as soon as she goes down the rabbit hole, everything is flat and colorful and inspired by the works of Mary Blair. Her whimsical style is perfect for a place full of nonsense and I could not get enough of it.
The music is actually quite wonderful. I love how Alice dreams of "A World Of My Own," and then she gets exactly what she asks for. "The Unbirthday Song" is nothing less than inspired, especially when performed by the wonderful Ed Wynn and Jerry Colonna. And "The Caucus Race" is a song I constantly have stuck in my head as it really does represent the zaniness of Wonderland. I also loved how they incorporated some of Carroll's poems such as "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and "The Jaberwocky."
I know that some people were disappointed that Disney took certain liberties with Carroll's story and that the images did not really look like Sir John Tenniel's drawings, but Disney has always placed its own stamp on stories. For what it is, I find it to be respectful of Carroll's work if not all together accurate.
Sadly, Alice didn't receive any Academy Awards, although Oliver Wallace was nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Motion Picture. While Alice in Wonderland might have met with lukewarm response at the box office, it is an enduring classic today.