Alice in Wonderland (1951)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Alice in Wonderland</strong> (1951)

(Second Viewing, On Blu-ray, October 2018) I grew up on a lot of Disney paraphernalia, so in a sense I’ve always known about Alice in Wonderland even if my memories of the film were hazy at best. I half-revisited the film two years ago alongside my daughter, but didn’t really write a review because my viewing was repeatedly interrupted—What I could see from the film was episodic, psychedelic and more interesting as an animation piece than a feature-length narrative. I decided to revisit the film in a less distracted state to find out if it made more sense when watched from beginning to end and … it doesn’t. For all of the familiar iconography and the set pieces that everyone remembers and the movie summary that figures in picture books, the full-length version of Alice in Wonderland is a trippy succession of absurd episodes that doesn’t really build to anything coherent. While that’s the point of the original Lewis Carroll book, it’s also a bit of a disappointment for basic movie viewers who expect something more narrative-driven. (A question to be answered by others: how popular was the film with stoner audiences?) To be fair, the animation in the film is really, really good—It looks much better than some of the seventies and eighties Disney movies, for instance, and there’s quite a visual imagination on display from the various set pieces that form the bulk of the film. Narratively, however, it sounds as if the Disney animators got permission to do half a dozen psychedelic episodes of the sort seen in earlier movies (most notably Snow White, Fantasia and Dumbo) and string them together. Having read (and re-re-re-read) the film’s junior novelization more than once as a bedtime tale, I was still disappointed and surprised at the lack of coherence in the film. In the end, this remains a second-tier Disney Animation Studio release—the animation is too good (and Alice too significant a character) to be forgotten, but it’s not on the level of the other iconic productions from the studio. And if you want a second advice, ask my daughter—she wasn’t overly impressed by the film on her first viewing, and never asked to see it again.

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