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Alice in Wonderland(1951)
The classic Disney animated version of Alice's adventures as she follows a white rabbit into a "Wonderland" of her own imagination. On her journey, she encounters the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and a host of other beloved characters brought to life with the usual Disney zest.
For more about Alice in Wonderland and the Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray release, see Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 31, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Writers: Milt Banta, Del Connell, Bill Cottrell, Joe Grant, Winston Hibler, Dick Huemer
Starring: Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn, Sterling Holloway, Jerry Colonna, Verna Felton
» See full cast & crew
Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Review
Disney's preeminent 'Wonderland' receives a magnificent restoration and a must-own release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 31, 2010
With the arrival of Walt Disney's 1951 animated classic, Alice in Wonderland, filmfans can finally -- even if only for a moment -- dismiss Tim Burton's spiritless misfire and focus on a far more charming trip down the rabbit hole. While it continues to divide audiences, split critics and garner mixed reviews all its own, Disney's original Alice adaptation has endured the decades thanks to its sweet, nonsensical story, endearing characters and self-sustaining animation (despite some sixty years of strides and advances). It isn't a faithful adaptation of 19th Century author Lewis Carroll's beloved "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" or "Through the Looking-Glass," but it is a whimsical one. It isn't an unrivaled classic, especially by early-Disney standards, but it is a family-favorite classic nonetheless. It isn't even as important a film as the fanfare surrounding its 60th Anniversary Blu-ray release might suggest. It's simply a brisk, quirky, dazzling plunge into a colorful dreamscape that refuses to go quietly into the night.
When a young girl named Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) grows tired of listening to her sister read from a history book, she wanders away, dreaming of a world of her own. Soon enough, she stumbles across a strange White Rabbit (Bill Thompson), promptly follows him into his hole and tumbles into a realm of bizarre creatures and evil tyrants: Wonderland. There she learns of the oppressive rule of the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton), a vile villain with a penchant for separating the heads of her remotely disloyal subjects from their bodies. But Alice isn't tasked with overthrowing the Queen or saving Wonderland. Disney's adaptation, much like Carroll's original novel, isn't concerned with developing a traditional narrative, but rather in dragging poor Alice from beast to brute, tea party to castle, without a defined endgame in sight. Thankfully, the parade of characters she encounters are an unforgettable bunch of miscreants and courtiers, among them a brass Doorknob (Joseph Kearns), bumbling twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (J. Pat O'Malley), the devious Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway), a cantankerous Caterpillar (Richard Haydn), zany March Hare (Jerry Colonna), timid Dormouse (James MacDonald), resident Wonderland loon, the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn) and a variety of plants and animals, large and small, who help and hinder Alice as she nears the Queen's gardens.
Alice in Wonderland fails as a Carroll adaptation, owing more of its existence to Fantasia than its literary heritage. Experimental nonsense literature or no, Carroll imbued his stories with an organic and ironic sense of purpose; an underlying logic that subverts the illogical nature of Wonderland and its gibbering inhabitants; a taut thread that, thin as it may be, isn't present in Disney's Americanized song-and-dance adaptation. Not that it matters as much as Wonderland's bristliest critics insist. Disney didn't set out to make a poignant retelling of "Alice's Adventures" or with a burning desire to breathe animated life into every word of Carroll's text. He wanted to deliver an accessible, family-friendly feature film, nothing more. In the process though, he found a way to bridge the chasm between ambiguous box-office risks like Fantasia and more conventional (and subsequently successful) animated fare like Snow White, Bambi and Cinderella. In fact, there's less meaning to be had in Alice in Wonderland than Fantasia, a detail that escapes most viewers who despise Disney's eclectic Fantasia vignettes but adore Alice's Point-A to Point-B trek through the cute but irrational fantasies of a sleepy little girl.
But even the silliest, most inconsequential story can resonate when it's as delightful as Alice in Wonderland. Alice isn't a typical Disney heroine by any means, nor are her newfound friends or enemies anything more than a seemingly random assortment of flamboyant personalities. But it's easy to follow a likable young sweetheart like Alice from flowerbed to forest, reveling in the eccentric creatures she meets and marveling at the amazing places she discovers. Each character and locale comes alive; each song and melody sends Wonderland's nimblest scurrying. The animation, though less elaborate than that of later films, is both fluid and cheerful, and hasn't lost a bit of its spark to old age. Sixty years can be a death knell for a film of its ilk, but were Alice in Wonderland to somehow debut in 2011 (in its current state, of course), its character designs, painterly backgrounds and hand-drawn animation would still earn praise. All the while, it conjures up the sort of psychedelic flourishes first glimpsed in Dumbo, delivers human-caliber animals à la Bambi, indulges in the weird and wild like Pinocchio, and recalls the storybook familiarity of Cinderella and Snow White. It even represents the first entry in a Silver Age of Disney animation; an era defined by Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book and Robin Hood. Ultimately, Alice in Wonderland may not be a tireless adaptation or an inimitable film, but it is a great Disney classic worthy of a home on every family's shelves.
Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray, Video Quality
Disney has a long-standing reputation for treating its animated films with the utmost care, granting even its oldest catalog titles ample opportunity to shine. Alice in Wonderland is the latest in a growing line of iconic classics to earn a high definition rebirth and the results are no less than stunning. Bright, bold and bursting with breathtaking splashes of color, Disney's divisive 1951 adaptation doesn't seem to have aged a single day. "Perfect" is a lofty word, but little else can convey just how remarkable, rewarding and spectacular the studio's frame-by-frame restoration and exquisite 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation truly are. Alice's blue dress and summery hair have never been this beautiful, the Queen of Hearts' crimson kingdom has never been this vibrant, the animators' efforts have never been this crisp and clean, Wonderland's shadows have inky, and Wonderland's lush fields have never been this sublime. Note the subtle texture of the artists' brush strokes, the stability and sharpness of the lineart, and the tiny, endearing imperfections in the hand-drawn frames. Significant artifacting, banding, aliasing and other distracting digital anomalies don't invade the presentation, print specks are few and far between, and the handful of soft shots that appear are only an issue insofar as the original source is concerned. Simply put, Disney's meticulous restoration and gorgeous Blu-ray transfer are extraordinary.
Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Alice in Wonderland's modest DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track couldn't possibly rival a lossless mix from a more recent film, but as sixty-year old animated classics go, it sounds fantastic. Voices are bright and intelligible, every crash, skitter and wheen is spry and sprightly, and Oliver Wallace's playful music flowers and blooms throughout the soundfield. The rear speakers aren't dominant, but they are assertive, making the most of what was once a much flatter experience without disrespecting the tone and tenor of the original sound design. Likewise, the LFE channel is prominent, not combative, conveying weight and presence without undermining the levity and vitality of Alice's adventure. The results are rarely front-heavy and, far more often than not, faithful, polished and precise. Again, comparing the lossless track for Disney's Wonderland to Pixar's latest 21st Century outing would be an outright waste of time. Purists and audiophiles with proper expectations will be delighted with the love and care the studio has afforded yet another of its animated milestones.
Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Alice in Wonderland isn't as inexhaustible as I hoped, but its special features -- anchored by an exceptional Picture-in-Picture track -- represent another strong supplemental showing from Disney. The only downside? While all of the original DVD content is included, most of it is still presented in standard definition.
Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Alice in Wonderland may fail as an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's original tale, but it amuses and entertains on its own merits. Walt Disney wasn't interested in appeasing literary critics or making a statement. He was aiming to make a beautifully animated, suitably nonsensical family friendly romp and, in that regard, he succeeded (and then some). But while dear Uncle Walt's film will continue to divide audiences for as long as Alice continues to divide kingdoms, Disney's 60th Anniversary Blu-ray release will not. Born on the back of a truly wondrous restoration, the Blu-ray edition of Alice in Wonderland boasts a spectacular top-tier catalog transfer, a wholly satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio track and a generous assortment of special features, old and new. I would be shocked if anyone came away disappointed.
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Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - February 1-7 - February 1, 2011
When Disney first announced that they would begin releasing some classic animated features outside of the Diamond Series, Blu-ray fans were ecstatic that they would soon be seeing their favorite animated films at a higher frequency in high definition but were unsure ...
• Disney Offering Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Upgrade Coupon - January 31, 2011
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is offering members of its Movie Rewards program a printable $10 off coupon to upgrade to the 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo edition of Alice in Wonderland during its first week in stores, if you own one of the eligible ...
• Classic Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray Coming Up - October 30, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced that it will release the 1951 animated movie Alice in Wonderland on a 60th-anniversary Blu-ray edition on February 1, 2011, barely a year after the third DVD release of this classic. It will feature a new BonusView ...
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