The world's second-most-famous tea party

Animation cel signed by artist Ward Kimball

The visionary Uncle Walt

Lewis Carroll  

ALICE IN WONDERLAND
(Walt Disney)

Of all of Walt Disney's "golden age" full-length animated features ALICE IN
WONDERLAND is by far the most misunderstood by the critics, by the public,
and, yes, even by Uncle Walt himself.

Disney had wrestled with the concept of a full-length animated version of
ALICE for more than a decade, but found the prospect of transferring Lewis
Carroll's unique and sophisticated brand of verbal humor daunting indeed.
What finally emerged in theaters in 1951 was greeted with indifference by U.S.
critics (and public) and downright hostility by the British, who sniffed that
Disney had trampled Carroll's masterpiece into the dust. Even Disney, who
blamed ALICE'S failure on its "lack of heart" essentially disowned the film by
allowing it to be shown (in black and white!) on a Disney television special as
early as 1954.

Countless other attempts to literally transfer ALICE to the screen have
failed so miserably that the possibility exists that it simply can't be
done. Maybe Lewis Carroll , like F. Scott Fitzgerald, simply did not
create the kind of work that lends itself to this particular medium, a
fact that I believe the creators of this wondrous ALICE, which is
more Tex Avery/Terry Gilliam/Monty Python in tone than Lewis
Carroll, understood completely.

My point is, I believe Disney's ALICE to be the flat-out funniest
full-length animated film ever created. It's a non-stop barrage of the
most brilliant visual and verbal concepts, realized with a consistent
and unique clarity in tone that never ceases to amaze me. It's so richly inventive
in every detail that no matter how many times I see it I discover something new
and wonderful (and hilarious!) that I hadn't noticed before. Like the best of the
great Looney Tunes cartoons, this ALICE'S mad humor will be savored by
adults as well as by children.

Visually, the full screen (1.33:1) transfer is so exemplary that it
automatically puts my deluxe edition laserdisc edition in the shade,
and the new Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound track adds a pleasant
enveloping ambience to the rich score.

I do , however, vehemently disagree with the unfortunate corporate
decision to replace many of the superbly instructive visual and audio
supplemental features that made the laserdisc so special, with a lot of features
and games that are kid-friendly and nothing else.

That quibble aside , I notice that beneath the film's title on the
cover of this dvd is a banner which says "the masterpiece edition".
right. It's about time this wackily wonderful ALICE got her due.

--DICK DINMAN

 

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