Disney’s 1951 adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” is perhaps one of their most iconic animated productions. And yet it’s one of my least favorite Disney films of all time. More so than “Hunchback of Notre Dame” even. Alice, as played by Kathryn Beaumont, is a restless British girl who falls down a rabbit hole when she attempts to chase a talking rabbit who is insistent on reaching an appointment. After falling down a rabbit hole, she enters in to Wonderland where nothing is ever what it quite seems in her world. Up is down, big is small, and everything garners some sense of sentience that makes her exploration of this world even more menacing and baffling than she imagined.
Along the way, Alice encounters a series of unusual characters including the mischievous Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and twins Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Along the way she arouses the wrath of the dictatorial Queen of Hearts, who insists Alice remain subservient or lose her head. Meanwhile, directors Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske have a good time playing with the environment of Wonderland, making every seemingly mundane element in to an aspect of the environment Alice must be wary of. There was always just something about “Alice in Wonderland” that never clicked with me. It’s not only much too short, but a lot of the attempted eccentricity that Lewis Carroll spewed forth is lost in the translation of Disney’s animated style and music.
“Alice in Wonderland” was always that movie I watched as a kid when there was absolutely nothing on television, and it made for a mediocre diversion. Years later, it’s still a mediocre diversion, and a pretty sub-par Disney production that also never quite realizes the scope of Wonderland on the animated medium. There’s just something so shrill about this version of “Alice in Wonderland” despite the sheer limitless potential for Wonderland to be another brilliant landscape in the vein of Neverland or the Hundred Acre Woods. I respect “Alice in Wonderland” for its legacy and catchy musical numbers, but overall it’s one of Disney’s lesser quality animated adaptations.