These Days, Down the Rabbit Hole


We’re now back on the Disney animated movies with Alice in Wonderland, from 1951. I’ve seen this one many times before, and it was also one of my favorite books in childhood (and, really, still is now). I guess I should say my favorite TWO books, because the film includes elements from both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Most notable is the inclusion of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, but there are other bits from the second book incorporated as well. For instance, while Humpty Dumpty doesn’t appear, his bit about unbirthdays is transferred to the Mad Hatter and March Hare. As is typical with Disney adaptations, there are quite a few other changes from the book as well. While it kept the madcap nature of Wonderland, I have to say it seemed a bit dumbed down, inasmuch as it replaced a lot of Lewis Carroll’s riffs on logic, language, and mathematics with sight gags. The book had some physical humor, but it was nowhere near as prominent. I guess that’s kind of expected when making a dialogue-heavy book into a cartoon movie, though.

For the most part, the characters didn’t differ too much from the Tenniel illustrations, with a few notable exceptions. One was the King and Queen of Hearts, whose relationship was physically represented by making the Queen enormous and the King tiny. (I wonder how that works out in bed.)

Beth noted that the large, overbearing woman with the little guy is pretty much always supposed to be comical, while the reverse is the American dream. Pretty much, right? The character change that bothers me more, however, is the Dormouse. In Tenniel’s illustrations, he’s only a little smaller than the Hatter and Hare, while Disney makes him tiny.

It seems that the filmmakers took the bit about the other two trying to cram the Dormouse into the teapot and decided to put him inside the teapot permanently. Why, I couldn’t say. They did keep the general idea of the inhabitants of Wonderland being either bizarrely frustrating or openly rude, if not both. Interestingly, the Cheshire Cat, who in the book was weird but mostly friendly to Alice (I recently saw it noted that he’s the only character Alice refers to as a friend), is purposely mean in the movie. Disney seems to have realized that they made the character semi-villainous, as I remember seeing some Cheshire Cat merchandise at the villain store in Disney Hollywood Studios.

Overall, I did enjoy this film. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the book and I didn’t appreciate all of the changes, but that’s usually the way with these movies. It was not one of Disney’s more intellectual or well-plotted features, but it was amusing, and sometimes that’s enough. For what it’s worth, I believe this was the first of these animated classics with end credits. Most of the credits were still at the beginning, but there were some at the end. Also worth noting is that the music played when the cards are marching is one of the tunes they play on the information channel at Walt Disney World (or at least it was when we were there); and that the March Hare’s voice, Jerry Colonna, was also the narrator for Casey at the Bat and The Brave Engineer. He and Ed Wynn, who voiced the Hatter, were both famous for their work in radio. Finally, I think this film technically had more songs than any other Disney animated movie, although several of them were only a few seconds long.

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13 Responses to These Days, Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. halinabq says:

    >Interestingly, the Cheshire Cat, who in the book was weird but mostly friendly to Alice (I recently saw it noted that he’s the only character Alice refers to as a friend), is purposely mean in the movie.

    That’s because, in Cartoon Land (or is it Toon Town?) all cats are bad, while mice are good. (Think Tom & Jerry, Mighty Mouse, Mickey Mouse (with whom you share a birthday), etc. In real life of course, mice are notably less popular!

    By the way, what did you think of the recent Johnny Depp adaptation of Alice? I thought it was so dull that I fell asleep.

    • Nathan says:

      What about the Aristocats? Come to think of it, I believe Sterling Holloway actually voiced a mouse in that one.

      I didn’t care for the Johnny Depp Alice film. I actually wrote about it here.

  2. Mario500 says:

    “For the most part, the characters didn’t differ too much from the Tenniel illustrations, with a few notable exceptions.”

    The artist for Charles Dodgson (his pseudonym was Lewis Carroll) was John Tenniel.

    “One was the King and Queen of Hearts, whose relationship was physically represented by making the Queen enormous and the King tiny. (I wonder how that works out in bed.)”

    Even though their sleeping arrangements were never mentioned in the movie, one would guess they did not share the same bed or they shared a bed large enough for both of them. One would guess they enjoyed sleeping together without any problems.

    “Beth noted that the large, overbearing woman with the little guy is pretty much always supposed to be comical, while the reverse is the American dream. Pretty much, right?”

    It does not always have been to be comical. Either way is fine.

  3. You fail to point out how they made Alice all sickeningly sweet instead of the snarky, REAL girl she is in the books. That’s always been MY big gripe with the movie.

    But the music is good, and any excuse for psychedelic animation is all right with me.

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