My opinion right after watching movie
My opinion right after watching the film is that I feel like it is like a package film, and when a film is not a package film and SEEMS like one, that is an issue. There is no plot until the 50 minute mark and everything before that is an episodic segment. This film is not good storytelling.
So Walt Disney had a long history with the source material. His first official work was a bunch of Alice shorts that he used as a part of his portfolio from the 1920s. In 1932, he was thinking about making an animated/live action hybrid film of Alice starring Mary Pickford, and he got the rights for it, but another live action Alice came out, and the studio eventually went to work on Snow White instead.
They revamped the project again after Snow White was released, and the storyboards were complete, but he did not like it. That along with the war and the productions of Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia got him to shelve the project again. In 1946, the production for the film as we know it started, and the studio did not want it to be too close to the source material. A lot of the unused material for this film went into Peter Pan.
The movie starts with Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) getting read a history book by her sister (Heather Angel), and she is extremely bored and starts to daydream. Her sister scolds her for daydreaming, and continues on reading her book. Alice sneaks off from the tree they were at and sings the song In a World of My Own, which establishes her curiosity and boredom of her world. She sees a rabbit (Bill Thompson) running about being late, and follows it, causing her to fall in a rabbit hole in a tree.
So she finally reaches down the rabbit hole, which is an excuse for the animators to show off their animation, and she sees the rabbit go through a door, but she can not get in. A bottle that says “Drink Me” pops off and she drinks it, shrinking. She starts crying and the door (Joseph Kearns) tells her to eat the cookie to make her grow to get the key. After all of that goes on, she shrinks into the bottle, and makes it through the door.
So she goes to the Rabbit’s house, and grows to a giant in his house. He still continues to go off and run to go somewhere. She licks a piece of food and shrinks. We than suffer from a few more segments before we get to the Merry Unbirthday Tea Party. The Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn), March Hare (Jerry Colonna), and the Dormouse (Jimmy MacDonald) are acting like they are high off of LSD, and the rabbit finally show sup to ultimately get kicked out. Alice gets tired of the foolishness and runs off to find her way home.
So the Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway) reappears, and gives her the shortcut to make it home by going to the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton). She goes to the castle, and after helping the cards paints the roses red, the Queen snaps and finds Alice. She asks Alice to participate in a golf like sport, and this leads to a funny yet ridiculous scene of the animal balls and the cards trying to make Alice lose and the Queen win.
So Alice somehow ends up in court and is given the verdict before the trial even begins. Alice loses it and snaps at the Queen. This causes the Queen to demand her head get cut off, and Alice runs from Wonderland, which ends up her waking up. She is woken up by the tree, by herself (she was not by herself and was not laying on the floor when she was at the tree in the beginning). The film ends with her, her sister and Dinah going home for tea.
There are so many characters that are in this film for 2-5 minutes, and never seen again. Even the so called supporting cast are barely in the film. Alice is a good enough character though.
The animation in this film is WONDERFUL. Mary Blair (who worked on Cinderella) made amazing, detailed and stylized backgrounds. The coloring is very vibrant and stand out. I could not find any inconsistencies when it came to the animation. The way they handled transformations (like Alice’s height varying) are so cool to watch. The animation is the thing that stands out the most about the film.
The music is…..decent. Well, it is good, but there are too many songs to remember them, and they are not long shorts. Many of them very from seconds long to less than 2 minutes. These songs are very fast paced (which somewhat works for the film), but it does kind of make things seem crazier. Decent is the only word I can use for it. There was no need for all of these short songs.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on July 26, 1951, it did not do well. It only made $2.4 million out of its $3 million budget, and it received mixed reviews. Many fans of the book did not like how it was Americanized, while critics thought it was a hot ass mess in writing. He was disappointed in the reception, and it was never rereleased in theaters during his lifetime. Many predict that if Cinderella was not such a huge success the previous year, Alice would have sunk the studio and they would have closed down; not making it through the 50s.
It became popular in the early 70s due to the hippie age and the drug culture (go figure), after Disney has passed away. It has been released many times since then, and has been deemed as a classic. It has a 2010 live action film called Alice in Wonderland, which went on to make over a billion dollars.