Alice in Wonderland (1951)


Due to World War II, Walt Disney was forced to undertake projects that were really a collection of shorts rather than real, coherent feature-length films. These projects would later be grouped into Walt Disney’s “package era,” which were unpopular at the time and are still relatively unknown today. Package era films include Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, and Make Mine Music. After revisiting Alice in Wonderland, I don’t want to see these package films because that’s exactly what I see in this movie: a package of shorts rather than a real, coherent feature-length film. As Dave Kehr from Chicago Reader said:

The Disney version lightens and sweetens Lewis Carroll’s tale, but what’s really disappointing is the undistinguished animation: the film looks and plays more like the Disney shorts than the Disney features.

Alice’s wonderland was supposed to provide us, well… with a wonderland, but it’s unimpressive even from an animation standpoint. While Dumbo provided strange imagery that helped make its audience feel something, Alice’s imagination stops at being strange—there’s no heart in her dreams. And I’m not talking about the typical Disney dreams; Alice is literally dreaming all of this up. It would seem like this would be an opportune time for Disney to show off his creativity, but the animation is really lacking, barring the Queen’s castle.


Animation technique wouldn’t be the first thing I critique unless it was basically the only thing to critique. Once again, the film plays like Disney shorts, so no resemblance of a coherent plot exists. The film doesn’t aim to give us interesting or complex characters; Alice could literally be replaced by a cardboard box and I wouldn’t have noticed. The film simply aims at being strange, and while I guess it accomplishes its not-so-lofty goals, it does so in an unimpressive manner. Nobody listens to each other in this film. I mean, just take a look at the script:

Cheshire Cat: Oh, by the way, if you’d really like to know, he went that way.
Alice: Who did?
Cheshire Cat: The white rabbit.
Alice: He did?
Cheshire Cat: He did what?
Alice: Went that way?
Cheshire Cat: Who did?
Alice: The white rabbit!
Cheshire Cat: What rabbit?
Alice: But didn’t you just say… I mean… oh dear!
Cheshire Cat: Can you stand on your head?


I mean, this is strange all right, but why am I watching this? Why should anybody be watching this? The animation isn’t Disney, the protagonist’s dreams have been literalized for no apparent reason, the characters all blur together into one bizarre personality, and worst of all, this movie isn’t even fun. In the end, Alice realizes that maybe her dreams aren’t all she thought they would be, and cries on two instances. It’s painful to watch not because I was invested in her dreams, but because it’s a little girl crying who just wants to go back home. This film is no fun to watch, no fun to see, and does not ever merit its existence as an adaption of Lewis Carroll’s tale. Please, let Alice wake up!


5 Replies to “Alice in Wonderland (1951)”

  1. I find Alice has plenty of heart. and that the main character is very interesting.

    The main character is self reliant, never puts up with anyone’s s***. And, while she tries to be good, she realizes that she is flawed as a person and is something of a hypocrite. In my opinion she is the best developed child character Disney has ever done before, or since.
    And the genius behind it is that… her character isn’t the strongest so it doesn’t clash with the rest of the Wonderland characters.

    The book has many things that you cannot do in film, like making the main character nothing more than something you insert yourself in as you (she) experiences these events. If you do that in FILM it would be like watching someone play a video game.

    Alice in Wonderland is supposed to be a dark dreamlike, road trip, episodic experience. That’s the point of Wonderland.

    On top of that it has a lot of the hidden context that was in the book, not done in the same way sure, but it’s still there.

    It’s defiantly, to me, one of the smarter Disney movies. And granted one of my personal favorites.

    But I respect your opinion.

    You wanna see a kids movie with no heart? Go see Dreamworks’s Shark Tale.

    1. Hi Jackson. Sorry for responding so late. This is an article I wrote quite a while back now.

      I’m glad you like Alice in Wonderland. It’s an animated film that is, at the very least, unique. I wonder how reading the book would have influenced my perception on the movie. I haven’t seen DreamwWork’s Shark Tale in a while, but I do recall being very confused by it haha

  2. I think Alice comes down to your willingness to accept a non-linear plot. It’s really just her meeting all these interesting characters after another. There’s not a real story beyond that but I enjoyed meeting the characters so it works for me. That said, I can see how not for everyone.

      1. Yep, when something is this unique it isn’t going to be for everyone. Nothing wrong with that. 🙂

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