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Sunday, April 09, 2017

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

As regular readers may know, I'm fascinated by the Alice books of Lewis Carroll, but I had never before seen the Walt Disney version, released in 1951. As Alice adaptations go, it's not bad, but though it's only 75 minutes, it does drag.

The problem with adaptations of Alice is that the book itself does not really have a plot, just a series of episodes. Here, they give Alice a big of a conflict--she wants to get home (in the book I don't believe she ever expresses that, so this movie is a bit more like The Wizard of Oz, minus sidekicks).

She is drowsily studying history on the banks of a river, when she awakens to see the rabbit running by, shouting "I'm late! I'm late!" She follows him down the rabbit hole and we get many of the familiar characters, though in a different order. For example, she meets Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, when in actuality they don't appear until the second book. She meets the caterpillar and Cheshire Cat much later. But this is the niggling of scholars. The important thing is that they are there in the firsr place.

So we do get part of The Walrus and the Carpenter, the Mad Tea Party (even with my favorite line--"Why is a raven like a writing desk?") and the climax with the Queen of Hearts. What's odd is the long middle section with talking flowers. They should have given us Humpty Dumpty or the Mock Turtle or the White Knight instead.

This film did not do well upon release. Disney had tried to make it for years, and at one of his first animation jobs, Laugh-o-Grams, he made a series of shorts with Alice. He was set to make it in the '30s but Paramount made a live action version.

The film's popularity has been resuscitated somewhat, mosty for its animation, which is quite beautiful, but, being for small children, it leaves an adult wanting, figuring there must be more somewhere. And there is, if you read the books.

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