Legacy Content

Toon Talk: Alice in Wonderland Masterpiece Edition DVD
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by Kirby Holt (archives)
January 27, 2004
Kirby reviews the latest Special Edition DVD release from Disney.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

(c) Disney

Alice in Wonderland
Masterpiece Edition DVD
Feed Your Head
The 1951 animated feature Alice in Wonderland has overcome its initial lackluster performance (both critically and commercially) to become a perennial favorite for Disney fans. It is safe to assume that this is due largely in part to its continued presence in theme park attractions (the Mad Tea Party, better known as the infamous Tea Cup ride, is a Fantasyland staple) and merchandise (such as the devilish Cheshire Cat and Alice tea sets), as well as its continuing availability on home video and television.

So it was surprising that this admittedly minor classic was chosen to mark the debut of yet another Disney DVD series, the so-called “Masterpiece Editions? (what makes these different from “Special Editions? and “Platinum Editions? is not entirely clear). With the very first Disney television production One Hour in Wonderland (which originally aired on Christmas Day 1950 and was “brought to you by Coca-Cola - where there’s Coke, there’s hospitality!?; the program is basically a clip show starring Walt, Kathryn Beaumont (forced to wear an Alice costume), Bobby Driscoll, Edgar Bergen and his two dummy co-stars, the lascivious Charlie McCarthy and the dim Mortimer Snerd, as well as Hans Conried (in his first of several appearances as the Magic Mirror), Walt’s two daughters Diane and Sharon, and the Firehouse Five Plus Two performing a jazzy “Jingle Bells?) as its centerpiece, this collection is an adequate accumulation for the film, but without an audio commentary and/or “making of? documentary, this two-disc set lacks focus; while such features as a (best left) forgotten Cheshire Cat song (“I’m Odd? by Bob Hilliard and Sammy Fain and presumably sung here by Jim Cummings) and rare kinescope excerpts from The Fred Waring Show (where several songs from the film made their “world premiere? and wherein Beaumont, bless her heart, tunelessly croons “Very Good Advice?; we are also treated to a “Jabberwocky? ballet) are true finds, without some sort of unified voice to put it all into historical perspective, this presentation is sadly as lost as Alice in Wonderland.

(c) Disney

The bulk of the production seems to have been devoted to the heavily hyped Virtual Wonderland Party, an interactive series of activities aimed solely at the younger set. Alice, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter (who at times bares a disturbingly strong resemblance to Bea Arthur) host a trio of child actors in such mildly diverting distractions as party games, riddles (mostly of the groaner variety) and song-and-dance numbers. The whole experience can be navigated via remote or, if you’re running as late as the White Rabbit, there is an auto play feature. Rounding out disc one are the usual sing-along songs (“The Unbirthday Song? and “All in the Golden Afternoon?) and set-top game (Adventures in Wonderland hosted by the Cheshire Cat), plus the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon Thru the Mirror, which was also inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll.

In addition to One Hour in Wonderland (which, along with color scenes from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alice and a couple shorts, features an extensive sequence from Song of the South, including the entire “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah? number), disc two features the 1951 theatrical ‘behind-the-scenes’ featurette Operation Wonderland (which, despite rare live action reference footage with Beaumont, Ed “Mad Hatter? Wynn and Jerry “March Hare? Colonna, does little to fill the void of a contemporary take on the making of the film) and the very first “Alice Comedy?, 1923’s Alice’s Wonderland starring Virginia Davis (in black-and-white with musical accompaniment), the inclusion of which must baffle most in the general public who have no idea its significance.

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