"Alice In Wonderland" (1951) Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Walt Disney's classic cartoon "Alice In Wonderland" is a very odd film, but in a good way. I think it's nearly impossible to describe every weird oddity in a single conversation.
Adapted from the beloved book series by Lewis Carroll, we follow a young girl named Alice down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, a world where nothing makes sense. We have talking flowers, a talking white rabbit, celebrating un-birthdays, and so on.
The animation is absolutely stellar, like every other Disney film. It's bewildering to think that this was released in 1951. Let's look at the scene where Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum tell the story of "The Walrus and the Carpenter". It's beautiful looking at the half-night and half-day shot. If you look at one half of the screen and then the other, it feels like you're watching two separate films. Another film that used this strategy was Nicolas Winding Refn's 2011 movie "Drive".
Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of the plot. It's extremely depressing and dark, especially for a Disney film. Let's look back at "The Walrus and the Carpenter" scene, which was mentioned earlier on. We watch as the Walrus is about to devour a bunch of baby oysters. Granted, people eat baby oysters all the time. But the animators draw them with such happy and cute little faces that it makes it such a dark scene to watch. The last thing we see of the oysters are their terrified little faces before being gobbled down by the hungry walrus.
This movie is very claustrophobic in some parts. Take for example the scene where Alice is being chastised by the flowers for not being like them. She runs away, but is attacked by a different flower everywhere she looks. Is there no escape? When the film isn't so claustrophobic, we can then empathize with Alice who feels lost in such a large world. The dark and scary woods go on for so long, and it feels like there is no way out. It's a hard film to watch when you're not in the right mindset.
On a side note, why is the Queen of Hearts considered the big villain in this film? She treats Alice the same as everyone else in Wonderland, and only has roughly 20 minutes of screen time. I personally think The Cheshire Cat is more of a villain than the loud mouth queen is. He provokes all the characters, (mostly Alice) to say and do things they will regret. He is the main reason for there being any conflict at all between the Queen of Hearts and Alice. However, on another hand, is it fair to call Alice the main antagonist in this film? She constantly says and acts in ways that won't suit her best interest. She acts on impulse, and never gives second thought to how it can affect her. During the courtroom scene towards the end of the film, she grows in stature to where she reaches the ceiling. The entire court, including the queen, is terrified of the now giant girl. She then proceeds to tell the queen how horrible she is and a pompous tyrant, not aware she is shrinking back to normal stature. Even though the audience is supposed to sympathize with Alice, it's incredibly hard to. Why should we feel bad for this idiotic girl who doesn't make good decisions?
This film is so memorable, but forgettable as well. All these years later, we remember Alice and the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts. Why don't audiences remember the Walrus? The King? The nesting mother bird? Perhaps they are just not memorable enough to stick with the audiences.
Alice eventually wakes up from her dream in the end, continuing her day. We can only imagine the thoughts running through her head after such a vivid and horrifying dream. Was it a dream or a nightmare? I guess that's up to the audience's interpretation of how they see Wonderland.