Alice in wonderland - Disney (1951)

"Twas brillig, and the slithey toathes, did gire and gymble in the wabe..."

The sound of Sterling Holloway's voice singing this iconic poem as the Cheshire Cat is as nostalgic to me as warm rice pudding on a cold winters night. So, what better way to relieve the tension of work than through the mad language of Louis Carol and the vibrant colours and songs of Walt Disney.

This is by far the best adaptation of the book I’ve ever seen (sorry Tim Burton, but yours was not up to par), and is all the better for avoiding the grotesque Duchess and the pig story which haunted me from the radio edit.

As my favourite Disney - yes, I know there are many excellent others - this is particularly special to me, and so it seems, to Walt Disney himself.

Disney had tried to make this movie since 1923, when he made a live-action-animation hybrid film called the Alice Comedies (a technique which is both terrifying and impressive - it preceded Who Framed Roger Rabit by about 60 years) which proves Walt was somewhat obsessed with this story.

In the 1930s silent film legend Mary Pickford heard a rumour Disney were going to animate this treasured tales and put herself forward to play the lead character. All through 1937,1938 and 1939 Walt was working on the final look of the film story boarding with British artist David Hall. Hall's illustrations were brilliant, surreal, whimsical and macabre all at once, which frankly sums up Louis Carol’s original book.

After the war, Aldous Huxley wrote a screen play and Ginger Rogers recorded an album of songs, showing just how much this novel struck a chord with society at the time. However, it wasn’t until Mary Blair came along that the film took off.

Mary's tour of South America during the late 1940s was the catalyst to get the project moving again. Bold, bright and surreal the art of colonial areas influenced the final style and look of Alice. It was a change of pace for Mary who went on to design the look and feel of Cinderella and Peter Pan. But this distorted perspective and jolly colours have remained dominate in Disney's output even in recent times with Up and MONSTERS Inc.

But the most exciting part of the production story is about the Mad Hatter's tea party.

During the animation process, it’s not uncommon for the studio to film sections with actors to inspire the artists. The famous ‘tea party’ scene featured celebrated 'vaudeville' actor Ed Wynn as the Hatter. His talent for improv was so good, that from that scene they directly used his audio track, never needing to recorded his voice again. Moreover, his impulsive, spontaneous live performance was duplicated scene for scene by the animator’s pencils.

After watching this I thought of how much influence its had on cinema since. Forgive me if this is tenuous, but even with David Lynch. In particular, the moment Alice starts to explain what her mad world is, there’s a flickering moment in the river when we’re transported to Wonderland, yet it looks exactly like the real world. If anyone’s seen Mulholland Drive, then you might know what I mean. There's a seamless switch between real/ unreal which is not dissimilar to Alice...

No comments:

Post a Comment