Sleeping Beauty – Sarah

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The princess shall indeed grow in grace and beauty, beloved by all who know her. But… before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel – AND DIE!

Ah yes, Sleeping Beauty. The movie with both my favorite Disney villain and my favorite Disney prince, but, alas, not my favorite princess.

Sleeping Beauty is the third of Walt Disney’s “princess” movies, following Snow White and Cinderella. (I put princess in quotation marks due to a personal annoyance with a matter – we’ll discuss that in a couple weeks.) It would also be the last princess film that Walt would make. The next royal film would not appear until 1989 with The Little Mermaid. Odd how much Disney is known for (marketing) their princesses when Walt was only around for the first three – there are 10 “official” Disney princesses, and several not counted in the line-up. MOVING ON!

As Jon pointed out, Sleeping Beauty is based upon the 17th century fairy tale “La Belle au Bois Dormant” by Charles Perrault. However, nearly two centuries later,  Pyotr Tchaikovsky scored a ballet of the fairy tale. The Disney film is based on both versions of the story (conveniently leaving out rape and whatnot.) Speaking of the ballet – much of the score is used in the soundtrack (or the soundtrack is based upon the ballet) of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. However, the film is just as much original Disney as it is either of those.

The oddest thing about the film, Sleeping Beauty, is that it is the story of a princess who is cursed  to die or sleep forever. Her only chance of survival is true love’s kiss or something. However, the title character – Sleeping Beauty herself – only appears in the film for 18 minutes.  So what happens in the film if the title character isn’t around? Good question.

King Stephen and Queen Leah have a baby (and the peasants rejoice.) They throw a party to honor the new princess. Their friend, King Hubert, and his son, Prince Phillip, come, baring some kind of gift. Afterwards, three fairies come bestowing the girls of beauty and song . Uh oh. In poofs Maleficent, Mistress of Evil.

She apparently is the mistress of some dark forbidden mountain. (It is unclear exactly how she and King Hubert relate to the kingdom.) Anyhow, she is pissed because she wasn’t invited to the birthday party. She doesn’t get cake and one of the fairies pisses her off further by saying “You weren’t wanted!” So what does Maleficent do? Curses the princess and says she will die when she is 16. Maleficent’s motive throughout the whole film seems to be based on her being unwanted. While a weak motive, she happens to be a bad ass. Maleficent leaves. Fairies raise baby. Baby grows up to be beautiful (although painfully thin) falls in love with a prince, blah blah blah.

But speaking of the fairies (including Maleficent), I have to wonder, what exactly are their powers? Merryweather can’t undo Maleficent’s curse. The good fairies don’t help Phillip defeat the dragon until they have to. Maleficent sent her goons to find Aurora. It seems that they only have powers sometimes. Maybe they should hook up with the chocolate pot roast eating giant who has odd and random powers, as well.

Okay, back to the history and process.  You wouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t seen the film, right?

Sleeping Beauty cost Walt Disney Productions six million dollars to make, and it took them six years to do so. Now, when I say six years, I don’t mean like Alice or Peter where there were concepts and then put on hold for a while. I am talking six years of actual production time. The animators were only able to draw one frame a day.  For those of you who don’t know, it takes 24 frames to make 1 second of film.

As for the animation, itself:

  • Sleeping Beauty was the last Disney animated film to use hand-inked cells, but we’ll talk more about that for our next film.
  • The film was made in SUPER widescreen (called super technirama 70) because in 1959,TVs were increasingly popular and less people were going to the movies. The only other animated film in this format would be The Black Cauldron (1985) Walt had to make this one special (AND NOT LIKE SNOW WHITE OR CINDERELLA)
  • The stylist for the film was a gentleman by the name of Eyvind Earle, who worked on several shorts, along with Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp. He is the reason why (generally) everything in the background remains in focus and people are standing still (to resemble paintings). These ideas drove the animators bonkers,  but as it turns out, it is beautifully executed. (Probably my favorite art of all the Disney films) After this film, Eyvind quit the company to work on his own artwork.
  • Walt didn’t like the “I Wonder” scene (when Aurora first goes to “pick berries” and is singing – she has not yet met Phillip) – he thought it was boring and needed more cute animals. Consequently, the deflating owl is probably one of my favorites.
  • Most of the live-action references were not provided by the voice actors (unlike Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella) because they did not look the part.

I also want to point out the magnificent Eleanor Audley, the voice of the Mistress of Evil, Maleficent. You may recognize her as the voice of Lady Tremaine from Cinderella or the voice of Leota (the woman in the crystal ball) from the Haunted Mansion ride. Walt wanted her for the voice of Maleficent but she turned him down due to tuberculosis. Eventually, she gave in and is one of the most memorable Disney voices and villains.

For all you Disney Parks enthusiasts, you’ll remember that the castle in the center of Disneyland is called “Sleeping Beauty Castle.” However, the park, including the castle, was built in 1955, whereas the film came out in 1959. You’ll also notice the park castle looks nothing like the movie castle. Such is life. BUT if you did walk through the castle (from 1957 to 2001), you will be able to view dioramas of the film. Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong also feature a Sleeping Beauty castle whereas Walt Disney World features Cinderella Castle.

For more Sleeping Beauty goodness (kind of), check out:

Last but not least, a quick survey:
Would Sleeping Beauty be released today with a G rating? Would it have been made today at all? Maleficent’s scripting has several words that I (or my students) wouldn’t be allowed to say in school. The dragon scene? Amazing, but SCARY. Thoughts? 

Also – sorry, not many GIFs/images this week. I’m in the process of my last couple weeks of graduate school and am packing to move within the next month, along with preparing a Disneyland trip. However, if you have a request, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get around to it when I can.

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Animated GIFs – Sarah

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Hello dear readers!

Sarah here. Jon and I have noticed a lot of people taking an interest in our animated GIFs. If you have a request for a GIF, go ahead and leave a comment.  If I have easy access to the film, they are simple to make….when or if I have some free time.

And now back to our regularly scheduled Disney posts 🙂

Sleeping Beauty – Jon

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Much like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty is another well known fairy tale that Disney adopted. Also like it, the original version was cleansed of many of the more violent and disturbing portions. The story is based on an earlier, Italian fairy tale, “Sola, Luna, e Talia” (“Sun, Moon, and Talia”).

In that version, the princess was not awakened by a kiss. Rather, a king who was out hunting stumbles across her sleeping and, when unable to rouse her, rapes her, impregnating her with twins which she bears while still asleep. When unable to suckle, one instead sucks on her finger drawing out the flax that put her to sleep and she awakens. The queen eventually finds out about this and, instead of having any ire for the king, decides that the children should be cooked and eaten, but the cook substitutes lamb. The fake feast is served to the king. Still, the queen decides to have Talia burned at the stake, but the king discovers this and has the queen burned instead and then marries Talia.

The story ends with the lines: “Lucky people, so ’tis said, He who has luck may go to bed, And bliss will rain upon his head.”

The moral? If you’re lucky, you can be a rapist and good things will happen!

Yes. This is what Disney is based on.

But things were changed. Like the name of the princess. She is now named Aurora after the morning dawn…. Of course, aurorae have nothing to do with the dawn. Rather they are glowing interactions when charged particles blown off the sun during highly energetic electromagnetic events and then funneled down through the Earth’s atmosphere, mostly at the poles, by magnetic fields. When they strike the particles in our atmosphere, it ionizes them and upon recombination, light is emitted.

Typically, this phenomenon is limited to the far northern latitudes, but when the Sun gets really violent, they can be seen at much lower latitudes. Just last year, a good solar storm made them visible here in Missouri where I spotted them as a glowing red cloud in the Northern sky. In 1859, there was a solar storm that was so large aurorae were even seen at latitudes as low as the Caribbean! This was known as the Carrington event and was caused by a solar flare that was so bright, it was visible to the naked eye.

Anyway, the princess’ name again changes as she’s adopted by three fairy godmothers who call her Briar Rose to hide her from the evil Maleficent who is a self described mistress of all evil. Maleficent is a character that I quite like, ultimately because of her major role in the Kingdom Hearts series.

She puts a curse on the pricess that will cause her to die when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday. But one of the fairy godmothers weakens the curse with her magic making her fall asleep until kissed by her True Love™.

On her 16th birthday, when Maleficent’s curse is to come true, the fairy godmothers finally use their magic to make her a cake and a dress, but it ends up tipping Maleficent off and she ensures the girl finds the spindle.

The fairy godmothers realize they stole the girl away from her family for 16 years and dropped the ball at the last second, decide to stage a cover up by putting the entire kingdom to sleep. Which makes little sense. The princess was already betrothed to the prince. So why would the fairy godmother have required that the kiss be from some stranger and not him? Did she realize right then that the prince wasn’t likely to be in any way in love with her (despite the blessing of beauty and singing from the other two fairies) and that it was truly a marriage of convenience?

If so, then how did they ever expect the true love to find her?

It’s a weak plot point.

But they eventually figure out that the prince, fortunately, happens to be her True Love™, and hasten to rescue him giving him a sword and shield. He hastens to the princess’ rescue and doesn’t rape her, but instead, kisses her, which is still sexual assault. But she retroactively gives consent which I guess makes it more acceptable. Especially since they live Happily Ever After with a distinct lack of eating children.

The art in the movie is very well done in my opinion. It’s one of the more visually attractive movies as I see it. That, combined with the music, makes it a definite favorite. “Once Upon a Dream” is an absolutely gorgeous song. So much so, that at Naka Kon this year, we included it in our formal ball, even though it didn’t fit the main theme of the convention of being from a Japanese anime or video game.

Lady and the Tramp – Sarah

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He’s a tramp, but they love him….breaks a new heart every day…

I’m fairly neutral about the story of Lady and the Tramp. It’s never been one of my favorites, but never a least favorite, either. As a kid, my favorite part was the siamese cat song, but that was more from a Sing A Long Songs VHS I had, not because of the actual movie.

The year is 1955. Business is booming for the Walt Disney Company. Their last three films have been a HUGE financial hit. This also happens to be the year in which Disneyland would open in Anaheim, CA. A big year, to say the least.

The original story of Lady and the Tramp started in the late 1930s, much like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and of course, Snow White. Joe Grant, an artist at the company (who designed the hag in Snow White) began writing about his Springer Spaniel, Lady. Of course, his personal dog, got shoved aside for his new baby. This story did not contain the Tramp. The movie got put on hold because Walt hated the character of Lady.

Tramp would appear in the 1940s when Walt bought the rights to Ward Greene’s story “Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog.” Joe Grant’s Lady fell in love with Ward Greene’s tramp and a story was made. Walt greenlighted the project yet again. However, like the films before it, Lady and the Tramp got put on hold again because of the war.

In 1953, Ward Greene, wrote a new version of the story, “Lady and the Tramp” (at Walt’s request). This would then become Walt’s source material and would allow the public to get to know the story before the film.

My favorite fun fact about the film is Walt’s personal connection. Walt’s studio was a success. He was building Disneyland. He was out of the house a lot. On one particular occasion, he came home very late (and supposedly very drunk). Lillian, his wife, was upset and locked him out of the house. The next morning, Walt presented her with a puppy in a hatbox. This very scene would be used in the film, Lady and the Tramp.

Other random fact: Walt didn’t want to include the spaghetti scene. One of his animators did it anyway. Walt ended up liking it.

Character Voices:

Bill Thompson (as discussed in my previous post) provides the voice of Jock and several other minor characters.

Verna Felton (Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Queen of Hearts in Alice, etc etc.) plays Aunt Sarah.

Peggy Lee, a famous songstress, provided the voices of the Siamese cats, Peg, and Darling.

Alas, that is all I have for this week. Until next time…

Lady and the Tramp – Jon

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Lady and the Tramp is another of the movies that I haven’t seen in such a long time that I couldn’t remember anything going into it except the scene everyone knows involving meatballs. Hence, I had no real expectations for this film. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

We start off on Christmas day and Jim Dear gives Darling a dog in a hatbox. It has been surprisingly well behaved that entire time. Not, you know, barking, moving around, or pooping in the box or anything else to give it away that there’s something alive in there. And not a hat. And Darling doesn’t figure it out when she picks up the box to unwrap it and it’s considerably heavier than a hat. Or perhaps she’s just playing along. I bet she’s the kind that peeks the night before….

Anyway, they name her Lady and she’s a high society sort. Collar and everything. She’s respectable. She has a few friends that are upper crust too. The first is Jock, a Scottish Terrier who squirrels bones away like he’s one of those people preparing for the apocalypse. Which makes some sense since the movie supposedly takes place (starting) in 1909 and Earth passed through the tail of Haley’s comet in 1910, causing a panic because astronomers had detected poisonous cyanogen gas in its spectra.

Her other friend is Trusty, a bloodhound with a poor sense of smell who dreams of his glory days with his grandfather, Old Reliable, who he can’t quite remember telling everyone about.

She ends up meeting the Tramp who is definitely the Wrong Sort since he doesn’t have a collar, eats out of trash cans, and isn’t beholden to a family. Instead, he spends his days chasing chickens and springing his fellow strays from the dog catcher. Lady and Tramp run into one another when he’s out on the town and warns Lady that babies moving in means dogs move out. She ignores this best she can but after a terrible misunderstanding with Aunt Sally who comes to babysit so the Dear/Darling pair can have a much needed vacation, the message begins to sink in. Aunt Sally has two Siamese cats who are rather meddling and get Lady in quite a bit of trouble, leading Aunt Sally to muzzle Lady who runs off and meets up with Tramp again. He takes her to the zoo and finds a beaver who reminds me of a particular Gopher (although different voice actors), that snaps it off for her.

The two galavant about the town until Lady is caught by the dog catcher and temporarily put in the pound. I suppose the tags on collars didn’t simply have a return address on them 100 years ago. While there, she learns that Tramp is quite a philanderer. When she gets home, Lady is chained in a dog house and when Tramp stops by she scorns him until a rat sneaks in (which is apparently unheeded by the pair of cats), and Tramp chases after it for her. The rat, apparently, was after the baby. I didn’t know that this was a common occurrence (I have quite a few friends with rats who have no biting problems), but apparently rat bites are a big thing (second example that’s much less squeamish friendly). Still, I don’t buy it. We all know how adorable rats are.

But when the Dear/Darling pair shows up and Lady shows them there was a rat, the whole picture becomes clear and they decide to adopt Tramp. Which he’s surprisingly cool with given how he scorned being tied down, either with another dog or a family. This was the thinnest part of the movie here for me since it was a pretty dramatic shift in characterization without any real motivation. Perhaps it’s because they had puppies and suddenly has to be Responsible.

Peter Pan – Sarah

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All it takes is faith and trust…and something I forgot….dust.

Peter Pan will forever and always be one of my favorite animated Disney films. It is beautifully created – from the artwork, the script, the character development, everything. Is my real love because of my own personal “not wanting to grow up?” Perhaps. On the other hand, I have very strong memories of eating in a local restaurant when I was fiveish years old where I would pretend that the Tick-Tock Croc was around and if I put my feet down he would eat me. But you’re not here to read about my childhood. Let’s move on.

We are in our third film taken from British literature. (The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland being our previous films.) Was it because Walt had a fascination with the Brits? Not so much.

As with Alice, Walt had experience with the story of Peter Pan since he was a young boy. In 1913, at the tender age of 12, Walt watched a touring company’s stage performance of Peter Pan, written by J.M. Barrie. You see, the original written work was a stage play, not a film nor a storybook. Eleven years later, a popular silent film version of Peter Pan was released, which Walt also saw. Once Walt’s company was booming, the idea would not leave him alone.

Peter Pan was in some sort of development since the late 1930s, around the same time Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was being made. In 1939, Walt had acquired the screen rights. The rights had to be given by a children’s hospital in London, as that is who J.M. Barrie had left them to in his will. With the rights in hand, there was no stopping Walt….except…..the war. Despite having storyboards made and a basic structure to the film, Peter Pan had to be put on hold.

In the original Disney concept for Peter Pan, Nana, the dog was to travel with Wendy, John, and Michael to Neverland. I would love to have seen that version, but alas, the company had other plans.

In other versions discussed by the Walt Disney Company, Captain Hook was killed, the children never came back, and other darker themes emerged. Eventually, they decided to go the more light-hearted route

After the war, Walt needed some financial success in the box office to keep his company afloat. It was not the time to bring back Peter. However, after the success es of both Cinderella and Alice, Walt could finally bring back his dear boy.

Fun facts about Peter Pan:

This film is the first time than Peter was played by a male. The stage Peter is traditionally played by a female.

The song, “The Second Star to the Right” was originally composed for Alice in Wonderland.

Walt Disney, himself, disliked the character of Peter Pan in his version.

It was, sadly, the last film where each of the “Nine Old Men” worked as directing animators.

It is also the last film distributed by RKO Pictures before Walt founded his own distribution company.

The Tick-Tock Croc originally had his own theme song with lyrics. While the melody can still be heard in the film, the lyrics were cut. However, you can hear the lyrics in Walt Disney World’s Hallowishes fireworks show and in some promotional material.

Blah Blah Blah….Michael Jackson’s favorite movie….Blah Blah Blah.

The original story is much much darker….almost all of the Indians die, pirates are shot all the time, there’s poison, and fairies…well, don’t say that you don’t believe.

People Involved in the Creation of Peter Pan:

Peter Pan welcomes back the lovely Kathryn Beaumont as the voice of Wendy Moira Angela Darling. She also provided the voice of Alice in Alice in Wonderland. She also provided the live action reference for Wendy.

Bobby Driscoll appears as the voice of Peter Pan. This would be his sixth film for the Disney company. Previously we’ve seen him in Melody Time. He was also in Disney’s Song of the South, Treasure Island, and So Dear to My Heart. Bobby would also be used as the film reference.

Bill Thompson, the voice of Smee, was also the voice of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and we’ll see him again in Lady and the Tramp, The Aristocats, and Sleeping Beauty.

Candy Candido, the voice of the Indian Chief, appeared in Fun and Fancy Free and will later appear in Robin Hood and The Great Mouse Detective.

A young actress by the name of Margaret Kelly (not Marilyn Monroe) provided the live action reference for Tinkerbell.

And last but not least, take some time to view some beautiful concept art by the talented and amazing Mary Blair. If you’d like to see more (and read the story of Peter Pan), check out the book which is illustrated using her concept art.

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is in public domain and can be downloaded for free from amazon.com.

For other interpretations/versions of J.M. Barrie’s story:

As far as Disney, there is a Peter Pan sequel – Return to Neverland and a series of Tinkerbell movies. I hate all of them and wish not to discuss them.

(Also – I do believe in fairies…I do…I do!)

Peter Pan – Jon

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“All of this has happened before, and will happen again.”

Sweet! We’re now watching Battlestar Galactica! Or not.

Apparently BSG lifted one of their most famous lines from Peter Pan. Which is odd that such a notion would even come up in Peter Pan. The entire idea is that of a cyclical story or universe. And here Peter Pan is a story about an unchanging boy who never grows up. Or perhaps not since we all know Peter does grow up to become Robin Williams and then goes back to Neverland to have another epic battle with Hook who apparently the Croc decided wasn’t so tasty. All those sharp metal bits and everything I suppose.

Meanwhile, this version starts with John and Michael acting out stories they heard from their sister, Wendy who learned them from… uh, I’m not sure. But it’s all legit, because she’s got Peter’s shadow who probably told her everything. With shadow puppets or something.

But apparently the stories have turned the kids into rapscallions because dad gets pissed and tells Wendy she’s got to get her own room and leave the nursery. Awful, right? I mean, what kid doesn’t want their own room?

Wendy. That’s who. But Peter drops by looking for his shadow and teaches them all to fly off to Neverland. He probably took a liking to the boys given that Peter was voiced by fellow rapscallion Bobby Driscoll who died at age 31 due to drug abuse which he probably picked up from the Indians the kids hunt in Neverland. Neverland is, of course, somewhere in the vicinity of the second star to the right. In the movie, this is shown as a pair of stars of very nearly equal brightness rather close to one another. Being an astronomer type, I suspect I know which stars these are: Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini (the twins).

I think it’s a pretty good fit, but unfortunately, the star to the right, Castor, isn’t likely to have any planets around it. It’s a quadruple star system. The main star we see has a companion in orbit around it that was discovered in 1678, but both of those stars have other stars in orbit around them in very close orbits. While stars can theoretically survive in multiple star systems (either by being very close in while the other star is very far out or vice versa), the arrangement of all these stars, covering both the close in and the far out, would pull a potential Planet Neverland out of orbit, either throwing it into the parent star, or flinging it out of the system all together.

Anyway, they all get to Neverland, wherever it is, and Hook takes potshots at them. What a jerk. Peter distracts the pirates while Tinkerbell tries to get the Lost Boys to shoot down the Wendy Bird. Apparently this continues the trend of Disney characters having trouble with the idea of what a “bird” looks like. They get over it because Wendy’s not a bird, she’s a mother. And she wants to see the mermaids. And being the gentleman, what with his very fine hat, escorts her to see the mermaids. Who try to kill her because Peter’s apparently so hawt that all the girls want him. So they’re murderous mermaids. Mmm. Alliteration.

On the other side of the island the boys have been captures by the Indians who are threatening to burn them at the stake if they don’t return Princess Tiger Lily (she’s a fierce flower? Mmm. Alliteration). Fortunately, Hook happens to wander into Mermaid Cove to interrogate Tiger Lilly. With the help of some voice impressions (Robin Williams style), Peter tricks Hook’s assistant, Smee, into freeing Tiger Lily long enough for them to escape with the help of the Tick Tock Crock. They return Tiger Lily and have a wild rumpus pow-wow learning all sorts of things about the tribe, which are really more of “Just So Stories” similar to how we learned that wolves howl at the moon because Pecos Bill’s beloved bounced up there in Melody Time.

But again, Tiger Lily starts making eyes at Peter and Wendy gets jealous and convinces her brothers to leave. However, Hook has tricked Tinkerbell into divulging the location of the hideout and sets a nefarious trap for them. The pirates capture the kids and leaves a bomb for Peter. Tinkerbell escapes and saves Peter and the pair rush to save the kids from walking the plank into obviously Crocodile infested waters. Although, one must wonder if the Crocodile would really have gone for kids given that he’d already developed a taste for Hook meat. Beggers can’t be choosers I guess.

But the Croc never gets his tender feast because Peter rescues the kids and initiating the battle with the Final Boss. The pirates lose the battle and Peter captures the ship and flies it back to London somehow. I’m still fuzzy on that one. After all, flying requires happy thoughts and what does a ship think about to make it happy? Again, Melody Time probably has the answers in the Little Toot segment.

They drop off Wendy, John, and Michael and they all go to sleep. Their father finds Wendy asleep at the window. He looks out and sees a cloud pirate ship sailing back towards a pair of bright stars. Of course, he could just be imagining things. After all, people see things in the clouds all the time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself….

Alice in Wonderland – Jon

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Oh no! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!

Nearly a week to get this post up! I blame work. But the reality is that I just haven’t figured out much of what I want to say about Alice in Wonderland. So rant mode, activate!

While it’s not a package film, it has a distinct feel of one; it’s a collection of short segments that are all largely unrelated.

The common threads that unite them is that they all 1) Are about Alice trying to find her way home and 2) They’re all based in a bizarre sensical nonsense which is how Alice said she’d want her world to be during the opening segment before tumbling down the rabbit hole.

Alice declared, “nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.” The very idea of such a thing makes little sense in and of itself since our naming conventions are largely arbitrary (see my rant about this in the post on Bambi). If, in Alice’s world, down was suddenly defined as up, the directions don’t truly change, just the terminology. While this may mess up our liguistic comprehension temprorarily, it doesn’t have any bearing on our actual perception.

But perhaps she meant something slightly deeper. Instead of just calling things in a different manner, what if, in Wonderland, perception truly was different?

There are examples of how people actually adapt to such things. In one experiment, scientists wore special headsets made with mirrors that reversed their perception of left and right. At first, they stumbled about, but after several days of this reverse reality, their brains adapted and automatically compensated. Alice ultimately reacts in a very similar manner. While at first, she struggles to adapt to a world where eating causes her to shrink and even a sip causes her to fill houses, eventually she uses this set of changed rules to her advantage.

Initially, Alice struggles with this, needing help from the Doorknob to guide her through the process of this reasoning so she can shrink to fit through him. She floods the room with her tears and ends up in an ocean. She washes up on the shore and in an attempt to get dry, the various sea life is having a caucus race, which does nothing. What an apt observation for our current political climate where both parties do nothing more than go in circles trying to bite the other’s tail.

From there she heads into the woods and meets the twins, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. This segment is a perfect example of why this movie has the feeling of a package film; the twins tell a story about how a bunch of oysters were duped into being a feast by a conniving walrus. It has almost nothing to do with the main plot except that it, very loosely, is based on the fact that Alice was chasing the white rabbit because she was “curious”. The tale is supposed to be about how curiousity killed the cat oysters, but in reality, was more about temptation. The Walrus has a definative feel of Honest John from Pinnochio.

The twins try to regail her with more tales, but she runs off to chase the rabbit and finds his house in which she gets stuck when she drinks something. Bill the lizard tries to help, but to no avail until Alice eats a bit of carrot (Bonus trivia: Bill also appears in Who Framed Roger Rabbit). This shrinks her down to sing a song with some flowers. When they accuse her of being a weed, she runs off trying to find a way home.

She meets with the hookah smoking caterpillar who asks her who she is, but she doesn’t ever really answer. I guess drugs are bad, m’kay?

The Cheshire Cat advises her to ask the Doormouse and the hatter, so she joins the mad tea-party which is definitely one of the most memorable portions of the movie. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want an unbirthday? (PS: Today is my unbirthday!)

Eventually, she finds the Queen’s castle and discovers the guards, er…. cards painting the roses red. Why? Because the queen wants them red. In this way, we see another one of the charming characteristics of Wonderland: The paradox between the simple and the complex. The cards take a very simple solution to a problem (Queen wants the roses red. How do we make things red? With paint! Thus, we should paint the roses! QED). Yet there was a much simpler solution that was overlooked: Plant red roses in the first place.

Of course, this ties back to another recurring theme: The small vs the large. The solution of painting the roses only addresses the problems in that small time period where the roses already existed as white. In the larger picture, the other solution would have been the better one. This too has interesting parallels in science. Many people often complain about how science is flawed and cite conclusions such as a flat earth, or the Geocentric model of the solar system. But what people often fail to realize is that, when looking in very small terms, these solutions are exceptionally accurate! Consider your yard; unless you live on a hill, your yard is probably pretty flat. The change in height is very little compared to the total width of the yard. On the small scale, it’s a very good fit.

It was only as our breadth of knowledge grew that it became untennable. The same is true for the Geocentric model. Even after the Heliocentric one was proposed, the Geoctentric model dominated for a very long time, not just because of political pressures, but because the Geocentric model simply provided equally, if not more accurate predictions. As we grow, we get a different perspective, and more comes into view. Often times, the simpler solutions still work for the smaller ones (for example: We still teach Newtonian gravity even though we know it’s insufficient and has been replaced by relativity, but at low velocities and without exceptionally large masses, the Newtonian solutions can provide sufficiently correct answers).

The Queen is an eccentric individual as well. When Alice is on trial, the Queen insists that the sentencing come first (probably because that’s when she can say her most famous line). I have to wonder if the Queen’s character is a commentary on women in politics. I doubt it is given that women were still so far away from having any political power when the source material was written, but historically (and even in contemporary times), mysoginists have argued that women should be prevented from holding any sort of power because they were “prone to hysterics”.

Regardless, the trial is the first time Alice truly tries to insist for some sort of normalcy, and that the order of the trial follow the normal procedure. Of course, the Chesire Cat throws a wrench in both of their plans by disrupting the whole trial and eventually Alice wakes up to find herself back in Kansas the meadow. No grand conclusion. No revelation to tie it all together. No happily ever after. Just time for tea or some such nonsense. It was an unsatisfying ending to a movie that made little sense.

But this too presents a paradox: Alice in Wonderland is a poorly ended movie without much coherence in either the plot or individual plot points, yet it has found a way to become an endearing classic.

And they call me mad.

Alice in Wonderland – Sarah

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Oh pardon me, but Mister Three, why must you paint them red?

With the commercial success of Cinderella, the studio was saved and Walt finally had the opportunity to reintroduce a film that has been revisited, revised, and in pre-production five different times over the course of thirteen years. However, this story doesn’t begin with Walt or his production team. Nor does this story begin with hallucinogens or drugs. This goes back three-quarters of a century to England and a Mr. Charles Dodgson.

The stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (yes, there were originally two stories) were written in the mid-late nineteenth century by Lewis Carroll (the pen-name of Charles Dodgson.) Mr. Dodgson was a clergyman, mathematician, and photographer. Living on the campus of Christ Church, he became very close with the Liddell family, which consisted of Henry (the dean of Christ Church), his wife, and their four children. Because of Dodgson’s fascination with photography, he always had an excuse to be near the children, frequently using them as subjects. He told them fantastical stories as they went for picnics and walks.

One such day, Charles, his friend, and the three youngest of the Liddell children went for a picnic on a boat down a river. The children, as they often did, begged Mr. Dodgson for a story. This was the beginning of what would become Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The youngest of the Liddell children was Alice, of which the main character was based. The other children were put in as other characters, while the more famous ones, such as The Queen of Hearts, would be based on more prominent people of the time. Alice begged and begged for Mr. Dodgson to write his stories down and he eventually obliged, giving a copy with his own illustrations to the Liddell family. The family was so entranced by his storybook that they insisted he have it published. Once realizing it was to be published, he hired Sir John Tenniel to do the illustrations.

I will pause in my history lesson to acknowledge an argument (not one of my own.) Were the Alice stories an innocent gesture for a little girl? Was Mr. Dodgson in love with Alice or her older sister? There was a point in which Charles and the Liddell family were estranged. Why? Are the accusations of pedophilia true? I do not know. Many Carroll scholars argue the contrary. He did, in fact, take nude photographs of children, but this was apparently a sign of the times. I will allow you to form your own opinion on the matter. Continuing on…

Once published, Lewis Carroll’s stories became tremendously popular all over the world. He changed children’s literature forever. Previous to his stories being published, all children’s stories and books were meant as morality tales. They were to teach children how to behave, how to think, and to keep quiet. Carroll insisted that his works would have no morals. They were simply for entertainment purposes. (Yes, you have Lewis Carroll to thank for changing literature and influencing all the other authors we know and love today.)

So what does any of this have to do with Walt Disney? I’m glad you asked.

As a schoolboy, Walt read Mr. Carroll’s stories. He became entranced, as so many children do, with the fantastical, nonsensical world of Wonderland. The stories perfectly reflected what it is like to be a child trying to live in a grown up world. No one listens to you, you’re constantly berated, and everything seems like nonsense.

In the 1920s, before Snow White, Mickey Mouse, or even Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, there was Alice. Walt Disney’s first commercial success came in the form of “the Alice Comedies” or “Alice in Cartoon Land.” These shorts featured live action as well as animated characters. The shorts were created in Disney’s first studio in Kansas City, MO. (There is currently a project to restore Laugh-O-Gram Studios – more information: here) While the Alice comedies had very little to do with Carroll’s novels, it was Walt’s first dabble with the idea.

Several (if not all) of the Alice comedies can be found on youtube (as they are now in public domain):
Alice’s Wonderland

Alice’s Balloon Race

Alice’s Egg Plant

Shortly after Alice’s fame, Disney moved out to Hollywood where Oswald and Mickey would soon be born. Walt didn’t leave Wonderland behind in Kansas, however. The inspiration of Carroll’s Wonderland would follow him for many years to come.

In 1931, Walt Disney bought the rights to the illustrations done by Sir John Tenniel. These would later serve as inspiration for the film that we know and love today.

Alice could have very well been the “first” animated feature instead of Snow White. However, in 1933, the Alice project was put on hold due to another production company releasing a live action version of Alice in Wonderland.

Walt did not let his ideas of Wonderland escape. In 1936, the Walt Disney Studios created a Mickey Mouse short called, “Thru the Mirror,”  and in 1938, Walt set his men to start developing Alice in Wonderland as a full feature. In the 1939 film, Pinocchio, you can see two books in the background – Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. These were the next two films being developed. Unfortunately, they kept getting delayed and would not make their debut for over a decade.

Finally, after the commercial success of Cinderella, Walt could once again revisit Wonderland.

While Walt wanted to stay true to the original material, several things were changed in the film (as so often happens.) Both books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were used as inspiration. Several characters were cut from the stories, such as the Mock Turtle, Duchess, the White Knight, and the Jabberwocky (to name a few.) Although the ideas were toyed with by the company, they were cut, mostly due to time constraints.

The scene in the Tulgey Wood was created by the studios to make Alice a more sympathetic character. This does not appear in the book(s). The Door Knob character was also created by the production team. The scene with the flowers was changed in that Alice is shorter in height in the film, creating a different dynamic and events.

Character Fun Facts:

  • Disney originally wanted Luana Patten (Fun and Fancy Free, Song of the South, Melody Time) as Alice.  At this time, it was being considered to do the film as live action. However, British actress Kathryn Beaumont would ultimately win out as Alice. She would also serve as the reference model.
  • The March Hare was so named because hares mate in the month of March, making them “mad.” This is alluded to when, in the film, he says, “Who’s Dinah?” and begins to pant
  • The Mad Hatter was named because in the 18th and 19th centuries felt was made using mercury. After prolonged exposure to the mercury, hatters would develop dementia.
  • The tag in his hat reads 10/6. This is a price, not a fraction. It was never originally stated by Lewis Carroll that the tag was in the hat, but it has stayed since Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations.
  • The mother oyster looked at her calendar, under the sea, and warned the oysters not to follow the Walrus. The month was March, with the R glowing red.  Traditionally, oysters should only be eaten in months with an “R” in them, because in the other months it was too hot.
  • The Cheshire cat was named because of the abundance of dairies in Cheshire, England. Charles Dodgson was born in Cheshire.
  • Although the Jabberwocky does not appear in the film, the Cheshire Cat sings a verse from the poem:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Other Fun Facts:

  • Alice in Wonderland contains the most songs out of every Disney film to date.
  • Sterling Holloway appears as  the voice of the Cheshire Cat (Also known for voicing Winnie the Pooh, Kaa, and the stork from Dumbo)
  • Verna Felton appears as the voice of the Queen of Hearts (Also known for the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and various elephants)
  • The Liddell family actually had a kitten named Dinah.
  • On the title card, Lewis Carroll’s name is spelled incorrectly:

  • Concept art was developed by Mary Blair (I love her, can you tell?)


Last, but not least, is the topic of drugs. Without doing any research, it is an understandable assumption that Lewis Carroll was on drugs. Everyone is insane. The caterpillar, in both the book and the films, is smoking a hookah. However, doing research, it seems to be that the author was not a drug user, but making references to things in his life. The hookah smoking caterpillar was inspired by artists that were photographed by Dodgson, for example. This argument can go either way, so I am leaving it alone. I am not well versed enough in Dodgson or drugs to make a point towards either side.

If you would like to compare the books with the Disney film, they are available for free as e-books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.