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Alice in Wonderland (1951) - Blu-ray Review

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Alice in Wonderland 1951 60th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

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60th Anniversary Edition / Blu-ray + DVD

4 stars

Walt Disney’s 1951 take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s books never got the praise the film deserved from most critics.  Sure, it doesn’t follow the books down to the letter and, yes, it barely incorporates the lyrical poetry Carroll so ingeniously created for that magical world, (and, yes, the original title shot misspelled Carroll’s last name) but there is a mad brilliance to the narrative that does exist in this animated classic, a classic that sees fit to celebrate its 60th “very merry unbirthday” this year with its HD debut on the Blu-ray format.

Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont) is a curious little girl.  After becoming bored by her sister’s reading, she follows the playful wondering of her kitten Dinah and discovers White Rabbit (Bill Thompson) scurrying off to an appointment that he is late for.  She gives in to chase the curious rabbit and stumbles down a hole where things float upwards while she falls downwards.  Thus, the entrance to Wonderland is discovered and her little strange and fascinating trip begins – a trip which, ultimately brings her face-to-face with the raging Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton).

The journey is not unlike an opium high, in which our heroine meets and becomes episodically entangled with a garden variety of wonky characters including a feisty brass Doorknob (Joseph Kearns), a set of sentence-finishing overstuffed twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (J. Pat O'Malley), a disappearing Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway), a smoking Caterpillar (Richard Haydn), the insane March Hare (Jerry Colonna), the higher than a kite Dormouse (James MacDonald), and the infamous Mad Hatter (so memorably voiced by Ed Wynn).

The story might be a tad different, but the lunacy inherent in Carroll’s work is still there.  These creatures have no purpose; Wonderland exists to not exist.  Disney succeeds in bringing out the crazy without losing the heart of the story – which is that innocent girl’s imagination.  Her daydreaming is a form of her intelligence while her sister bores her with her own.  There simply is no other point to the narrative and that’s what Walt Disney, who personally oversaw this film’s 18-year-long production, kept hammering home to his writers.  Their hook would be to follow the whimsical route and create songs to fit the episodes and that’s when this little project took flight.  When the narrative ends, we are left with only the memory of the songs.  And what wonderful songs they are: ‘The Unbirthday Song’, ‘How Do You Do And Shake Hands’, and ‘Twas Brillig’ are only a few of the lyrics that haunted my childhood years.

The artistry of this film is another achievement in the film medium.  Developed from live-action scenes, the artists recreated Beaumont’s physicality with numerous hand-drawn frames.  She was fitted for wardrobe in the same colors her cartoon character appears as and every movement was captured.  Somewhere, we get a glimpse of those films on the supplemental material of the blu-ray, there exists all the camera recordings of Beaumont acting on set as Alice for the illustrators.

Yet, the film gets unfairly knocked about because of its episodic nature (something Tim Burton tried to correct with his version of the narrative).  There were a handful of directors all vying to be Top Dog on Disney’s flagpole, so – with each episode – we have a different voice telling the narrative, but the film simply never deserved the maligning and ho-hum reception it received when first released.  The British hated it, the Americans weren’t that impressed, but the kids…

…well, they didn’t show up in droves either.  Yet, somehow Alice In Wonderland survived the abuse and managed to find an audience.  Somehow those songs entered into our psyche and resonated with unmatched fervor.

I guess to be Alice is to be misunderstood.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Film Info}

Alice in Wonderland 1951 - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: G for General Audiences.
Director
: Clyde Geronimi; Wilfred Jackson; Hamilton Luske    
Writer
: Winston Hibler and 13 others
Cast:
Kathryn Beaumont; Ed Wynn; Richard Haydn; Sterling Holloway; Jerry Colonna; Verna Felton
Genre
: Family | Animated | Comedy
Tagline:
Tis brillig!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Good advice. If I listened earlier, I wouldn't be here. But that's just the trouble with me. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."
Distributor:
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Release Date:
July 28, 1951
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 1, 2011

Synopsis: Disney version of Lewis Carroll's Children's story. Alice becomes bored and her mind starts to wander. She sees a white rabbit who appears to be in a hurry. She chases it into its burrow and then a most bizarre series of adventures begins.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Alice in Wonderland 1951 - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 1, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy; Bonus View (PiP); BD-Live

This is a glorious transfer that does wonders for those folks interested in details. The picture sparkles with crisp 1080p/AVC-encoded deliciousness. This is a sublime restoration of a beloved movie. The colors are bright and fun and the frame-by-frame detail is remarkable; it looks brand new.  For the first time ever, I can see brush strokes and tiny glints from the hand-drawn frames. Perfection. Really. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is also pretty solid. There’s not much to be done with the sound from this era, but this does a nice job presenting its audio with just the tiniest bit of kick to it.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Disney’s “smart” design to the blu-ray format is a welcome addition. The menu – appearing as if the Chesire Cat himself – pops up BEFORE the exhausting adverts for new releases and hovers asking if you would like to skip the Disney brand of film adverts. It’s simple navigation, really. The entire supplemental affair is pretty crafty, too.  Instead of a commentary, Disney provides a Picture-in-Picture look at the movie with biographers, animators, and actors, all talking about the process of the making this film. There are also a lot of features ported over from the original DVD release of the film.

The extended special features are as follows:

  • Through the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland (76 min)
  • Reflections on Alice (13 min)
  • Operation Wonderland (10 min)
  • Deleted Materials (20 min)
  • Newly Discovered Cheshire Cat Song (4 min)
  • Walt Disney Introductions (4 min)
  • Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob (2 min)
  • Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks (1 min)
  • Thru the Mirror from 1936 (9 min)
  • An Alice Comedy: Alice's Wonderland (8 min)
  • One Hour in Wonderland TV Special (60 min)
  • Fred Waring Show Excerpt (30 min)
  • Original Theatrical Trailers (4 min)
  • Art Gallery
  • Painting the Roses Red game
  • Disney View
  • Trailer Navigation

BD-Live Functionality

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{2jtab: Movie Posters}

 

Alice in Wonderland Movie Poster 1951

Alice in Wonderland Movie Poster 1951

Alice in Wonderland Movie Poster 1951

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