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Alice in Wonderland Movie Review

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1951 – Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske –

Lewis Carroll's Victorian classic of the little girl who falls down the Rabbit Hole is one of the most frequently adapted children's stories. It has been made into live-action movies, stage plays, television features, and animated shorts. Walt Disney considered the story as early as 1933, shelving it to make the far more suitable Snow White his first animated feature film. So why isn't Alice's fantasy a more effective movie?

Animation seems the perfect vehicle to create talking animals and the radical changes of size that Alice undergoes repeatedly. Colors can be twisted into the fantastic with ease and landscapes metamorphosed as they appear to do in dreams (which, after all, is what Alice is doing). But Disney, like other adaptors, missed two powerful features of the book. First, it is a tale about language. Almost all the jokes are based on word play: Alice being confused for a serpent by a bird who defines her as “something that has a long neck and eats eggs” or the idea that an “unbirthday” is what you have on all days that are not birthdays. Second, unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Alice has no particular desire to go home, a plot element present in all other movie versions. Alice wants most of all to be a grown-up, and she sees that the topsy-turvy world of grown-up values and hypocrisies is one that is negotiated through words. Alice does not want to leave Wonderland; she wants to succeed there and does when she gets up the courage to tell them all that they are nothing but a pack of cards.

Apart from the digression from the classic story, Alice does present an abundance of Disney magic. The movie is fun to watch, especially the whimsical animals that the Disney animators add as little touches. And the music is fun, too—who can resist singing flowers? Plus, who hasn't dealt with a loud, powerful bully like the Queen? We can all cheer when she gets her comeuppance at the end. If the film works as it should, it will still send children to the library for the original classic.

Did you know?…

Alice actually meets Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum in the second volume of her adventures, Through the Looking Glass.

Cast: Kathryn Beaumont (voice of Alice), Ed Wynn (voice of the Mad Hatter), Richard Haydn (voice of the Caterpillar), Sterling Holloway (voice of the Chesire Cat), Jerry Colonna (voice of the March Hare), Verna Felton (voice of the Queen of Hearts), Pat O'Malley (voice of the Walrus/Carpenter/Dee/Dum), Bill Thompson (voice of the White Rabbit), Joseph Kearnes (voice of the Doorknob), Larry Carey (voice of Bill), Heather Angel (voice of Alice's sister), Dink Trout (voice of the King of Hearts), James G. MacDonald (voice of the Dormouse) Screenwriter: Winston Hilder, Ted Sears, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi Composer: Mack David, Sammy Fain, Bob Hilliard, Al Hoffman, Ted Sears Producer: Walt Disney Running Time: 74 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards: 1951: Nominations, Score.

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