May 032010

So I recently saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D at the IMAX Theater here in Seattle, WA, USA, and it reminded me of all the other incarnations of Alice that have been brought to life in the history of cinema and animation. There’s the 1970s live action Alice that I don’t really remember, the ubiquitous Disney Alice which I remember as part of my childhood and cannot help but think of fondly, and of course, Jan Svanmajer’s Alice that I think of as the only Alice that really came close to the weird eccentric stoned-ness of the short story. Until maybe Tim Burton’s film. Wait! I’m not saying that his is on-par with Svankmajer’s, but at least it does a good job in creating an off-kilter universe that has a Lewis Carroll flavour to it, if not the recipe itself.

I would recommend it. (Spoiler alert) I thought the special effects were by and large very well done and used in an interesting manner (not just for replicating real life). The only effects I found lacking were the ‘elongating’ effects used on the Crispin Glover character – his movements were not smooth, and it made the effects very obvious.  They also did the story in an interesting way, as a sequel instead of a re-make, which was wise. But I didn’t understand how Alice’s ultimate ‘liberation’ was to become the captain of an imperialist merchant vessel. After she’s spent this whole time fighting for good over evil in Underland, she has no qualms about expanding the British empire? Also there was the dance at the end. Anyone who’s seen it knows what I’m talking about. What was up with that?

But in my research, I uncovered a myriad of other Alice productions I had been wholly unaware of! Rather than give a whole treatise you could easily find on Wikipedia, I’m just going to include a selection of videos for your compare-and-contrast pleasure, listed chronologically, and including the films previously mentioned:

1. Alice in Wonderland (1903, UK) – a silent film, the first ever film version of the story, and only originally 12 minutes long:

2. Alice in Wonderland (1915, USA) – also a silent film, the second US adaptation. This one seems to be over 50 minutes long, and quite visually similar to Teniell’s drawings:

If the player’s not working, watch the film here.

3. Alice in Wonderland (1931, USA) – the first sound version (and therefore the first version to utilize Carroll’s writings) – this one’s wonderfully campy! Apologies for the sound, it’s the best I could find:

4. Alice in Wonderland (1933, USA) – apparently an all-star cast at the time, this one was used as a guide to ‘how not to make a fantasy film’ during the 1939 production of the Wizard of Oz. There’s apparently one animated sequence, but I couldn’t find it. Instead, look at that cat!:

5. Alice in Wonderland (1949, UK/France?) – this one mixed live action and puppets, but was suppressed by Walt Disney who was making his own version at the time, and so not widely seen in the US – cool puppets man! I wonder if Svankmajer saw this?:

6. Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951, US) – apparently this one wasn’t a success when it came out, and only become one in the 60s after hippies took a liking to the caterpillar and the psychedelic aspects of the film. It was re-issued in the 80s.

7. Alice in Wonderland (1966, UK) – this trippy version made for the BBC has music by Ravi Shankar!

8. Fushigi no Kuni no Alice (1984, Japan) – anime made for TV series!

9. Alice (1988, Czech Rep.) – Svankmajer’s masterpiece is, according to Wikipedia, considered a cult film. My favourite scene!:

10. Alice in Wonderland (1999, US TV movie) – Whoopi Godlberg as the Cheshire Cat? Martin Short as the Mad Hatter? Ben Kingsley as the caterpillar? wtf?

11. Abby in Wonderland (2008, US) – a Sesame Street direct-to-DVD version!

12. And finally, Alice in Wonderland (2010, US) – Tim Burton’s version is not technically a version of Alice, but a sequel:

So, which is your favourite? Which do you remember most clearly?

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