You probably won't find all that many people who rank 1951's 'Alice in Wonderland' among the finest efforts of the studio's "Golden Age." That's not to say it's a bad film (it definitely is not), but among the old-school classics (like 'Snow White,' 'Sleeping Beauty,' and 'Cinderella') 'Alice' stands out as a wildly plotless and anarchic piece of storytelling -- which means it fits Lewis Carroll's source material to a tee -- that's beautiful to look at (and listen to), but it seems to lack the essential "heart" that many of the Disney greats have in spades.
Having said that, 'Alice in Wonderland' (1951) is still a true-blue classic in the pantheon of Disney Feature Animation, and the studio has done right by the film by delivering a fantastic two-disc "60th Anniversary Edition" blu-ray. The film has never looked lovelier, which helps an animation buff to appreciate what's so great about the film, and that's the look of it.
As you're no doubt well aware, Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' is about a young girl who tumbles into a rabbit hole and encounters all sorts of bizarre creatures on her long trek back to reality. That's pretty much it, really, and it's this loosy-goosey "nonsense" style that made Carroll such a hit in his day. Grown-ups of all varieties (psychologists, literary experts, filmmakers) have tried to decipher the weirdness of 'Wonderland,' but that's missing the point: to children, nonsensical adventures are food for the soul. p>
So let's just skip the pointless plot synopses and various thematic interpretations of 'Alice in Wonderland' and just focus on the stuff you need to know:
1. It's old-style classic Disney animation ... on blu-ray. If you don't know what that looks like, that's a shame.
2. The centerpiece supplement (entitled "Through the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland") is an absolute delight. Half video commentary and half documentary, this fantastic piece offers the film alongside Carroll biographers, Disney historians, and contemporary animators. Great for kids and even better for adults, it offers tons of historical perspectives on both Lewis Carroll and Walt Disney, and is packed with great little visual touches and tasty trivial tidbits. (In less then 10 minutes I learned the colorful origins of phrases like "March hare," "Cheshire cat," and "mad as a hatter.") Simply put, Disney should do one of these companion pieces for every one of their classic films.
3. Other treats include some archival footage of the "Alice and the Doorknob" sequence, some early pencil tests on the title character, a 1959 TV intro for the film, and a slightly diverting "paint the flowers" puzzle game for the kiddies. Oh, and all of the supplemental material from the previous special edition (standard) DVD has been included here: featurettes, interviews, a deleted song(!), trailers, TV spots, an old Mickey Mouse cartoon, and more.
4. The "sneak peeks" section informs us that 'Bambi' is the next Disney classic to get the swanky blu-ray treatment. That release hits the shelves on March 1, and if it's similar to the 'Alice' package, well, this is why we upgraded to blu-ray in the first place.
5. A final note for my fellow Disney junkies; these are the feature-length films that have been released on blu-ray (so far):
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
4. Bambi (3/1)
5. Alice in Wonderland (2/1)
6. Sleeping Beauty
7. Beauty and the Beast
8. Fantasia 2000
9. Chicken Little
10. Meet the Robinsons
12. The Princess and the Frog
13. Tangled (3/29)
Word is that several of these are going "back in the vault" this April, so get one now if you still want one. And if a complete Pixar collection on blu-ray is what you want, you'll be happy to know that 'The Incredibles' comes out on April 12. Then all you'll still need is 'Finding Nemo.'
(Note: images are not screen shots.)