It's been sixty years since Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” premiered, and it’s still one of Disney’s most imaginative and memorable animated features. Fourteen years after Disney’s first animated film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and just a year after “Cinderella,” “Alice In Wonderland” stood apart thanks to the inventive story based on Lewis Carroll’s book and its vibrant animation. In Disney’s 60th Anniversary Edition release of the film on Blu-ray, the quality and depth of animation looks amazing, only enhancing artist Mary Blair’s wonderful design concept.
Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) is a young girl who finds herself in a mysterious Wonderland after following a white rabbit down a hole in a tree. In Wonderland, Alice has tea with a mad hatter, upsets a smoking Caterpillar, tries to befriend talking flowers, gets instructions from a Cheshire Cat, and must escape The Red Queen who loudly proclaims “off with her head.” Alice has her share of mishaps and tries her best to make sense of the world around her while attempting to get back home and out of the Wonderland that grows more and more bizarre with each step forward.
Of course, before wandering into Wonderland, Alice complained of boredom and wondered what it would be like if she lived in a nonsensical world. What makes “Alice In Wonderland” so entertaining is not only Alice getting her wish, but the fact that Alice’s reactions are real and her character even somewhat flawed. She gets annoyed and upset fairly easily, just as a young girl might given the situation. Of course, in the end it’s just a dream leaving Alice to be a bit more grateful for the sensible world she lives in.
The voice work is exceptional, especially Ed Wynn as the Mad Hatter and Sterling Holloway as the Cheshire Cat. With voice work from Kathryn Beaumont, Richard Haydn (Caterpillar), Verna Felton (Queen of Hearts), J. Pat O'Malley (Tweedledee, Tweedledum, The Walrus, The Carpenter) and others, “Alice In Wonderland” remains fresh and enjoyable throughout. I often forget that “Alice In Wonderland” has musical numbers, as they don’t stand out quite as much as some of Disney’s newer films, however one can never forget “Painting The Roses Red” and “The Unbirthday Song.”
While “Alice In Wonderland” has its share of critics given its differences from Carroll’s books, it manages to stand on its own as the film version of “Alice In Wonderland” many people remember, especially given the many generations that grew up on Disney films. While I haven’t read Lewis Carroll’s books, I can’t comment on the comparison. However, I can easily recommend Disney’s “Alice In Wonderland” for it’s memorable characters and stunning, vibrant animation. While this may not be on par with Carroll’s writing or even as inspired as Tim Burton’s recent version, it’s certainly entertaining and enjoyable for children of all ages.
VIDEO: The Blu-Ray edition of the film (1.33:1/AVC/1080p) looked quite astonishing, as the film's gorgeous animation has clearly never looked better than it does on this new release. Sharpness and detail are exceptional, as the image looked delightfully crisp and well-defined, with smaller details looking surprisingly sharp and clean during most scenes - some moments here-and-there looked a tad softer, but these instances were rare.
While a couple of slight instances of wear were seen, the majority of the film remained spotless. No edge enhancement, pixelation or other faults were noticed with the transfer. Colors also impressed, appearing fresh and bright, with spot-on saturation and no smearing or other issues. Overall, this presentation is certainly a success.
SOUND: The DTS-HD 5.1 presentation was quite reasonable, with limited and appropriate use of the surrounds. Audio quality was fine; while understandably not as full or rich as modern soundtracks, the audio sounded a bit fresher than one might expect for a movie from this era. Dialogue remained crisp and easily understood, while music sounded clean.
EXTRAS: “Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland” - a feature that runs as the film plays, “Through the Keyhole” is certainly worth a look. With an enjoyable and informative amount of archive photos, interviews, and more this feature does a great job of offering an inside look into “Alice In Wonderland.” Also included is the lengthy "One Hour in Wonderland" and an episode of "The Fred Waring Show", two programs from the era that revolve around "Alice". It's a lot of fun to be able to see this archive footage.
“Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob” - it’s always entertaining to see footage animators referenced when animating a given scene. Kathryn Beaumont introduces the footage.
Also included is a “Painting The Roses Red Interactive Game,” “Walt Disney Color TV Introduction (1959)” and “DisneyView-Enhanced Viewing Experience” which offers artwork to fill the blank spaces in widescreen format.
“Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks” Kathryn Beaumont introduces the footage of a pencil test version of Alice shrinking.
“Reflections on Alice Featurette” - This is another wonderful feature full of informative and interesting interviews that not only discuss the film, but also Lewis Carroll’s books, and the design style for the film.
“Deleted Scene: Pig and Pepper” Ron Clements and John Musker introduce the deleted sketch drawing scene.
“Virtual Wonderland Party- Interactive Game” - much like a children’s program, this live action feature involves the viewer with games, songs and characters from the film.
“Adventures In Wonderland: Set Top Game” - A game to help Alice find her way back to the real world.
“‘I’m Odd’ Cheshire Cat Song,” “Thru The Mirror: Mickey Mouse Animated Short” and “Reflections on Alice Featurette” are also included, as well as sneak peeks, TV intros from Walt Disney, deleted storyboards, tests, reference footage, an interactive art gallery, DVD copy of the film, a high-def edition of "Operation Wonderland" and original song demos.
Final Thoughts: Disney's latest release of "Alice in Wonderland" boasts a nice handful of extra features, as well as improved audio/video quality. Recommended.
The Film A