When Walt Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ released on July 28, 1951, the response to the film was surprisingly unsatisfactory. It took another 30 years for audiences to realize the true greatness of this classic tale, while reopening a time of Disney’s true stance on adapting incredible novels for the big screen. With a timeless animated musical feature such as this, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ celebrates its 60 year anniversary today and is remembered as one of Disney’s greatest achievements in animation. With a barrage of different remakes and adaptations of this novel by Lewis Carroll, the story of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and into a world of peculiarity is exciting to watch every time.
This amazing story begins on a river, with Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) becoming increasingly bored listening to her sister drone on about the life of William I of England. Alice would rather dream of a different world filled with things beyond her imagination. Continuing on with her daydreaming, Alice then spots a White Rabbit (Bill Thompson) who seems to be in a hurry to get somewhere as he moves with haste. While not curious of the rabbit’s appearance and use of a large pocket watch, Alice decides to follow him into a rabbit hole where she inevitably falls in.
Once landed, Alice continues to follow the rabbit into a large hall but he manages to get past her using a very tiny door. We then meet the Doorknob (Joseph Kearns) who informs Alice of a bottle on the table labeled “Drink me”; which she does. Now very small, there is only one problem which is the key to open the door is on the table high above Alice. The Doorknob once again suggests to eat a cookie labeled “Eat me” in order for her to grow tremendously tall. So tall in fact that she can’t fit into the door, which makes her cry and form a flood of tears. One last suggestion made by the Doorknob is for Alice to drink what’s left in the bottle to shrink her once again and float away into the bottle; which sails her into the keyhole.
After this short voyage, Alice meets the twin brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee (J. Pat O’Malley) who recite a poem to Alice until she wanders away to the White Rabbit’s home. While in the home, Alice eats another cookie and grows to a larger size but frightens the rabbit, who believes Alice is a monster. After a failed attempt to escape the house, Alice eats a carrot and shrinks once again in order to pursue the rabbit further. Through a garden of flowers, Alice discovers a string of smoke letters formed by the Caterpillar (Richard Haydn) who, while at first insulted by her, helps Alice return to her normal height using mushrooms to do so.
Continuing her journey, Alice meets the Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway) who leads Alice to another home owned by the March Hare (Jerry Colonna). We also meet the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn) and the Dormouse (Jimmy MacDonald) who are celebrating the hare’s “unbirthday” party and this scene in particular is very entertaining to watch. After some dismay caused by those at the party, Alice decides to leave for good and return home; but she becomes lost along the way.
The Cheshire Cat comes to help her and leads Alice through a shortcut in the forest, which leads to the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton) and her Playing Cards guards. The Queen invites Alice to play a game but it is shortly interrupted after the Cheshire Cat plays a prank on the Queen, who unfairly blames Alice. With Alice ordered for execution but instead stands trial, the final scenes are not only amusing to witness but we learn an important message at the end which really reflects on imagination and the logic behind it.
To think 60 years have gone by of this timeless Disney classic and the film has been more popular today than ever before. While many may be familiar with the incredibly successful ‘Alice in Wonderland’ 2010 remake from Tim Burton, it is the story by Lewis Carroll which is responsible for these characters being brought to us to enjoy for so many years. Whether you are a young child who is a fan of Disney or an adult who wants to bask in the memories you may have of this film, nevertheless it is worth revisiting this classic again and giving celebration to Alice and the inhabitants of Wonderland.
(‘Alice in Wonderland’ is rated G and is appropriate for any audience, ages four and up. This film is available on Netflix (click here) and at your local Best Buy (click here) or Wal-Mart (click here) stores).
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