In this animated Disney version of Lewis Carroll's stories, young Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont) is transported to the bizarre Wonderland after following the March Hare (Jerry Colonna) down a rabbit hole. There she encounters the grinning Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway), joins the Mad Hatter's (Ed Wynn) tea party, and falls foul of the ill-tempered Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton) during a game of croquet.
Walt Disney seems to have had a special affection for Lewis Carroll's "Alice" stories. "Alice's Wonderland" (1923), a short about a live-action little girl in a cartoon world, led to his first successful series, the "Alice" comedies (collected on Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities--Celebrated Shorts, 1920s -1960s
). During the early '30s, he talked about making an animation/live-action feature of "Alice in Wonderland" with Mary Pickford in the title role. But almost two decades would elapse before Disney released his Alice
. It's the most uneven of the classic Disney features, juxtaposing brilliant and dull sequences. The Mad Tea Party, the Queen of Hearts' Croquet Game, and Alice's encounters with the Caterpillar and Cheshire Cat fuse the spirit of Carroll's words, the vitality of the polished animation, and the stylized look and brilliant palette of designer Mary Blair. But the song "I Give Myself Very Good Advice" and the unsatisfying adaptation of "The Walrus and Carpenter" bring the story to a halt. Disney's Alice in Wonderland
remains a beloved film, and its better moments are truly magical. --Charles Solomon