Alice in Wonderland (1951) Review
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Last year, Tim Burton offered his own take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s stories with his kooky, quirky Alice in Wonderland. But while the big-budget 3D spectacle was an overwhelming box office success, I still prefer the fun-filled whimsy of Disney’s animated Alice, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year with a Blu-ray release.

Originally released in 1951, Disney’s original Alice in Wonderland follows headstrong little girl Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont) on a delightfully nonsensical adventure. Bored by her studies (and by books that have no pictures), Alice is distracted when she sees a White Rabbit (Bill Thompson) racing through the park. So she follows after him until she falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a land where things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser.

As she races after the White Rabbit, Alice grows and shrinks—and then she grows and shrinks again. She sings some songs and has a crazy tea party with the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn), too. But she’ll have to face the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton) before she can get back home.

It may not tell of beautiful princesses or handsome princes, but Alice in Wonderland is still an unforgettable Disney classic. It’s a weird and whimsical little film—a bright and colorful story, with all kinds of silly characters and unexpected (and often inexplicable) adventures.

Although there’s a simple, underlying method to all of this madness, Alice in Wonderland feels more like the Wonderland Variety Hour—a collection of short little snippets of scenes, each more vibrant and more fanciful than the last. There are stories and riddles and silly sing-along songs—and (in true Disney fashion) some fireworks, too.

The characters are pretty crazy—from the grinning Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway) and the mellow, hookah-smoking caterpillar (Richard Haydn) to the eager storytelling twins, Tweedledee and Tweedledum (J. Pat O’Malley)—and their stories are often rather mad, but that’s what makes it all so much fun (and so very, very silly). And although the 75-minute film takes its share of liberties with Carroll’s work, the playful mood still shines through—right along with Carroll’s wild imagination and his clever wordplay.

So if your kids enjoyed the unapologetic wackiness of Tim Burton’s live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, be sure to throw yourselves a wild and crazy unbirthday party and enjoy this colorful animated classic with them.

You’d be mad not to.

Blu-ray Review:
When Disney releases one of its classics on Blu-ray, it’s always accompanied by hours of extras—and the two-disc Blu-ray / DVD combo release of Alice in Wonderland is no exception.

Armchair historians will enjoy Through the Keyhole, a kind of visual commentary track, which offers more information about Lewis Carroll, his stories, and his inspiration while the film plays out on the screen. Disney fans will also love the brief look behind the scenes at the film’s reference footage and pencil test.

The disc also includes all of the original DVD features, like Operation Wonderland, a black-and-which feature that follows Walt on the Disney soundstage as he works with animators to create Alice in Wonderland, and Reflections on Alice, a short making-of feature that discusses Walt’s love of the material and his quest to make the movie. There are also plenty of additional shorts, deleted scenes, Disney TV specials, galleries, and so much more—enough to keep Disney film buffs entertained for hours.

Though the release doesn’t offer a whole lot of extras for kids (aside from the fun Painting the Roses Red game, which will keep older, puzzle-loving kids busy for a very long time), grown-up Disney fans will be thrilled to get a glimpse of the classic features offered on the Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray.

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