GDR #13: Alice in Wonderland (1951)

alice in wonderlandOh, this beautiful drug trip of a movie. I know I complained a lot about the early Disney movies for being random and episodic (and if ever a movie were random and episodic, it’s Alice in Wonderland), but I have endless amounts of affection for this movie. It glories in its own oddness. What can I say, I’m willing to go a little mad if it means I can pay a visit to Wonderland.

This is the first full-length Disney story with a main female protagonist that’s not a romance. Granted, Alice is like twelve, but the average marrying age for Disney ladies seems to be sixteen, so it’s not the most implausible thing in the world. And it’s just a breath of fresh air to have a story about a young woman without any romance. It’s an adventure story! With a girl! Girls can have adventures without falling in love? Who knew?

Yes, the plot of this movie is scattered and strange, but the cast of characters is so delightful, I don’t even mind. This is more thanks to Lewis Carroll than Disney, but the Disney team evidently had a lot of fun with character design. Just take a look at the flowers in the garden, and how the natural shape of the flower lends to the design of the flower’s face and clothing-like petals, and how that design naturally forms the flower’s personality. The stuffy Iris with her poofy hair and monacle. The cute little Pansies. The dog-like Chrysanthemum. They’re so cleverly done.

Or how about the creatures in the Tulgey Wood? They just keep getting weirder and weirder. There’s an accordion-owl, shovel-birds, umbrella-birds, the cute little mome raths. There’s so much creativity in this movie, and Wonderland is, essentially, a world of creativity. Alice basically makes up the whole place in that Wizard of Oz or Labyrinth way, where the character’s fantasy world takes shape around her, both as a dream and a nightmare. And what I love about Alice is that she really does take it all in stride. Yeah, she knows it’s all very odd, and she despairs for a bit about never finding a way out, but she rarely loses her cool considering the weird acid trip she’s fallen into. She still expects to be treated with respect and is indignant when these odd people are rude to her.

And let’s just give a shout out to my homeboy, Sterling Holloway, who is delightfully creepy as the Cheshire Cat.

I will admit, though, that the Queen of Hearts is a lame villain. There really isn’t an overarching villain in either the book or the movie, but the Queen is kind of the de facto villain here. The King of Hearts, however, is possibly my new favorite character. He’s so tiny! And the way he subtly wheedles the Queen into having a trial cracks me up. “Couldn’t we just have a little trial? Hmm? Hmm?”

And then there’s the ending, for which I blame Lewis Carroll. The whole trial is going to hell! How will Alice possibly get out of this mishap? How will she escape the Queen?

…She wakes up.

I always forget the ending, because it’s so stupidly simple and anti-climactic. If you’re going to have the whole thing be a dream sequence, could you not have the dreamer wake up during the most dangerous, exciting moment? It seems like such a cop-out.

Even so, this movie is so wonderfully odd and random and just the right amount of creepy. I can’t wait to see Tim Burton’s take on it in March.

Favorite scene: Mad Tea Party

Because it’s the best example of the awesomely weird characters, random happenings, and nonsensical wordplay that Wonderland so embodies. I mean, come on. You can’t beat the Unbirthday Song.

Next time: Peter Pan!



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Filed under movies, The Great Disney Rewatchathon

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