Cheshire Cat: Oh, you can’t help that. Most everyone’s mad here.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Much like the stories of classics such as Robin Hood andTarzan, many people (including myself) learned the story of Alice in Wonderlandthrough the Disney version. It has a very interesting history with Walt Disneyhaving it being decades in the making. Despite being a flop at the time, todayit is known as one of the best Alice adaptations put to film.
The story involves the main character Alice who is bored by her sister’s reading and spots a White Rabbit claiming he is “late for a very important date.” Alice chases him and eventually falls down a rabbit hole leading into the world of Wonderland coming across all sorts of strange characters in it.
The story really doesn’t have much to it. It’s just Alice’s curiosity quite literally leading her down the rabbit hole to this bizarre world. Alice’s motivations in the film are also somewhat vague. At first, all she wants to do is find the White Rabbit and eventually she just wants to go home. With that being said, this works to the movie’s credit of being an adaptation. The heart of the books was never its narrative structure or its journey’s means to an end. The story is just about establishing this world devoid of logic or reasoning and the crazy people within it. With no major plot, the majority of the film falls to the characters all around Wonderland, which the film uses well to shape the world Alice is in. While there is no real structure to the plot, it works to the crazy world that is Wonderland.
The strengths of the animation mostly lie in the world around Alice. Perhaps the movie’s strongest point is contrasting the real world with Wonderland. The real world looks more like a traditional Disney setting in Disney’s earlier films. The world of Wonderland has a very abstract look to it and makes great color usage. In regards to the characters, Alice has a more realistic design and movements.The Wonderland characters, on the other hand, look a lot more cartoony and comical in their design and movements. The designs, in particular, have a great deal of creativity in Wonderland’s inhabitants in highlighting the movie’s strange nature. The way all of Wonderland is shown gives it a sense of self-awareness of the real-world logic and how all of that is thrown out the window in Wonderland.
With no real story the characters may not be given much to work with and the film can easily fall apart. However the characters prove to be the movie’s strongest point. Alice is the character for audiences to putthemselves in her shoes. Much like Wendy Darling in the film that followed (interestingly enough both were voiced by the exact same actress Kathryn Beaumont) she’s inquisitive and kind but does have her limits. She wants to be apart of the fun in this odd world but merely finds herself frustrated by the world. She has a strong sense of logic, which helps her contrast to the world without any of it.
The Wonderland characters have no real established rules and ergo no development. As a result, each character is given a chance to showcase their personality and their interactions with Alice. The March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Cheshire Cat, The Red Queen, and others are all crazy but you never know what to make of them. Their moods alter so fast that you can never tell if they’re legitimately threatening or not.
The source material has a lot available to it and this movie doesn’t make as much use of it as it could. In fact of all the Disney sequels, this is one that could have had one exploring more of Wonderland. This movie knew how to explore and stick to the heart of Wonderland with its colorful animation and bizarre nature and an impressive array of characters.