Alice in Wonderland (1951)
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Alice in Wonderland (1951)

In 1937 Walt Disney created a new form of family entertainment, the feature length animated movie. Prior to that point cartoons were shorts used to pad out an evening at the local movie theater. Back then going to the movies was a big event for the entire family and typically took up the whole evening. Since then Disney studios has released one hit animated movie after another now spanning several generations. You can make a very educated guess about a person’s age by determining which Disney movie was the first you saw with you parents. Another tradition that came about from the Disney animated canon is the happy feeling achieved watching a favorite film that your parents watched with you with your own child. That sensation came to me years ago when I showed my daughter a VHS tape of the 1951 classic’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Like many Disney movies released on video tape my daughter soon wore that one out. This is why it is so exciting that Disney Studios not only released most of their classics on DVD special editions but now they are working through the best of their illustrious canon with high definition Blu-ray. not only is this format far more enduring than magnetic tape it also reveals a quality for the audio and video you never imagined was possible for a sixty year old film. Disney has been going through their classic animated films roughly in chronological order in their quest to bring them to this high definition format. Watching ‘Alice in Wonderland’ again, especially in this new form instantly brought back that childlike wonder that most of us adults lost a long time ago. In this particular instance the feeling is greatly magnified by the sheer whimsy inherent in this timeless, surreal tale. Just as Alice is brought to a strange a different place this Blu-ray will transport you and your entire family to your own personal wonderland. This time you don’t have to worry about the tape wearing out so feel free to view it as many times as you want.

Like most versions of Alice’s story this one was a blend of two novels by Lewis Carroll; ‘Adventures in Wonderland’ plus various plot lines from ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ blended in. this one was made into a screen play by Disney veteran Winston Hibler. Prior to this he wrote the script for ‘Cinderella’ and provided lyrics used on ‘Peter Pan’. The brunt of the directorial chores fell to Clyde Geronimi and Wilfred Jackson. The former had worked on ‘Peter Pan’ and would carry on in a career directing cartoons including ‘Mr. Magoo’ and’ Dick Tracey’. The latter directed ‘Cinderella’ and a segment of the original ‘Fantasia’. Both would go on to directing segments for ‘Disney’s Wonderful World of Color’. Some of the younger members of your family that have grown up during this age of computer animation may feel that this production is trite and primitive. It is about time they received a bit of a history lesson and come to appreciate the sheer skill and artistry used in the creation of this film. While computerized animation can provide incredible results achieving a level of realism and three dimensional look that has brought a renewed popularity of animation. The one thing that is very difficult to present through computer graphics is the warmth and sense of humanity inherent with hand drawn animation. This was a tedious, labor intensive process that required 24 slightly different cells for every second of screen time which translated to over a million individual drawings for this 75 minute film. Every one of those cells was in its own right a work of art painstakingly created by a talented human being. This adds a dimension to the process of telling a story that cannot be matched in quite this fashion.

This movie was part of the Anglophile period of Disney movies that encompassed other hits like ‘Peter Pan and ‘101 Dalmatians’ it also reflected a long held fascination that Walt Disney had with the works of Lewis Carroll. The style of the artwork was different from that usually associated with prints of the original books but in short order they would become the de facto standard accepted by the generations of fans that came after the film’s release. The Blue and white outfit wore by Alice and the extra wide grin of the orange tabby Cheshire Cat would take their place as icons of popular culture. The same holds true for the incarnations of the Mad Hatter, voice by Ed Wynn and his cohort the March Hare, voice provided by Jerry Colonna, would become the look that would drive subsequent treatments of the characters. Their distinctive voices set a bar that has not been surpassed as of this date. This version is more faithful to the novels than most. The card motif is specific to ‘Wonderland’ leaving the chess orient white Queen and her court absent. In what has become standard for these Disney Blu-ray releases the two disc set is packed with extras, enough to keep the family entertained for many hours.

bulletDisneyView Mode
bulletAbout the Artist
bulletThrough the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland
bulletReference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob
bulletPencil Test: Alice Shrinks
bulletWalt Disney Color TV Introduction
bulletPainting the Roses Red Game
bulletReflections on Alice
bulletOperation Wonderland
bullet"I'm Odd" Newly Discovered Cheshire Cat Song + Intro
bulletThru the Mirror Mickey Mouse Animated Short
bulletOne Hour in Wonderland
bulletAn Alice Comedy: Alice's Wonderland
bulletOriginal Theatrical Trailers
bulletWalt Disney TV Introduction
bulletThe Fred Waring Show (Excerpt)
bulletDeleted Materials
bulletInteractive Art Gallery
bulletSneak Peeks
bulletStandard-Def DVD

Posted 01/27/11

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