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Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 22, 2011 by  



Once again, Disney has managed to take one of their animated classics and give it the ultimate release on Blu-ray.  For fans of “Alice in Wonderland”, this 60th Anniversary Edition is magnificent!   Awesome picture and audio quality and plenty of vintage, lengthy special features.  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1951

DURATION: 75 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition Full Screen (1:33:1), English 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix presented in DTS-HD MA, French and Spanish 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater mix presented in Dolby Digital, Original Theatrical Soundtrack, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: G (All Ages Admitted)

Release Date: February 1, 2011

Directed by Clyde Geronmi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske

Based on the novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carrol

Story by Winston Hibler, Ted Sears, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Milt Banta, William Cottrell, Dick Kelsey, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer, Del Connell Tom Oreb and John Walbridge

Produced by Walt Disney

Music by Oliver Wallace

Edited by Lloyd L. Richardson

Featuring the voices of:

Kathryn Beaumont as Alice

Ed Wynn as Mad Hatter

Richard Haydn as Caterpillar

Sterling Holloway as Cheshire Cat

Jerry Colonna as March Hare

Verna Felton as Queen of Hearts

J. Pat O’Malley as Tweedledee/Tweedledum

Bill Thompson as White Rabbit/Dodo

Heather Angel – Lorina, older sister of Alice

Joseph Kearns as Doorknob

Larry Grey as Bill

Queenie Leonard as Bird in the Tree

Dink Trout as King of Hearts

Doris Lloyd as The Rose

James MacDonald as Dormouse

ALICE IN WONDERLAND is a story about a young girl who grows bored listening to her older sister read aloud from a history book about William I of England. While dozing off, she dreams about falling down a rabbit hole (“Wonderland”) that is populated by a peculiar series of misadventures. The always sensible Alice whirls through a world of contradictions, imagination and surprises where she encounters amazing creatures – including a pocket watch-toting White Rabbit, the imperious Queen of Hearts and her army of playing cards, a Cheshire Cat with a lingering smile in an unforgettable fantasy, and the off-kilter Madhatter – and tests her sensibility and courage. In the end it’s all a dream, she is awakened by her sister’s voice, and as the two of them return home for teatime where she realizes that perhaps logic and reason exist for purpose. And in return, her sister realizes affectionately that Alice is still young, but will grow-up in time.

“Alice in Wonderland”, the 1951 Walt Disney animated classic is probably more well-known to this current generation for the live action film that came out in 2010 but for previous generations, the Walt Disney animated classic, the 13th film of the Walt Disney Animated Classics Series captured the hearts of Americans as it technically was an impressive and colorful film.

But “Alice in Wonderland” was one of the most difficult films for Walt Disney.  Originally planned for creation in the ’30s, the film would not come out until the early ’50s.  With various written adaptations, the difficulty was trying to take the original 1865 novel and bring it to life via animated.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that the original novel featured a unique style for its fantasy world from its artwork to its original story.  Many wanted to capture Lewis Carroll’s story but Walt Disney felt it was too literal and it was not what he wanted.

It’s important for people to know that prior to “Alice in Wonderland”,  Walt Disney and its studios were heavily affected because of World War II, also where the first animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” were a financial success, the second film “Pinocchio” was not and other films that would recoup money through worldwide release, wouldn’t happen because of the war.  They needed a film that would be a financial hit at the box office and something that would doom the company.

While “Dumbo” was cheaper and did make its money back, “Bambi” would lose money because of World War II and this delayed “Alice in Wonderland” (and also “Peter Pan”).  In fact, Walt Disney was heavily in debt from the ’30s and ’40s that in 1950, everything was put on the line with the film “Cinderella” and fortunately, the film was financially successful and eventually gave Disney the freedom it needed to create more animated films.

“Alice in Wonderland” (which can be seen as one of the books in the opening of “Pinocchio”) would finally be created after nearly 18 years of discussion of the project and almost 30 years after Walt Disney made the original “Alice Comedy”.

And this film would follow visuals full of color courtesy of Mary Blair and company.  Music would be the focus of the film (the film has more songs than any Walt Disney animated film) and would be loosely based on Lewis Carrol’s books (this of course would anger British film and literary critics).

But unfortunately, the film would not do well initially at the box office and unlike other Disney films which would be re-released theatrically, “Alice in Wonderland” was not re-released during Walt Disney’s lifetime but only on television.  In “The Disney Films”, animator Ward Kimball is quoted as saying the film failed because there were too many directors.  Each director trying to one-up the other director.  In his words, “had a self-canceling effect of the final product”.

But “Alice in Wonderland” did find new life and that was during the late ’60s as drugged out college students loved films that were trippy and cool and eventually along with “Fantasia” and “The Three Caballeros”, “Alice in Wonderland” became popular.  But of course, Disney didn’t want this film associated with the drug culture and withdrew prints from universities.  But Disney eventually would issue a re-release of the film in 1974.

But for today’s current generation who have watched only the live action film of “Alice in Wonderland”, now is the time to watch “Alice in Wonderland” as the film is receiving its 60th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray and DVD.

But before watching this film, for those only familiar with the live action film, think about “Alice in Wonderland” (live action) as a sequel to this animated film.  Where the live action focuses on Alice as a young woman, the animated film focusing on Alice as young teenage girl.

“Alice in Wonderland”, the 1951 animated classic, is a story about Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont) who gets bored of her older sister Lorina (voiced by Heather Angel) reading a history book of William I of England.  Lorina gets upset that Alice is not paying attention but Alice feels that she would rather hear a world of fantasy, living in a world of nonsense.  Lorina is not so thrilled about her younger sister’s attitude and leaves, while Alice begins to dream.

She immediately sees a White Rabbit (voiced by Bill Thompson), but unlike a real white rabbit, this one is wearing a coat and holding a large pocket watch.

Alice and her cat Dinah go to follow the rabbit and Alice accidentally falls through through a rabbit hole and lands in a large chamber.  She is greeted by a doorknob (voiced by Joseph Kearns) who encourages her to take a drink.  Alice does and she suddenly shrinks.  Unfortunately, she can’t get through the door because she is so small, so the doorknob encourages her to eat the candy.  She does and she suddenly grows several times her regular size.  Sad about the situation, she begins to cry and not realizing her tears are flooding the chamber.  The doorknob tells her to drink from the original glass that she drunk from earlier and she does… Alice shrinks and then enters a world of fantasy, a place known as Wonderland.

In this world she meets a Dodo bird (voiced by Bill Thompson), Caterpillar (voiced by Richard Haydn), two twins Tweeledum and Tweedledee (voiced by J. Pat O’Malley) who tell her a story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, Cheshire Cat (voiced by Sterling Holloway), the Mad Hatter (voiced by Ed Wynn) and many more.

And as Alice tries to deal with her changing height (going from big to small, small to big), all is well until she ends up in an area where the coldhearted Queen of Hearts (voiced by Verna Felton) lives.  But unlike the other characters of the land, the Queen of Hearts is who many in Wonderland fear and those who don’t follow her rules, end up being executed (beheaded).

Will young Alice be able to get back home?  Or will she be stuck in this unknown world and have to worry about the tyranny of the Queen of Hearts?

VIDEO:

“Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition” is presented in 1080p High-Definition, Full Screen (1:33:1).  And as anyone who have watched any of the Walt Disney animated classics on Blu-ray, knows that Disney’s treatment has been nothing short of perfect.   And because this classic is known for its colors, its animation and presentation, the picture quality of “Alice in Wonderland” is magnificent.

I have tested this film on two different types of televisions and suffice to say, this film doesn’t look 60-years-old at all.  Wonderland looks absolutely beautiful!  Colors are vibrant and really come out with clarity and as always with Disney, their frame-by-frame restoration shows as there is not one blemish at all.  Alice’s blue dress, the Queen’s red and black dress, the artistic backgrounds used throughout the colorful world, everything is full of detail.

There are no color blemishes, artifacting, banding, DNR that takes away this visual presentation of this animated classic.  Once again, Disney continues to aim for perfection and again, Disney has achieved it!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.   The lossless track sounds exquisite and because this film does feature a lot of music, this is the best I have heard of “Alice in Wonderland”.  Dialogue and music is crystal clear, I didn’t notice any hissing, crackle or pop despite this animated film being 60-years-old.  This release is the best I have heard of any video release of “Alice in Wonderland” thus far.  Magnificent!

Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition” features the following special features:

  • Disney View – While watching “Alice in Wonderland”, instead of black borders on the sides, Disney View adds artwork that on those black borders by Michael Humphries.  The artwork changes and compliments the scenes of the film.
  • Painting the Roses Red Game – A remote control driven game in which you must paint the roses red (try to get color combination of 9 roses and make them all red).
  • Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland – (1:16:15) Kathryn Beaumont introduces a comparison of “Alice in Wonderland” and its comparison to the the original Lewis Carroll classic.  While watching the film on one side, another side features commentary of those discussing the Lewis Carroll classic.
  • Walt Disney Color TV Introduction (1959) – A never-before-seen color TV intro by Walt.
  • Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob – (1:32) Kathryn Beaumont, the voice of Alice, provides an introduction to this newly discovered live action reference footage of her playing Alice talking to the doorknob.
  • Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks – (:54) Kathryn Beaumont introduces a newly discovered pencil test of Alice shrinking.
  • “I’m Odd” Newly Discovered Cheshire Cat Song + Intro – (3:56) Featuring the “I’m Odd” Cheshire Cat song (and intro scene) that was cut from the final cut of the film.
  • Thru the Mirror Mickey Mouse Animated Short (Now in Hi-Def) – (8:48) A 1936 animated feature starring Mickey Mouse in a “Alice through the Wonder Glass” style of storyline.
  • Art Gallery (with new design and new images) – Featuring an interactive art gallery.  Using your remote, you can add and select favorites.
  • Reflections on Alice – (13:27) A featurette about how Walt Disney wanted to do “Alice in Wonderland” and how difficult it was to adapt.
  • Operation Wonderland (Now in Hi-Def) – (10:56) Featuring a 1950’s featurette of a man visiting Walt Disney to learn about the making of “Alice in Wonderland”.
  • One Hour in Wonderland – (59:29) A special Christmas presentation featuring Edgar Bergen with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd visiting Walt Disney studios for a tea party and meeting with Walt Disney, Kathryn Beaumont and more.
  • An Alice Comedy: Alice’s Wonderland – (8:06) The original “Alice Comedy” silent one-reel of “Alice’s Wonderland”.
  • Original Theatrical Trailers (1951 & 1974) – The original theatrical trailers for the 1951 release and the 1974 theatrical re-release.
  • Walt Disney TV Introduction (1954 & 1964) – The original TV introductions by Walt Disney for “Alice in Wonderland”.
  • The Fred Waring Show (Excerpt) – (30:56) The Fred Waring show featuring Kathryn Beaumont and Walt Disney promoting “Alice in Wonderland”.
  • Deleted Materials:
    Deleted Scene: Pig and Pepper – (3:12) Ron Clements and John Musker (writers of Disney’s “Princess and the Frog”) sharing  sketches of the “Pig and Pepper” that was cut from “Alice in Wonderland”.
    From Wonderland to Neverland: The Evolution of a Song – (6:49) An entertaining look at how a song originally written for Alice in Wonderland, finally found its home in another Disney favorite, Peter Pan.  Hosted by Kathryn Beaumont.
    Deleted Storyboard Concept: Alice Daydreams in the Park – (2:01) Deleted storyboard sequence set to music.
    Original Song Demos – Featuring song demos for “Beware The Jabberwock”; “Everything Has A Useness”; “So They Say”; “Beautiful Soup”; “Dream Caravan”; “If You’ll Believe In Me”

EXTRAS:

“Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition” comes with a slip over case and a DVD version of the film.  The DVD is presented in full screen (1:33:1), Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Original Theatrical Soundtrack, French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles.

I find it quite interesting because as a child, I admit that I didn’t care for “Alice in Wonderland” as I felt it was devoid the action/adventure of “Snow White”, “Pinocchio” and “Dumbo” and even when it was released on video during my teenage and young adult years back in the early through late ’90s, I passed on the VHS, LD and the later DVD version.

But with these animated classics being released on Blu-ray, as a reviewer, as a parent, “Alice in Wonderland” has been a film that I have stayed away from until today.   This is the first time I have watched “Alice in Wonderland” since it was re-released in theaters back in 1981.

And 30-years later, watching it today, I have a better appreciation for the film.  For one, how close the animators were in capturing Kathryn Beaumont’s mannerism and movements via the live tapings that were done of her back then.  But also watching how Disney has evolved animation-wise with the overall look and feel of “Alice in Wonderland”.

Having watched the documentary “Walt & El Grupo: The Untold Adventures” and seeing how the 1942 South American  trip helped illustrators grasp a new style with colors, and of course knowing the phenomenal Mary Blair’s contribution to “Alice in Wonderland” because of her influence from that South American trip, although this film has been discussed since the ’30s and it went through so many screenplays and character designs, the long wait by Walt Disney seemed to pay off as the film is a visual feast.  The animation is fantastic, the artistic backgrounds painted for this film is spectacular and if anything, it’s a different kind of animated film that Disney has done before.

I have to also say that part of my accepting of this animated film is the fact that I have not read the entire Lewis Carrol stories.  I know that this is a very loosely-based adaptation of the book but Walt Disney wasn’t going for accuracy, at the time, he knew what Walt Disney was facing as a company and he needed to create films that were big box office hits and having to tailor it to an audience who have been used to prior Disney-style of animation and storyline and family friendly has always been Disney’s focal point.

With that being said, if one was to ask me how I rank “Alice in Wonderland”, I would give high marks for animation but as for storyline, while a good and fun family film at times, because Walt Disney was going for a visual film with music than a film with a tight narrative, it’s not a film that I can easily compare to a “Snow White”, “Pinocchio” or “Dumbo”.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges, “Alice in Wonderland” is entertaining but I similar to “Fantasia”, I feel that I enjoy parts of the film.  I can say that I enjoy when Alice meets up with the White Rabbit and Dodo Bird moreso than when she met Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  When it comes to music, I felt I enjoyed songs that were sung by Alice vs. songs sung by the walrus and Cheshire Cat.

I also have to admit that while I enjoy the beginning when Alice arrives to Wonderland, I felt that my interest in the film was more towards scenes in which there was some sort of action.   May it be Alice trying to get use to her changing sizes or her encounter with the Red Queen.

But overall, “Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary” is an amazing Blu-ray release.  The amount of entertaining and vintage special features included in this release is impressive and the fact that even some of the original special features from the previous DVD release have been given HD treatment is awesome!

If you are a big fan of this animated Disney classic, you can feel confident that you are going to get the best looking, best sounding, most complete (in terms of special features) version of the film as of this time on Blu-ray.  It’s another magnificent Disney classic released on Blu-ray and is highly recommended!

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