#13 Alice in Wonderland

#13 Alice in Wonderland

Alice’s Excellent Adventure

Today we look at the colorful and whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland! This was always one of my favorite Disney movies, and one I watched often as a kid. Alice is based on Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland and the 1871 sequel Through the Looking Glass. The film pulls elements and scenes from both books and combines them into a tale of a young girl who follows a walking, talking white rabbit and accidentally falls down a rabbit hole into the strange world of Wonderland. If you haven’t read the books, I definitely recommend them if you enjoy those kinds of tales. They’re really fun to read and Carroll’s absurdist humor is great, in my opinion!

The Alice books actually hold an important place in Walt Disney’s history as he started out as a young animator but making a cartoon short based on the books while working at a studio in Kansas City. When that studio closed, Walt traveled to Hollywood and used the Alice short to help him get distributors and his studio up and running. Then, he made a series of shorts called the Alice Comedies. If it weren’t for Lewis Carroll’s imaginative novels, who knows if we would have Disney Studios and the beloved films we grew up with.

Getting the beloved tale to the big screen took a few tries, with Walt starting development as early as the ’30’s. A film version made by Paramount in 1933 and later economic and production troubles during World War 2 all contributed to Alice being put on hold. At one point, Walt wanted the film to be a mix of live action and animation, but ultimately decided that for the fantastical visuals to work, it had to be all animation. No matter your thoughts on the 2010 remake/sequel/Tim Burton fever dream, it’s pretty cool to think about how technology had progressed to a point where Disney could do a partial live action, partial (computer) animated film. When production on the movie resumed, Disney got Aldous Huxley (author of Brave New World, that weird dystopian book you probably had to read in school) to write it. But, Huxley’s script focused more on author Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (who supposedly inspired Alice) and their lives after the book came out. Maybe an interesting concept for a period film, but doesn’t exactly sound to me like a classic Walt Disney Studios Animated masterpiece.

Eventually, the studio got to the point where they were creating the film we love today, that focused on music and color and Carroll’s humor. Adapting two books into one meant that there was a lot of material to work with. There were many scenes that were included in the first few drafts, but were ultimately cut for various reasons, like pacing and what worked best for the narrative. When I read Lewis Carroll’s books when I was 13, there were definitely quite a few scenes that I wished had made it into the film, but I completely understand why they had to be cut. Plus, segments like the Jabberwock, that I found really cool as a 13 year old, probably would have been difficult to animate to not scare children, the core intended audience. Disney had the songs written for the film based on Carroll’s poems, and several that weren’t used in Alice were later reworked for Peter Pan.

Unfortunately, Alice did not perform well at the box office when it was released. Some critics lacked the heart of the books while many others complained that it didn’t do the books justice. They were looking for a more literary adaption, while Disney was obviously going for a whimsical family film. Apparently, Walt and the animators weren’t too fond of the film, either, agreeing that their heroine lacked heart. Personally, I don’t understand that point of view as I think Alice has quite a bit of heart and overall is a great character, but I’ll get into that more in my outro. However, over the years Alice found its audience through both airings on television and the rise in interest in all things colorful and absurd in the ’60’s and ’70’s; Alice of all films became somewhat of a cult classic. When it was released once more in theaters, it had incredible success. Today, after decades of viewings on TV, VHS, and DVD, Alice is one of the most beloved and well regarded Disney classics. As I mentioned, there was a 2010 live action adaption (which featured an adult Alice returning to Wonderland) and a subsequent sequel to that film in 2016.

Alice has various rides throughout the Disney parks – you’re probably most familiar with the spinning tea cups (which is in all five Disney Park locations), but she does have her own dark ride as well in Disneyland! She’s also included often in parades and shows, and is available for character meets, along with other film favorites: The Mad Hatter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and The Queen of Hearts. Now, let’s go down that rabbit hole and explore this film!

My thoughts on Alice in Wonderland:

  • Aww Alice! I do like Alice in Wonderland!
  • I love anything about a person who goes to another world
  • I get why her sister is annoyed but Alice is also like 7 of course she doesn’t want to learn about history
  • Also this sounds like really advanced history for a young child
  • Then again, the British have A LOT more history to learn than us Americans
  • Hell I didn’t have history every year I was in school – my high school only had 3 years of it and 4th grade was dedicated to just learning about New Jersey
  • Can…can the sister not hear Alice talking to the cat right above her?
  • I was kind of a weird dreamy kid, I feel for Alice
  • There’s nothing wrong with having an imagination!
  • Has her sister not realized she wandered off?
  • Oh, wait, (spoiler alert?) this is all a dream, never mind!
  • The rabbit!
  • “I’m late! I’m late!” iconic!
  • “We really shouldn’t be doing this” *does it anyway*
  • Honestly, that’s it, that’s the movie
  • “Goodbye Dinah” she’s so chill about falling down a hill
  • Alice adjusts so well to this tunnel, she grabs a book, grabs a chair, all’s good for her
  • So many doors!
  • Does Alice really think she can fit in through that door?
  • “I was just giving myself some good advice” hahaha oh Alice we’ve all been there
  • Wonderland is a jerk keeping the key until she’s already small
  • Alice is really calm and cool about eating anything and drinking anything…but also I feel like at 7 I would be too
  • That bottle looks empty, even if it had a little it couldn’t have enough to make her that small
  • Good thing she landed in that bottle!
  • Why does the Dodo wear a waistcoat and get to be pushed, while the other birds look normal and have to push him?
  • Can’t she just hop off the bird?
  • I wonder what Alice’s plan is when she finds the rabbit? What if he tells her she can’t come to the party
  • I’ve always found the Tweedles annoying (sorry Julia!)
  • They’re DEFINITELY Gemini’s, and not just because they’re twins
  • Is it “manners” to spin a young girl around until she falls over?
  • So…they want to warn her about being curious, but draw her in by enticing her curiosity? Getting mixed messages here
  • Ugh this story always made me so sad and I don’t like it at all
  • I wish the animation team swapped it out for another scene from the book
  • Especially since they oysters are designed like babies, ugh this is rough
  • Does the rabbit not know who Marianne is? Then why was he in her house??
  • WHO IS Marianne?
  • And why would she know where the rabbit’s gloves are?
  • He’s being awfully rude, but Alice just goes along with it
  • WHY is she eating things? Especially since the last time she ate something she grew!
  • Plus the cookies are in someone else’s bedroom, an area of privacy! Just because they say “take one” or “try me” doesn’t mean they’re for YOU
  • What if poor Marianne, wherever she may be, has a party that she was taking those to? Now she’ll look like a rude guest!
  • “Not again” it’s cuz you be eating those cookies!

Glad Anna Wintour could still show off her Met Ball look this year

  • With all these cookies and drinks around, you’d think people growing and shrinking would be a common occurrence, but based on the rabbit’s reaction, I guess not
  • Do they just affect Alice because she’s not from Wonderland??
  • “Poor Bill” That’s it?! 
  • Does he ever come down??
  • Maybe he’s with Marianne
  • Why doesn’t Alice ask them if they have any shrinking drink? Or explain that it’s the cookies?
  • So eating or drinking anything will change her size?
  • Guess the rabbit is okay with his house being burned down
  • Wait, so if it was his house from the start…who is Marianne and why would she be at his house? Why are they friendly enough that she’s at his house, and would know where his gloves are in his house, but he doesn’t know what she looks like???
  • Is Marianne a housekeeper he hired to clean while he’s out but he’s such a terrible boss he’s never seen her in person or never paid attention to her????
  • I know the point of the movie is for things to be illogical, so my questions aren’t critiques, just wondering aloud!
  • Bread and butterflies!!
  • I love all the different designs of the flowers and their personalities
  • Flower a capella group!
  • Okay Alice honey you don’t have to jump in
  • Stick to your range, this is a bit high for you
  • “I think she’s pretty” aww little baby flower is sweet
  • She’s clearly not stuck in the ground, how would she be a weed
  • “Chris, is that a weed?” “No, it’s an Alice” “I’m calling the police!”
  • Don’t they think it’s weird she can walk away?
  • Magical Hookah Caterpillar – what fun for a kids tale!
  • He’s just singing vowels? Is that the new hit song in Wonderland?
  • Why doesn’t she just say her name? What’s with all this philosophical “I don’t know who I am” stuff??? Pretty deep for a seven year old
  • How far did she get??? It took her two seconds to walk away from the mushroom and multiple fade aways to get back lol
  • He’s right that Alice does need to watch her temper, but I feel like her temper comes out at weird moments, she gets worked up over small things but when she’s about to be set on fire she’s just like “oh dear”
  • Alice, perhaps don’t complain about being small to a freaking caterpillar?
  • “I am EXACTLY three inches tall” a short king
  • She needs to stop insulting people!
  • She also needs to STOP EATING THINGS
  • Where’s the medium food at??
  • Does she LOOK like a snake?
  • Has this bird ever actually seen a serpent?
  • Oh licking it, that was very clever Alice!
  • Wow following Wonderland pathway signs looks as easy as following California highway signs
  • Ooh Cheshire cat!!
  • He’s so delightfully creepy
  • And voiced by Winnie the Pooh! Which makes Winnie the Pooh a lil creepy tbh
  • “You’re a cat!” Alice is just happy to see a normal animal hahaha
  • I like that they incorporated the Jaborwock poem in some way (it’s what the Cheshire Cat is singing)
  • This girl just wanders into peoples homes smh
  • “Its very rude to sit down without being invited” he is 100% correct
  • Can you celebrate an unbirthday ANY day that’s not your birthday?
  • Okay yes you can! 
  • Happy Unbirthday to all reading this post who are celebrating!
  • Aww they’re so nice to her, welcoming her so quickly
  • They gave her a cake!
  • “If you don’t think you shouldn’t talk” true that March Hare
  • Half a cup! I love the visual gags in this movie
  • Why do they turn on her so quickly?
  • Alice needs to learn patience
  • Where did the White Rabbit come from?? Why did HE enter someone else’s garden?
  • The White Rabbit is having a rough day
  • “You’ll get crumbs in it” uh…it’s too late for that bruh
  • Hahaha i love how appalled the Mad Hatter gets over the idea of mustard
  • They threw him over the fence hahaha this poor rabbit
  • Forget Alice, the White Rabbit is the one who’s going to need therapy after this day
  • I want to see a movie from his perspective
  • I like the Tulgey Wood sequence
  • All these strange little creatures are such fun
  • Aww poor kid 😦
  • “I give myself good advice but very seldom follow it” we’ve all been there Alice
  • None of these guys who feel bad for her can help her find the path? I guess they don’t know their way out either
  • I hate seeing her cry and as a viewer I definitely feel for her, and I think most of us can relate to feeling lost and just wanting to go home as a kid
  • Cheshire Cat is a pot stirrer!!!
  • I’m pretty sure he’s a Sagittarius
  • Honestly, I get Sag vibes from Alice, too: she has wanderlust, loves to explore, puts her foot in her mouth often, doesn’t think things through, as a temper…as a Sagittarius myself I can relate quite a bit
  • Sorry, I don’t know why this turned into an astrology thing let’s get back to the movie shall we?
  • The queen is such a force of nature when we finally meet her but I wonder why she hasn’t been around or mentioned at any point so far? She’s such an imposing figure and the citizens of Wonderland all seem frightened of her and under her control when around her, so I always found it strange that no one talks about her before this
  • I guess she only pays attention to her citizens when they bother her directly, which isn’t too unrealistic from our world
  • WHY does the paint not stick to anything?? It just drips off?
  • I did a lot of set painting for theater in high school and let me tell you, paint ends up all over, I didn’t even look at paint some days and it STILL ended up on my jeans!
  • They don’t think she’ll be able to tell the difference between naturally red and painted red?
  • Alice stay out of it! Why would you want to be involved with people who may get their heads chopped off?!
  • I always liked all the multicolored cards
  • This is such a fun and delightful movie to watch, it really never gets old, there’s so much going on, there’s something new to look at each time
  • See Alice? Now she’s pissed and you’re involved
  • Oh gosh this movie got dark, Henry the 8th up in here
  • You ever think about the marriage of the King and Queen of Hearts…was this an arranged royal marriage? Are they in love? How does the height difference work? I have so many questions….
  • I’m going to need a “The Crown” style show about them
  • The build up to this is actually pretty well done – all day Alice has been dealing with nonsensical things and standing up to them, arguing with them, trying to get them to make sense, and now she’s met her match because the Queen is completely illogical but also has authority that can be fatal when pressed, so Alice CAN’T stand up to her
  • The unstoppable force meets the immovable object
  • Also, I think it’s cool that the big bad “boss” of Wonderland is a kind of nonsense that isn’t fantasy or whimsical, it’s just plain power hungry
  • I always felt bad for Alice and I still do – she’s trying her best to do the right thing for once
  • Also, as someone whose always been terrified of authority and getting in trouble, this scene always makes me anxious
  • The cat is a jerk
  • Does no one else see the cat??
  • Alice just stop talking about the cat
  • Lemme say cat one more time
  • I’d just turn and run and hide in the cards and get as far away before he did something else
  • How is it her fault? All the other beheadings had reasons, not fair ones but still things that the cards did
  • That was nice of the king to request a trial
  • Alice needs the lawyer from Mr. Toad
  • This is JUST like every episode of Judge Judy
  • Why did they call these witnesses? They weren’t at the game
  • If Alice is the defendant, who is the plaintiff? Is there a Wonderland DA?
  • WHY would she attempt to draw attention to the cat again? She knows how that worked out last time
  • Alice why did you eat both sides of the mushroom? Why not eat one, work with the results whether you’re big (and can stomp on everyone) or small (and can escape), and save the other half to turn you back to normal?
  • Why is there a height restriction in the court
  • Why wouldn’t she want to leave? I’d be hightailing it
  • Oh Alice…
  • Did she not notice herself shrinking…
  • Alice needs to learn to stop talking

Alice: terrorizes Wonderland and insults pretty much everyone she meets

Citizens of Wonderland: chasing her to the death

Alice:

  • HOW does she get out of this?! Ahhh!
  • The chaos! The suspense!
  • This reminds me of a Scooby-Doo chase scene
  • I like that she’s going back through all the scenes
  • Slo…..mo….
  • Still locked oh geez
  • ~and it was all a dream~
  • Alice this is why you don’t eat greasy take-out early in the day
  • This sister is so done hahaha
  • Such a cute movie!

Alice in Wonderland is so fun to watch! It’s my favorite movie so far and maybe even my favorite until Little Mermaid, I can’t really think of another film until then that I love as much. It has so many elements that I love: outsider exploring a new world, fun characters, whimsy, bright colors, a sort of mysterious/not sure what will happen next vibe, humor, clever visual gags. Also, I don’t know why this movie (that was based on two books and had plenty more material to adapt) never got an animated sequel (even though it probably wouldn’t have been good, since all Disney direct-to-video sequels are terrible) but we had to get Scamps Adventure and Return to the Sea…SMH

For such a fantastical film, I think Alice is one of the most realistic Disney characters in all 58 movies – she’s impatient, curious, constantly getting into places she shouldn’t, has a temper, emotional, all qualities that most children possess! She makes a lot of bad decisions, but she’s a kid and doesn’t know better, and no one, no matter what age, is perfect! Disney characters, especially leads, have the (well-deserved) reputation of being sort of perfect, always noble and honest, always doing the right thing, and sure, that adds to their charm and is why we love to root for them. But, I love that Alice acts like a real kid and is sometimes frustrating to watch. I found myself (as you saw in my notes) asking “why are you doing that” and you know what? If someone was watching my life (a la the Truman Show) they’d definitely yell the same thing at me.

Alice has such a strong character that it’s fun to watch her and what she gets up to. She’s also a great example of an active protagonist, a concept I discussed last week/post. So much of what happens in the film is because of Alice’s decisions and actions – yes, Wonderland itself has it’s own personality and things she can’t help, but how she reacts to them effects the story. That’s how a lead should be! It’s what makes the film, in my eyes, exciting – we don’t know what Wonderland is going to throw at her next, and we also don’t know what Alice is going to say/do this time. As I mentioned in the intro, she gets criticism from both viewers and the animation team for not having heart, but I think it comes out when she realizes how lost she is and how she can’t get home. She’s certainly a little too “happy-go-lucky” at first (I mention that in my notes as well) but I don’t say that as a critique of the character, I think it fits. When you’re a kid, you DON’T always think of what the “smart” thing to do is and you DON’T always see dangerous situations as dangerous. Maybe the adult viewers and animators are looking at her from an adult lens, but Alice in Wonderland above all else, reminds us what it’s like to be a kid, exploring our world’s of imagination.

The adventure of exploring a fantastical world doesn’t end as next week we dive into Peter Pan! Have thoughts on Alice and her Wonderland friends? Let me know in the comments!

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