Thursday, October 3, 2013

#1,144. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Directed By: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske

Starring: Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn

Tag line: "A world of wonders in One Great Picture"

Trivia: Kathryn Beaumont, who was the voice of Alice, narrates the "Alice in Wonderland" ride at Disneyland.

Considered an excellent example of what’s been termed “literary nonsense”, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, first published in the 1860’s, was a satire of everything from mathematics to 19th century British politics, written by a man (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pen name Lewis Carroll) who may very well have been a pedophile. Leave it to Walt Disney to take such a work and turn it into an entertaining family film!

Based on both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, Alice in Wonderland is about a girl named Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont) who follows a white bunny (Bill Thompson) down a rabbit hole and ends up falling into a magical world of talking animals and kooky people, ruled over by the tyrannical Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton) who, before long, wants to cut Alice’s head off.

Despite the numerous live-action adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that have been produced over the years (including a ‘90s television series which aired on the Disney Channel), I believe animation is the best medium for telling Carroll’s very unusual story (as proof, one need look no further than Tim Burton’s disappointing 2010 movie Alice in Wonderland, which starred Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter). And who better than the Disney animators, whose previous film was the classic Cinderella, to bring this bizarre tale to the big screen? As you would expect, Alice in Wonderland looks great, with plenty of brilliant colors and wonderfully-realized characters that spring convincingly to life. The Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn) and the March Hare (Jerry Colonna), who host a Tea Party to celebrate Alice’s “unbirthday” (meaning a day that’s not her birthday), have always been my favorite characters, and the Tea Party itself, a near-insane mix of double-talk, music, and tea (poured in a variety of inventive ways) my favorite sequence. Other characters (including the Cheshire Cat, voiced by the always reliable Sterling Holloway) and scenes (like the Queen’s croquet tournament, in which flamingos are used as mallets) also stand out, but for sheer, unhinged lunacy, the Tea Party can’t be beat.

While it rarely appears on anyone’s list of favorite Disney films, Alice in Wonderland is nonetheless a fun, vibrant motion picture. Young kids will surely enjoy the movie, and odds are their parents will also get a kick out of it.

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