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20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Alice in Wonderland was released following Cinderella, but the two properties could not have been more different. First of all, the source material. Cinderella was an old, traditional fairy tale featuring a princess and a linear, fairly simple story. Alice in Wonderland was based on two novels, written by Lewis Carroll less than a hundred years before Walt Disney got his hands on them. Rather than the regular narrative he usually adapted, the Alice stories were nonsensical and random. These stories had long interested Disney. In fact, some of his earliest works involved cartoons featuring a live-action little girl named Alice going on adventures in an animated world. Sound familiar? Following the success of Cinderella, Disney was finally able to take these stories and attempt to adapt them in an animated feature film that would live on for generations to come.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Cinderella’

This movie, based on the stories by Lewis Carroll, is a strange experience. One of the problems with attempting to put these books to film is that there is really no story. It is about a little girl wandering around in her own imagination, but nothing really happens. This is less of an issue when reading the stories, but it is harder to ignore when seeing it on screen. Unfortunately, neither Disney nor the audiences of the time were very thrilled with this movie upon its release. Since then, however, it has gone on to become very popular with the Disney community. One doesn’t have to look far to see fans of this film at conventions or celebrations, which has made it somewhat of a cult classic.

I have always had a particular fondness for Alice in Wonderland, both on the page and on the screen. This fondness hasn’t disappeared as I have gotten older, and perhaps this is why I am hesitant to criticize this or other adaptations. It has no rhyme and reason but that is what makes it so fun. Despite my love for it, this kind of storytelling doesn’t work for a lot of people, which I can understand.

Live-action remake: in 2010, Disney and Tim Burton released less of a remake, but a reimagining, of this film. Instead of following the original story, this version is somewhat of a sequel. This original story presumes we know what happened to Alice as child and sees her returning to Wonderland (or Underland as it is called here) as an adult. Though the first film was a success, its sequel, released in 2016, was not.

Alice in Wonderland in the theme parks: The theme parks have two major rides based on this film. One is just called “Alice in Wonderland” and is a dark ride much like the Snow White and Pinocchio ones. Another ride is the “Mad Tea Party” ride, based on the scene from the film. This ride features spinning tea cups and is not recommended for people who are susceptible to motion sickness. In addition to the rides, Alice and her friends make appearances in numerous parades and events throughout the park.

Spin-off: From 1992 to 1995, a live-action and puppet hybrid called Adventures in Wonderland aired on The Disney Channel. Based on the animated film, this spin-off was popular among audiences and even won several Daytime Emmys. Unfortunately, it was never released on DVD and is currently unavailable on Disney+.

Alice in Wonderland on the stage: Like Cinderella and several other Disney animated classics, a kids version of this film has been adapted for the stage. Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr. is a one act musical based on the animated movie, featuring original and newly written songs. Interestingly, one of the songs in this version is “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, written for the controversial film Song of the South. The rights for this are available through Music Theatre International.

Alice in Wonderland is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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