Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disney Heroines: Down the Rabbit Hole

Though Alice in Wonderland was made in 1951 Walt Disney’s relationship (he loved the books) with Lewis Carroll’s books (Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass) went further back.

When Disney was still trying to make a name for himself in 1923 (when he was 21), he made many failed short animations hoping that one would do the trick. Among these was one called Alice’s Wonderland, in which there was a live action girl interacting with cartoon characters.

It’s because of these failed films that Walt teamed up with his brother to create the Disney Brothers Studio, and then went on to revive the idea of animated shorts. From 1924 to 1926 the Disney Brothers Studio produced over 50 shorts about the Alice girl. The success of these shorts was probably the most significant reason for the success of Mickey Mouse. (Odd isn’t it? How we grant Mickey credit for being the first Disney success.)

Disney’s love for Alice in Wonderland drove him to want to make a feature-length film, and planned on making it his first. But it kept getting pushed to the side for one reason or another and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ultimately became first.

Though, he never lost the ambition to make it so, because in 1938 Disney officially started recording the title. But the economic wreckage after WWII, along with other production demands, caused him to push the project aside until 1946. And then finally in 1951 it was finished and released. (Eighteen years after first discussing it.)

Alice (Alice in Wonderland & Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland):
1.      Imagination is the gateway to everything.
2.      Curiosity can start quite a wild ride.
3.      Be polite, to everything and everyone.
4.      There is such a thing as too much nonsense: Logic and reason exist for a purpose.

Tim Burton’s Live Action:
1.      Remember your childhood dreams: They’re the things that made you who you are today.
2.      Impossible is never impossible.
3.      Figure out who you are.
4.      Decide where you want to be going.
5.      Crazy friends are sometimes the best: “All the best people are mad.”
6.      Be assertive (but polite) in what you know needs to be done.
7.      Stand up for what you believe in.

With the recent rejuvenation of Alice and her trip down the rabbit hole I’ve decided to add Tim Burton’s version in here as well. (Even though it’s not animated; And it is Disney after all.) and since both versions share the same Alice, just older in Burton’s film, then I’m pretty sure that doing this is okay. Otherwise I would’ve kept them separate.

The story of the Alice girl and her adventures in Wonderland are a less serious approach to teaching morals. The nonsensicalness of Wonderland itself is, if not anything else, cracked out.

I say “cracked out” because the main theme that keeps popping up with the lessons learned from this movie is about how the whole movie glorifies the use of drugs. (Nothing pointed fingers at Alice herself, but her story was the one attacked and that’s what I’ll focus on.) And while I can’t say for sure what the animation team was trying to get across, I can say that the center of this theme lies in the fact that the story was written to satirize the cultural norms of the Victorian era of Great Britain.

This bit of information is almost always misinterpreted: for if he wrote about a caterpillar smoking a hooka in a children’s story then it must then be an evil lesson lurking in the shadows. While I can see the logic behind this, I can also see its faults.

If we say that all pens are blue, then does that mean that since we say it its true? The fact that I have a black pen on my table suggest otherwise; and this is the reason why I don’t really take much discern to this theme.

Alice was a girl who had one of the craziest dreams (I know I’ve had some like it) ever thought up I the world of fiction. She wanted an adventure, and she got one. But just because it was a maddening joke on logic doesn’t mean that it was meant to praise the use of drugs. It was about the “what if” factor and the need to just let lose for a while; but it was also about the need for logic and reason. And that’s what we need to remember.

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