Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: Alice in Wonderland (1951)

 Lewis Carroll's Alice books have seen their share of cinematic adaptations from Svankmajer's stop-motion to Tim Burton's recent bastardization.  The 1951 Disney animated version, however, is the one  that, for me, has withstood both the test of time and the discerning eye.  In my family, Carroll's books have taken on some sort of untouchable sacredness.  They are the stories we have been raised on and upon which we have raised ourselves.  Yes, we are all mad here.  Wonderland has acquired a meaning, a representation in my family beyond anything intended.  Its nonsense speaks to us an ineffable wisdom, and that's the most I can say to you.  The film version, while a mish mash and not precisely adapted, has been folded into the text itself.  There are incarnations of the characters from the Tenniel illustrations which are always just so, and additions from Disney which feel curiously proper in their own right (the mome raths, for example, and the various creatures in Tulgey Wood).  We don't always watch Alice in Wonderland together, but we have often enough.  It's another hand-me-down from my father, who recalls being frightened upon his first viewing of the film as a child. There were a lot of things happening without rhyme or reason, a lot of threats of execution and talk of monsters which Walt Disney, in a pre-psychedelic age, navigated through with colorful, exuberantly creative dexterity and fearlessness.  It's a beautiful piece of work, and one long beloved at my family's mad tea party.

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