Somehow amidst the piles of laundry, the yet-unpacked boxes and bins, and the beginning of fall, the Fella and I found ourselves able to snag a little time to watch the next film, the ever-popular, constantly re-incarnated Alice in Wonderland. It’s everyone’s favorite dreamy adventure to the subconscious of a precocious British child with a lot to argue about and lots of opinions about logic and correctness.
The Film: Alice in Wonderland (1951)
- The film had a budget of a whopping $3 million.
- It was based on two books by Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.
- Alice began pre-pre-pre-production all the way back in the 1930’s. Walt had been trying to make an Alice adaptation for years, but the companies he worked with kept going bankrupt. He had hoped to start his own company with it, but, thinking it wasn’t ready, he instead opted to do Snow White first. When WWII swept in, Alice got put on hold yet again, and did not reach completion until after the war had ended.
- The art style for Alice went through many different design changes, with Walt ultimately settling on background artist Mary Blair’s designs – they were bold, unusual, with bright colors and modern lines, which Walt liked. After selecting Blair’s designs, he had the team re-do the script to focus on comedy, silliness and whimsy. Lots of scenes were re-written or cut between the book and the film script in order to fit Walt’s new idea of the Alice story.
- Originally, the opening song for Alice was a tune called “Beyond the Laughing Sky.” They changed it out at some point for “In A World of My Own,” apparently because actress Kathryn Beaumont had difficulty singing it and it was too similar to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” The tune for “Laughing Sky” was recycled and later used as the melody for “The Second Star To The Right” in Peter Pan!
- Despite being a modern day favorite, the initial reaction to Alice was something of a disappointment. It only made $2.4 million in its inital release. Walt felt that Alice herself had no warmth. Several other animators felt that there were too many cooks in the kitchen, since there were five directors working on the film all at once. Many thought that it was an American bastardization of the classic British tale. Then around 1968, the drug culture got a hold of it and revitalized interest in the film – the Disney company balked at the less-than-clean association and pulled all merchandise and advertising for it. This didn’t last, however, and in 1974 Disney re-released Alice and new merchandise, embracing the psychedelic nature of the cultural association. The film is now considered the greatest adaptation of Carroll’s work ever, and one of Disney’s most successful films of all time.
- Alice was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Score but lost to An American in Paris.
- Ed Wynn, the comedian and actor who plays the Mad Hatter, ad libbed many of his lines. When Walt suggested the team keep the ad libs because they were funny, the team complained that there was too much background noise to use all of the ad libs. “Well,” said Walt, “I guess that’s your problem.” So they worked really hard to get it cleaned up to use.
- Kathryn Beaumont voices Alice in the film. She also narrates the Alice in Wonderland ride at the Disney parks, and provided the voice for Wendy in Peter Pan.
- This film has more songs and characters than any other Disney animated film!
- Alice is the first Disney film to have been shown on television (in 1954).
- UGH #HistoryLesson
- Alice talks the way I imagine a young Rosalind from As You Like It would talk – it makes sense to her because her I.Q. is presumably so much higher than ours, but to the rest of us it is complete gibberish.
- The Fella: “Wait… what happened to the tutor?” Me: “…she legit disappeared. She was there, and now she’s totally not.”
- Alice absolutely has zero effs to give. She is completely uninterested in overreacting about anything. Sometimes even regular reactions are beneath her. “Oh, I’m falling down a rabbit hole and defying all laws of nature and man? That’s fine. Oh, a chair? Lovely. I think I’ll read this book, too, while I’m here…”
- The Fella: “Who is this omniscient door knob?!” Me: “…it’s Q.”
- The Dodo reminds me of Major Hewlett from AMC’s Turn.
- Oof, the Tweedles are way more insistently creepy than I remember. They’re bizarrely unblinking and determined to continue to ‘visit’ with Alice even after she insists she doesn’t want to hang out with them.
- The Walrus clearly bought his clothes second hand from Honest John the Fox from Pinocchio…
- New Headcanon: So Bill the Lizard, right? His kids grew up to be convicts, and were shipped to Australia, and his great-great-great-great-grandson or whatever is Frank the Lizard in Rescuers Down Under!
- The Fella: “Ugh, these snobby flowers.” Me: “Well, they can’t help it. They’re flowers! They stand around and look pretty all day.”
- Oh. No. Wait. They got mean at the end! Like the elephant ladies in Dumbo!
- “It is knot.” Man… I never saw the smoke-knots before. That’s so genius.
- The caterpillar is a bit of a jerk too, but he is definitely the most helpful person so far.
- LLLLLLADIES AND GENTLEMEN: Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat.
- Of all the things that are happening so far, Alice seems the most genuinely apprehensive and fearful about ‘going among mad people’ at this totally ridiculous but harmless tea party. Of all the stuff she’s already seen, this is the thing that she’s nervous about?! The Fella: “Well… She’s very inconsistent.”
- Seriously the animation on Alice is wonderful. She’s faster, sharper, more uniquely personified than past animated figures. And her eyebrows? Pure shade.
- “If I ever get home, I shall write a book about this place.” #shamelessplug
- “It would be so nice if everything made sense for a change.” Oh NOW she wants things to make sense???
- Pencil birds! Shovel birds! Birds in bird cage birds! Dog brushes! Umbrella birds of the damned! The Tulgey Wood is definitely wacko.
- Oooh, a weird creatures Disney Princess moment!
- The playing card marching sequence definitely smacks of Pink Elephants, Fantasia, and a dash of Wizard of Oz just for flavoring.
- The Fella: “Is the Queen supposed to be a commentary on Elizabeth or Victoria?” Me: “…neither? I thought she was Bloody Mary.” The Fella: “The Queen looks like Peter Griffin.” Me: “Or Fred Flintstone.”
- A trial? Yet another commentary on the flaws of the Victorian justice system in England.
- One of the jurors is Jose Carioca! But he’s wearing the wrong suit. Or something.
- “WHO ARE YOU?” The existential crisis is unbearable! The Fella: “I’m sure this has something to do with her sexual awakening somehow BUT I DON’T KNOW HOWWWW!”
[Cut To: INT. DAY – A conference room in Walt Disney Studios.]
And that’s the end?
…are we over budget?
Commedia Bonus: I couldn’t bring myself to keep a tally because THIS MOVIEEEeeee ;laskjd;falkjdskjsdf