Thursday, January 27, 2011

DAF #37 - Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Alice: "But that's nonsense. Flowers can't talk."
Rose: "But of course we can talk my dear."
Orchid: "If there's anyone around worth talking to."
Daisy: "Or about!"

Title: Alice in Wonderland
Year: 1951
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Kathryn Beaumont as Alice
Sterling Holloway as Cheshire Cat
Bill Thompson as White Rabbit/The Dodo
Ed Wynn as The Mad Hatter
Jerry Colonna as The March Hare
Richard Haydn as The Caterpillar
Verna Felton as Queen of Hearts
J. Pat O'Malley as Tweedledum/Tweedledee 

Plot: A young girl follows a rabbit into the magical, nonsensical world of Wonderland.
Based on: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.
Setting: Wonderland, 1860's.

Tagline: The all-cartoon Musical Wonderfilm!

First Viewing:
Early 90's on VHS.

Fun fact: my middle name is Alice. Therefore, I've always had an odd connection and camaraderie to Alice in Wonderland. (After all, there is simply a lack of female characters named Jordyn...or more likely, Jordan). So, Alices were the next best thing. And being a fan of Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz as a small child, the third in this triumvirate of "girl gets transported to magical world" stories was a necessity. All that being said, it's my least favorite of the three.

(Anime fan drawing I jacked from DeviantART)
To be fair, I've never read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Alice Through the Looking-Glass. I've only seen this Disney version (and the live action Return to Oz-esque sequel with Johnny Depp) and from everything I've researched, neither are the best adaptation. But with both, I can't help but feel that something is missing.

It all begins on the bank of some tranquil river in the English countryside. Young Alice (who appears to be ten in this version) is listening to her sister read a dreadfully dull history book. After being reprimanded, Alice decides she'd rather live in a world of nonsense. Just then, she sees the perpetually late White Rabbit and follows him down a rabbit hole.

Technically, I could summarize as I usually do, but Alice in Wonderland is such an erratic, free-for-all, plotless mindfuck that it would just be easier to do this: Alice shrinks, grows, shrinks, cries, enters a caucus race (whatever the fuck that is), meets the Tweedles, grows, shrinks, sings with some flowers, meets the Caterpillar, meets the Cheshire Cat, meets the Mad Hatter & Co., cries, meets some playing card soldiers, plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts, stands trial for...something, grows, shrinks, and then wakes up discovering it was all a dream.

The Alice books are considered classics of English literature, but I can't help but wonder WHAT'S THE FUCKING POINT??? Peter Pan deals with the freedom of youth vs. the responsibility of adulthood. And the theme of The Wizard of Oz, au contraire to popular belief, is NOT "there's no place like home", it's that the power to succeed is inside you. (Think about it, Dorothy has the shoes all along, The Scarecrow is hardly dumb, the Tin Man is hardly an unfeeling douchebag, and the Cowardly Lion acts with courage many times. This is even apparent in the 1939 musical version! But I digress...)


Well, I've often struggled with assigning a theme to a piece of fiction ever since high school, so I cheated and went to Sparknotes. They say that Alice's constant growing and shrinking are representative of the pubertal changes soon to come in her life. And the Caterpillar is sometimes seen as a symbol of sexual virility, a threatening and befuddling phallus that will FUCK HER SHIT UP!

Beware Alice! He's about to spell "orgasm"!
Also, Life is a confusing and unsolvable puzzle. And I suppose if you squint at Disney's adaptation of AIW, then yeah, sure.

A really big complaint concerning this version is the "lack of heart". I'll voice this complaint as well. Who really gives a shit about Alice? She doesn't have any qualities that make us sympathize with her. She's simply a bored, spoiled English girl who doesn't appreciate history. And then she continually feels sorry for herself after entering a world of her own imagining where "everything is what it isn't". So if there is a moral to Disney's Alice in Wonderland it's be careful what you wish for.

Alice in Wonderland did not do to well at box office until the late 60's when our good old friend Narcotics made it a classic. Honestly, I don't have a vendetta against the drug culture that made a few of these DAF's financially successful. After all, I love "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.

Remember what the Dormouse said: "Feed your head."
I think what it boils down to is that Alice in Wonderland is a story I want to like as much as Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz, but I just can't! So far there hasn't been an adaptation that's captivated me like with the other two. I was hopeful with Tim Burton's version, but I found it lacking. However, I won't lose hope. Being in the public domain, there is sure to be a satisfying version of Alice in Wonderland made in the future. Honestly, I hope it's an adaptation of American McGee's Alice.

"Alice in Wonderland" - Chorus
"In a World of My Own" - Kathryn Beaumont (Alice)
"I'm Late" - The White Rabbit (Bill Thompson)
"The Sailor's Hornpipe" - The Dodo (Bill Thompson)
"The Caucus Race" - The Dodo and Animals
"How Do You Do and Shake Hands" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (J. Pat O'Malley)
"The Walrus and the Carpenter" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
"Old Father William" - Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum
"Smoke the Blighter Out" - The Dodo and The White Rabbit
"All in the Golden Afternoon" - The Flowers and Alice
"A-E-I-O-U" - The Caterpillar (Richard Haydn)
"'Twas Brillig" - The Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway)
"The Unbirthday Song" - The Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn), The March Hare (Jerry Colonna), and Alice
"Very Good Advice" - Alice
"Painting the Roses Red" - The Playing Cards  (The Melloman) and Alice
"Who's Been Painting My Roses Red?" (Reprise) - The Queen of Hearts  (Verna Felton) and The Playing Cards
"The Unbirthday Song" (Reprise) - The Mad Hatter, The March Hare, The Queen of Hearts, and The Playing Cards
"The Caucus Race" (Reprise) - Chorus
"Alice in Wonderland" (Reprise) - Chorus

Favorite Song: “All in the Golden Afternoon” - Chorus
Favorite Moment: "The Walrus and the Carpenter" segment.
Favorite Character: The King of Hearts

Next DAF: The Sword in the Stone (1963)

1 comment:

Andrew said...

'Nother fun fact: an adaptation of American McGee's Alice was being worked on back in the early 00's, but, like most game-to-movie adaptations, its production eventually petered out.

Also, there's a sequel to Alice coming out sometime in 2011.