Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is in a category all of its own. Disney’s spectacular vision and range is showcased in his 13th animated feature. With a little help from the Lewis Carroll series for which it was adapted from, this film’s surrealism makes for a completely unique entry in the Disney pantheon. It’s like the black sheep. To this day, they haven’t made another one like it.
The story isn’t one in the linear sense, but more of a compendium of unrelated events, (spurred on by a McGuffin in the form of the White Rabbit). But they all lead to a common goal.
Alice, herself, has some radical ideals when it comes to the world around her, and faces hostility from the adults in her life. But she learns her imagination is mild in comparison to the oddities of Wonderland. She ventures off to this magical world, only to discover she isn’t very welcome. She has a terrible time and no one wants her to be there. At moments, she finds herself questioning the silliness of the realm, appropriating her mindset to that of her “closed-minded” mother back home.
The depth of Alice is deeper than most realize. It’s subtle, but her attitude is brilliant commentary on contrasting our own independent philosophies with those that we’re raised on.
Alice discovers that nonsense is relative and, not only that, perhaps some order in life is necessary. While it may be appealing to a spectator, like a circus might be, it would be a nightmare to live in.
Surprisingly, the film is not as dated as you would think. Some of the humor holds up well compared to today’s standards.
Considering the very short runtime, the songs are in abundance and create a high ratio to the non-singing scenes. And naturally, there are one or two weaker tunes, but most of them are ear-worm classics.
Compared to Disney’s previous movie, Cinderella, where all the plot meandering is just a means to an end–experiencing an unappealing world with some fun and likable characters–the non-narrative in Alice in Wonderland is actually justified, with its ending becoming an unexpected grand finale rather than a predictable inevitability.
The film contrasts all of the unappealing chaos with beautiful aesthetics of an interesting world. At times, in life, underneath all the corruption is a society that’s beautiful as well, but if you take a closer look, you start to wonder which aspects of it you can trust. You start idealizing less and living a more practical existence.
At 75 minutes, we spend enough time in Wonderland to warrant a complete story. Or collection of events. Alice in Wonderland is meant to be episodic. And it’s very dark and deranged at times, too. While many people find that those things make the movie harder to warm up to, it’s actually part of what makes it one of my favorite Disney movies. An underrated piece of cinema.