ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Review by Michael Jacobson
Kathryn Beaumont, Sterling Holloway, Ed Wynn, Jerry Colonna, Verna
Felton, Bill Thompson
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 75 Minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2004
at the beginning."
when you come to the end...STOP!"
in Wonderland had
been a dream project of Walt Disney's for about as long as his studio had been
in existence. It seemed like a
perfect match on paper: Lewis
Carroll's eternally enchanting stories of Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass married to Disney's
impeccable ability to bring classic tales to life with animation and music.
the end result was a bit cool, and a little more than off-putting.
It's always pained me to say it, but Alice has never been one of
my favorite Disney offerings. The
charm of Carroll's stories seemed completely lost under the weight of
animation that cared about the stories' oddities and not much else.
Most every character in the movie is loathsome, and Alice is a bland
protagonist at best. Even Disney
would later dismiss his own creation, saying it was "full of weird
original books were staples of my childhood, and like they did for many kids
over the years, they captured and fueled my imagination.
To be fair to Walt, I don't think any filmed version has lived up the
vision that played out in my head. To
be even more fair, Alice in Wonderland was plagued with its share of
troubles, from numerous starts and stops, to endless re-designs, to a catalogue
of some 50 songs that were mostly unused, to the fact that the second World War
put production on hold for a number of years and so on.
original stories were episodic, witty, and creative. The movie is void of structure and direction.
Alice meanders through non-related scenarios, meets strange beings and
sees unusual things, and eventually wakes up to find there's no place like
home (or something thereabout). There
are no less than 13 story writers credited to the picture...can adapting a book
really be so hard?
many cooks frequently spoil the broth, which is why Alice feels so
disjointed. It captured the
quirkiness of Carroll but none of the wit or charm.
Some parts of it seem downright mean spirited, such as the caterpillar
who blows smoke in Alice's face, or the bellowing queen who beheads her
subjects on whims. The poor white
rabbit is tormented throughout, be it the dodo who tries to burn his house down,
or the irritating Mad Hatter and March Hare destroying his pocket watch.
few songs survived are surprisingly unmemorable, given how many great tunes
Disney films had given us up to that point.
The best song, "I'm Late", really didn't make it in except for a
few spoken words. "The Unbirthday
Song" and "How Do You Do and Shake Hands" were both stripped down (I had a
record of the songs when I was younger, and they were actually better and much
far as the animation goes, the best parts are physical comedy bits and visual
puns, like the bread and butterflies, or the tea party ("Only half a cup!").
Others seem rehashed...the walrus and the carpenter reminded me an awful
lot of the cat and fox from Pinocchio.
railing on and on here, which I tend to do after seeing the movie for the first
time in a long while. I don't
hate it, by any stretch. I'm just
disappointed in it. It reminds me
of the weaker efforts the studio would put forth in the years immediately
following Walt's death, instead of being an example from his heyday. It's a colorful production with a good share of wonder;
kids always seem captivated by it.
Disney's best animated films also appealed to the grown-ups, too, and that's
where Alice falls flat. Every
time I watch it, I end up wishing I'd picked up one of the books instead.
Maybe that can be considered a legacy in its own right.
Masterpiece Edition from Disney is as stunning as we've come to expect.
From the opening scene, I was very impressed with the brightness of the
colors, the clarity of the images, and the cleanliness of the print.
Despite the strong and sometimes jarring tones, I didn't pick up on any
bleeding or distortions, nor did I notice any undue grain or compression.
This film not only looks remarkable for ITS age, it looks remarkable for
had a few issues with the 5.1 remix...namely, the subwoofer signal was
frequently strong and out of balance with the rest of the mix. Low notes in the musical score thump out over everything
else, and the effect was sometimes distracting.
The rest of the audio sounded clear enough, with a fair amount of dynamic
range, but thin sounding dialogue reminding you of the movie's age.
of stuff for the kiddies here, plus a few choice goodies for the adults as well.
One features some sing-along tunes, a desktop game, and a virtual tea party that
lets you interact and have fun along the way. There is also the Mickey Mouse short "Thru the Mirror",
and the recreation of a lost Cheshire Cat song "I'm Odd" (introduced by
Kathryn Beaumont...the voice of Alice!).
Two contains the 50s television featurette "One Hour in Wonderland",
featuring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Walt Disney, the young Kathryn
Beaumont and more. Clips from
Disney films are featured, including a full clip from Song of the South, which
may be the closest we'll ever get to seeing the film on home video.
It's a nice throwback treat, but even more so is the original "Alice" silent cartoon
"Alice's Wonderland" (Disney experimented with
combining a live action girl with animation back in the 20s...these "Alice"
films were delightful, but largely forgotten today).
are also art galleries, deleted materials, a pair of trailers, and two of Walt
Disney's television introductions. Both
feature animated menu screens. The
disc also comes with a card set.