Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland and In Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwig Dodgson) are two of my all time favourite stories. While they are highly engaging as works of non-sense for children and adults, the contrast between what which we perceive to be sense and non-sense illustrates the weaknesses in our perception when it comes to our ideas of logic and rationality.

Walt Disney's production of an animated Alice in Wonderland mixes parts from these two stories and is bitter-sweet in realisation of the wonders of Caroll's imagination. There are scenes that are pure genius that go beyond anything I could've imagined after reading the words, and there are some that completely disappointed me.

While it is nice that the two stories are mixed, since Disney probably never planned on a sequel, I would have preferred them kept separate and had two films instead. Here's why:

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice follows the White Rabbit down the rabbit-hole, swims in a pool of her tears, meets the Mouse and participates in the Causus-race, ends up at the White Rabbit's house and meets Bill, takes advice from a Hookah-smoking Caterpillar, frightens a pigeon into thinking she's a serpent, encounters the Duchess, the sneezing baby/pig and the Chesire Cat, goes to the Mad Tea Party, plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts, meets the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, does the Lobster Quadrille, and attends a trial to find out who stole the Queen of Hearts' Tarts.

In In Through the Looking Glass, Alice meets the Red Queen, reads Jabberwocky, goes through the garden of Live Flowers, meets the Looking Glass insects (including the Rocking-Horse Fly), encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee, (who recite the Walrus and the Carpenter), meets the White Queen, the Sheep in the shop, Humpty Dumpty, the Lion and the Unicorn, the Red and White Knights, and Alice finally beomes a Queen, castles, takes the Red Queen and wins (as you can see, there is a great analogy to a chess game here).

Disney's version mixes the two stories above by making some serious changes in Alice in Wonderland: the progress from pool to tears to White Rabbit's house is rushed, the entire sub-plot with the Duchess is eliminated, as is the sub-plot involving the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, and it is Alice who is on trial, not the Knave of Hearts; and takes the following bits from In Through the Looking Glass: the garden of Live Flowers, the Looking Glass insects, Tweedledum and Tweedledee (along with the Walrus and the Carpenter). In doing this mixing and matching, I think Disney corrupts the continuity of the original stories and leaves several important bits. Worst of all, they have the Chesire Cat reciting Jabberwocky (which didn't work for me at all):

"'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
 All mimsy were the borogoves,
 and the mome raths outgrabe."
     ---Jabberwocky, from In Through the Looking Glass

What did work was the hookah-smoking caterpillar---the smoke coming out took on weird interesting shapes a description of which I think should belong in the story! I also liked the croquet game with the Queen of Hearts, the garden of Live Flowers, and to some extent the sub-plot involving Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Walrus and the Carpenter.

The Disney cartoon version is still better than the people featuring Whoopi Goldberg, et al. which I thought was pretty bad and that too mixes up the two stories. So if you want to watch a good version of the film, watch the cartoon.

I highly recommend reading the two stories in their original form and then renting this video out. I suspect that not everyone is as affected by this as I am, but I consider implications in these stories to be the equivalent to the profound ones found in scientific theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||