I have always wanted to review Alice in Wonderland. This film has been one of my favorites for a while, even though I hadn’t actually watched it in the last several years. After rewatching it recently, I plan to insert it into my film-viewing schedule more often.
As the original stories from Lewis Carroll came out about 150 years ago, I won’t go into the actual story. I think the screenwriters at Disney (and there were more than usual on this project) did an excellent job melding the episodic content of the books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass into something with enough plot to make an interesting film. There have been many adaptations over the years of Alice’s adventures, and this is one of the best.
This was another of the Mary Blair-influenced films. She did much of the concept work and color choices for the film, and the interesting color palette definitely shows her hand in things. The colors are especially bold and eye-catching once Alice is in Wonderland.
The absolute zaniness of Wonderland is captured magnificently by Disney’s animators. Marc Davis is one of my favorite animators from the famous Nine Old Men, and he does a great job with Alice, making her at once believable and just a little bit off, so she fits right in with the sundry denizens of Wonderland. This Alice is the one most people around the world inevitably think of whenever Alice in Wonderland is mentioned. (Davis also created the most famous version of Tinker Bell, which I discuss in my review of Tinker Bell – An Evolution.)
The voice acting was spot-on, as well. Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter was a stroke of genius, and only Johnny Depp approaches his brilliance in this role (though from a different angle). Kathryn Beaumont, who later played Wendy in Peter Pan, was wonderful in the role of Alice. The Caterpillar was played masterfully by the experienced Richard Haydn, and Sterling Holloway—who played many different roles in a number of Disney animated films—added just the right amount of crazy in his role as the Cheshire Cat.
The music in Alice in Wonderland makes great use of the Carroll’s poetry and wordplay in the books. It is interesting to note that over thirty songs were created for use in the film, more than any other Disney film. Though most of them were only used in part (a few lines here and there scattered throughout the film), this gave the producers a lot to work with and helped bring a surreal feel to the film.
Even though the film wasn’t initially very successful in the box office, or even that popular with critics of the day, Alice in Wonderland has held up unsurprisingly well over the years. It truly is one of Walt’s masterpieces, and I highly recommend it.
Release Date: July 26, 1951 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (caterpillar hookah, Alice drinks and eats various unknown substances)
Violence: 1 (the Queen decrees that multiple characters lose their heads, nothing shown)