Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Through the Looking Glass - Reflections on "Alice"

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The Walt Disney Family Museum website has a beautiful four part series on Alice in Wonderland currently up which I recommend looking through, if for no other reason than the thoughtful reflections of animators Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Joe Grant found in the Multimedia Panel Discussion section. Other highlights include some black and white photos from the acting and modeling sessions with Kathryn Beaumont and Ed Wynn.

The tone of the series is a bit sad if anything. Interviewees who knew Walt at the time the film was being produced claim that the film was really a bit of a disappointment to Walt, especially at the box office where it has even been called a failure. An interview with Walt from the series quotes him as saying, "You know, I never wanted to make it, really. I never warmed to it... it was too intellectual." Animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston blamed the film's lack of appeal on its choppiness and lack of emotional appeal contending, "It was a series of vaudeville acts... There was no plot," and "There was no place you ever cared or worried about Alice."

Nevertheless, "Alice" continues to be my favorite, disconnected plot and all. There is something so unlike other Disney films of the time that "Alice" has that in a way makes it charming - if not altogether a little bizarre. And one can't ignore the fact that "Alice" was a recurring theme throughout Walt's career. The Alice Comedies (Walt's first real success with animation), followed by the 1936 black and white short film Thru the Mirror featuring Mickey Mouse, Alice in Wonderland (of course), and Donald Duck in Mathmagicland. Perhaps I'm reading into this, but there is something almost symbolic about that process of stepping into another realm where dreams become reality that is really reflective of Walt's life in general. It's that same theme that makes its appearance at Disneyland ("Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy").

In short, I still hold to the belief that this film was such a disappointment because the expectations Walt had were too high and too dear to his past, particularly with the Alice Comedies. Comment and criticism, as always, are welcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Alice in Wonderland" is my favorite Disney film as well. To me, it had a sense of fun that some other films lacked. It was also trying new ideas for an animated feature. Also, Alice, to me, makes a credible, more intelligent heroine than say, Snow White. Anyway, geat post.