animated movie Alice in Wonderland © Disney

Reviews for Alice in Wonderland

2.75 stars / 20 ratings
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CW's avatar
Reviewing Ninja
Reviews: 51

CW's Review

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posted: Mar 31, 2012
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I suppose when it comes to surreal movies, animation is the best medium to realize them in. Sure, special effects these days can do just about anything, but there wasn’t a lot they could do back in the 1950s. Also, Disney had already experimented with animation in films such as The Three Caballeros, Fantasia, and even Dumbo. Pink Elephants on Parade was crazy, and it was certainly just the beginning.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was probably the most appropriate book to use for Disney’s continuing experiments in the hand-drawn medium. The sheer amount of nonsense and imagination present in Wonderland would’ve made it very difficult to try to film with live actors (although many studios did try, with varying success).

It took me a while to figure out what I really feel about this movie. As a study in nonsense, it’s quite good. One of my favourite lines from the original text had to do with the ease of being offered more than nothing and the difficulty of being offered less than nothing, and it is included in the film. In fact, the film takes many scenes from the book (as well as Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel) and animated them almost verbatim. Indeed, Alice did have quite a few little adventures during her trip through Wonderland.

Disney did something interesting with the story. The scene at the beginning is extended into its own musical number where Alice speculates about the perfect world, a world free of everything that makes this world boring. She wants cats to talk as well, thus becoming the world’s very first furry. The rest of the film turns into an exploration of Alice’s folly, showing us exactly why we need things to make sense.

I feel this is the wrong way to approach the original story. It reverses the meaning of everything. Instead of showing how silly and illogical a real life government can be at times (this is an especially appropriate lesson given the United States presidential primaries going on as I write this), the caucus race becomes the invention of a very foreign land where nonsense is the first and only order of business for the day, and the lesson for Alice is that real life is better because it is not like this at all.

In fact, the lesson that Alice must take away at the end of the film is that imagination is a bad thing. Talking cats do more harm than good, sane people are so much better to hang out around than mad people (okay, that one’s somewhat true) and you shouldn’t look for wonder in a world with firm, set physical laws.

Contrariwise, it’s Alice’s imagination that gets her out of trouble at least once. It isn’t explicitly pointed out in the film, but Alice consciously alters the rules of Wonderland without realizing it when she is stuck as large as a giant in the White Rabbit’s home. There’s no reason for her to suspect that the carrot she eats would have magical shrinking properties, and yet it somehow does.

So Disney feels the need to censor a cigarette from Pecos Bill, but the entire Caterpillar scene in Alice in Wonderland remains intact? Sure, there are tobacco-free mixtures that can be smoked through a hookah, but come on. Do we really think that the Caterpillar wasn’t smoking some really weird shi...shtuff?

Anyway, the final impression I get from the film is that it’s a great movie if you can stand it. Preferably upright, but it’ll still work on its side. However, if that’s not the case, or if you’ve lost the case entirely, you may have to purchase a replacement case or put the DVD in one of those protective CD/DVD books. I’d read the book instead, if I were you. But then if I were you, I wouldn’t have written this review and it wouldn’t exist unless someone else were me. That might already have happened, come to think of it.

Wanderingshadow's avatar
Animated Enthusiast
Reviews: 31

Wanderingshadow's Review

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posted: Aug 02, 2008
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Alice in Wonderland was a film that Disney had been wanting to make for years. In fact, he considered making Alice in Wonderland for his first film rather than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Good thing for him that he didn't.

The film is based on Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland (though it also borrows some from Through the Looking Glass). Alice is an English school girl who is bored with her lessons. She notices a white rabbit running by and chases it into a hole. For the rest of the movie, she chases the rabbit while meeting all sorts of strange creatures in Wonderland.

The production values are up to snuff for a Disney film. The animation looks good and the character designs are nice. The animators do a wonderful job creating the surreal world of Wonderland. As a pure spectacle, this film is a success.

The films suffers from one problem: being Alice in Wonderland. The book is hard to bring to the big screen for a couple of reasons. One is that it relies heavily on wordplay, which doesn't translate well to film. The other is that the story is so loose. As a result, Disney's Alice in Wonderland lacks in structure. Some of the scenes have absolutely no point to them (I'm looking at you Tweedledee and Tweedledum).

Then there's Alice. She's not a very interesting characters. Mostly she pokes her nose into whatever she finds and acts totally bewildered when strange things happen to her. She doesn't learn anything from her past experiences either. The most interesting thing she does in the entire movie is sit in the woods and cry because she's lost, but by that point, I have no sympathy for her.

Having said that, this movie is one that most people either love or hate. It's worth watching at least once if only to see which side of the fence you fall on.

J-Kitty's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 188

J-Kitty's Review

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posted: May 02, 2008
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Here is another classic story beside "Gulliver's Travels" that in intrigue me, and after reading Alice, it became one of my favorite books. I thought this film from Disney is a colorful and imaginative animated interpretation of the classic children's novel. Of course I love both Disney's version and the live-action made-for-TV version from Hallmark with Martin Short (The Mad Hatter) and Whoppi Goldberg (The Cheshire Cat); I am not one to take sides. I love 5 out of 14 songs out of the film's soundtrack, which are:
"Alice in Wonderland,"
"In a World of My Own,"
"All in a Golden Afternoon,"
"A Very Merry Un-birthday" or "The Un-birthday Song," and...
"Painting the Roses Red."

And I love our adventurous little girl Alice and how she's designed. I now admit, Marc Davis is a champion behind female figures. He also did Cinderella, Princess Aurora/Briar Rose from Sleeping Beauty and Wendy from Peter Pan.

Firefly's avatar
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Reviews: 36

Firefly's Review

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posted: Sep 30, 2007
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What a great film! I still ove it now. Based on a children's story(...I think) Alice falls asleep during her lessons in the park and wakes up seeing a white rabbit with a pocket watch. She decides to follow it and falls into a place where nothing makes any sense. The music is fun and the characters are funny. Perfect family film or just to go down memory lane.

Pat2's avatar
Toon Addict
Reviews: 76

Pat2's Review

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posted: Oct 31, 2006
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Thge first thing I realized is that everyone seems to have a different opinion on this film, so although I gave "Alice in Wonderland" a poor rating you may find it enterteining yourself. That said, I want to enphasize that, to me, this movie was very BORING. I don't know if the book is so much better, but it can't be as boring as the movie. The film has a variety of characters whom Alice encounters but none of them was interesting to me. I do not reccomend this movie at all.

Shae's avatar
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Reviews: 28

Shae's Review

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posted: Feb 06, 2006
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This movie is excellent. For the longest time it was among my least favorite Disney movies; I just did not appreciate it. I thought that because it was so different, it wasn't really worth giving another chance. But then I read the books, watched it a few more times--and something snapped. I found myself absolutely in love with the movie. There is just something incredibly enchanting about it. It's so bizarre, so strange, so unique, that it makes me want to see it over and over again now. I love the characters, the songs, the crazy humor. It really is a wonderful film and it took me until very recently to realize it.

starlac's avatar
KF Managing Editor
Reviews: 226

starlac's Review

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posted: Jan 22, 2006
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Being obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, it was only a matter of time before Disney made a animated feature based on Lewis Carol's wonderful book. Ever since he had stopped making his Live-action/animated Alice shorts in the 1920's, Disney had had Alice's adventures burning at the back of his mind. Unfortunately the surreal world of Wonderland has always evaded a truly great interpretation in any medium. And though animation is an ideal form for Alice's adventures, Disney completely failed to do the source material justice. Some sort of foreknowledge of the books is a must if you don't want to get completely lost and bewildered, as this film moves along in a way in which unrelated set-pieces are barely threaded together. All this seems to be for the benefit of some quick paced oddball humour and woefully inadequate songs, in which the main character seems unable to hold a key.

To me the only bits that truly match the insanity of the books are that of the Cheshire Cat, who manages to steal the show whenever he appears and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, which is a bookmark in pure cartoon insanity and animation invention. The animation is mostly subpar and not up to Disney usually high standards; although some parts, like the marching of the card army, are simply amazing to look at. However Alice is unimaginatively designed, her personality consists of whining about the things around her and gets quite boring. To cap it all she's just not able to carry a feature film, as it is hard to care for Alice's plight when she complaints so much, an unsympathetic main character is the death knell of any film, but with a film which is so threadbare to begin with this merely adds to its troubles.

The fact that Disney himself stated disappointment for the film is another. However its the complete butchery of a beloved British classic, that ultimately kills any love I could ever have for this film.

Read the books instead.

Lucky_Bob's avatar
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Reviews: 78

Lucky_Bob's Review

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posted: Oct 24, 2005
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I don't know whay people don't like this film. I think it's great.
The Queen of Hearts is funny. I also like the Mad Tea Party and the Catapiller.

lonely_princess's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 106

lonely_princess' Review

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posted: Apr 21, 2005
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I just want to add that the King and Queen Of Hearts look like my parents. So that is the only good thing going for this movie.

lupercal's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 517

lupercal's Review

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posted: Jan 18, 2005
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Edit: 1/08. Lost half a star.

I can't help wondering what I would have made of this movie if I weren't so familiar with the original book. Taking that further, I wonder what I would have made of it if I were a child and wasn't familiar with the book. I'm pretty sure that after about 10 minutes I'd be asking myself, "what the hell is this about?"

The original 'Alice in Wonderland' was, of course, an outrageous political and social satire, much in the same way that 'Gulliver's Travels' had been a couple of hundred years earlier. That never stopped them being great fun as pure adventure stories without the subtext, and it didn't stop people making good movies of them (in fact both 'Gulliver' and 'Alice' were the subject of exceptionally good TV mini-series in the late 90's). Given that modern Disney movies usually have an 'adult track' as well as a children's one, it's ironic that they should so totally eschew any adult content in a story which is overflowing with it. But that's not really their fault, of course. References to Victorian politics would hardly have amused the average adult in 1951.

What you can't excuse Disney for is making such a dog's breakfast of the children's adventure part of the film. I remember being totally sucked in to the Alice stories when they were read to me as a child. Let's face it - to a kid the thing is a trip. But the scenes were developed and paced such that they each had space to breathe, and seemed to flow on from each other in some sort of logical fashion. In Disney's rendering, Alice merely endures a sequence of increasingly bizarre and unrelated events, fired off at machine-gun pace.

If ever there were a film that begged for some judicious editing of the source material (something Disney isn't normally shy about), this is it. What earthly purpose does the Walrus and Carpenter sequence serve, as introduced by Tweedle-Dee/Dum? "Well, that was a completely pointless little story told by two completely pointless characters. See you later."

To be blunt, Disney's writers were totally at sea with this movie. They just didn't know what to do with Carroll's story, and they made a real hash of it. It isn't supposed to simply be a chaotic sequence of events. There is an internal order to the thing. What's more, for a kid's film, this has no message, no meaning. The best that could be said is that it's mildly entertaining now and then.

Furthermore, it has some of the most truly wretched songs ever to 'grace' a Disney film., and Alice has a terribly weak voice which can hardly hold a tune.

On the plus side - and there are some plusses, taken in isolation - the animation is better than anything they would do in the 60's or 70's - the scenes with the playing-card soldiers in particular are very well done, and the visual character design is usually very good (though Alice herself is terribly uninteresting).

That's about it, though.

Disney had just returned to making animated features after a hiatus of nearly ten years, and this is a million miles from the quality of their early 40's movies. Fortunately they would come storming back with their next two movies, 'Peter Pan' and 'Lady and the Tramp', and even though they made some pretty ordinary stuff over the next few decades, it would be nearly two generations before they made anything as bad as this again.

It's not quite the worst animated feature Disney ever made, but you can definately see the bottom of the barrel from here.

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