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Alice In Wonderland (60th Anniversary Edition) (1951) Print E-mail
Monday, 24 January 2011
ImageWe are all probably exhausted from the recent releases of the 2010 version of “Alice In Wonderland,” with the 3D version being the latest.  However, we must continue, now with the original 1951 Disney animation.

1951’s “Alice In Wonderland” is Disney’s next big success following “Dumbo,” “Bambi” and “Cinderella.”  I must be honest.  It is perhaps my least favorite of Disney’s classics, and struggle to understand why it is such a classic.

Lewis Carroll designed a story that was full of chaos and confusion that still retained an opposite.  The Disney adaptation contains no such reprieve from a land of confusion short of an intro and outro.  Many may not remember, but “Alice In Wonderland” is a song and dance film.  However, it is not as memorable as the music of “Dumbo” and “Snow White.”

Disney has presented two extremes to the Carroll tale.  The latest version focused on providing a story of substance.  There was most certainly a plot, pitting the white queen against the red queen.  However, the 1951 version contains no such element.  There is simply no plot.  Try as you might you will not find a purpose.  That is keeps me from being enthralled with this Disney release.  It is nonsense, but comes from a good place.  There are moments of interesting throughout the 75 minutes, but for me they are few and far between.  It all stems from the lack of substance.

However, many viewers find this Disney film to be a true classic.  Alice is a likeable character, with the exception of her numerous weeping moments.  She is the only rational element of the film.  Still, there is a connection that seems to be missing.  At the very least they could have made Alice realize that she is in a world that she sang about before falling down the rabbit hole.  She created the world of confusion, where everything that is, isn’t and everything that would be shouldn’t be, or something like that.

Essentially, “Alice In Wonderland” follows the tale of a young girl who falls asleep in the meadow and finds herself in her land of confusion.  Un-birthdays are celebrated 364 days a year and rabbit’s are always late.  Tea is never served and paths are erased.  The silliness works for a brief time but wears thin just as fast.  The film doesn’t really succeed in drawing in the viewer and it leaves viewers without a purposeful journey or ending.  This is an abstract film to say the least.  Chalk this one up to a love it or hate.  Nevertheless, the success of the film is undeniable.  For me the success of this release lies in the audio and video qualities.
“Alice In Wonderland” arrives on Blu-ray 60 years after its initial creation with a splendid video presentation.  As with past 1.33:1 Disney releases, this film comes with a DisneyView function that pads that left and right sides with color changing artwork.  I always find it to be a much more enjoyable viewing experience with this function turned on in this day and age of HD widescreen displays.  The colors here are simply brilliant.  Every hand-drawn frame is beautifully rendered.  The drawing is much more seamless than in “Snow White.”  There are a few occasions in which it seems there are edging issues, however, after a brief moment of shock it is easy to see that it is the remnant of an artistic brush stroke.  Sometimes it is hard to go back to hand-drawn animation after so many digital animated releases.  Still, I always find such art in the early Disney animations.  Motion is excellent, with not one bit of stutter.  For 60 years of age, “Alice In Wonderland” is marvelously preserved and restored.

The audio quality is almost just as top notch and the video quality.  For the first time, an early Disney animation release has not been treated with a DTS-Hd MA 7.1 audio track, not that I have found them to be of much use in the past.  However, I did find that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track on this release to be excellently restored.  The original audio was done in mono, but every release has been in stereo.  This disc contains both a lossy stereo mix and a lossless 5.1 mix.  The 5.1 mix is hands done the winner, simply because it is lossless.  The dialogue is my only complaint with this release.  It is a bit softer in the remix than it should be.  Aside form the dialogue balance, the rest of the audio track is outstanding.  The surround channels are engaging from beginning to end.  I was surprised by how active the surround channels were.  Some may not enjoy it, but I found the “in-your-lap” audio mix to be enjoyable.  The dialogue remains onscreen, but the music and ambience floats in the middle of the room.  While the rear channels don’t convey much in the way of discrete sounds the enveloping factor is high.  This is definitely an great audio remix.  NOTE: the Blu-ray comes enabled with the lossy 320kbps Dolby Stereo audio track as the default.  Make sure to switch to the DTS-HD lossless mix.

For some reason or another Disney has decided not to release this film with the Diamond Edition label.  This is a normal two-disc release contained a Blu-ray copy and and DVD copy.  In terms of supplemental material, the Blu-ray comes with most of the standard DVD bonus materials, all of which remains in standard definition.  It seems that Disney did not give as much effort toward this release in general in comparison to its other founding films.

The most notable special feature here is the PiP track entitled, “Through The Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide To Wonderland.”  This PiP track is introduced by Kathryn Beaumont, voice of Alice, and contains bountiful information on Carroll and Disney.  It also includes archived footage.  “Operation Wonderland” is an original behind the scenes look at the animators’ studio.  “Reflections On Alice” is a brief making-of featurette that discusses the adaptation and the challenges.  In the deleted section there are a couple storyboard deleted scenes, a song that was moved to another Disney film and a few demo songs.

“Walt Disney Introductions” contains three different TV Spots from Disney himself.  “Newly Discovered Cheshire Cat Song” is the same deleted song that appeared on previous SD DVD releases.  “Reference Footage: Alice And The Doorknob” explores, briefly, the live-action footage used by the animators.  “Thru The Mirror” is a Mickey Mouse short film.  “Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks” is an interesting feature that is useless due to its less than one minute length.  “An Alice Comedy: Alice’s Wonderland” is another short film.  “Fred Waring Show Excerpt” is self-explanatory.  “One Hour In Wonderland” is a television special.  Lastly, there is are original theatrical trailers, an art gallery, and interactive game and a coming attractions section.

“Alice In Wonderland” may not be everyone’s favorite Disney classic, but it is a classic nonetheless.  This HD restoration is deserving of every film fan’s attention.  I recommend this title more for the audio and video quality than for the film it self.

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