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Alice's Wonderland

An Alice Comedy

Release Date : , 1923

Running Time : 12:29

Synopsis

Alice visits Disney's cartoon studio where the cartoons jump off the page. Later on, she sleeps and dreams that she has gone to Cartoonland where she is able to interact with the cartoon characters.

Characters

Alice and Julius

Credits

Director
Walt Disney
Camera
Ub Iwerks
Rudolph Ising
Live Action Actor
Virginia Davis
Margaret Davis
Walt Disney
Ub Iwerks
Hugh Harman
Rudolph Ising
Technical Direction
Hugh Harman
Carmen "Max" Maxwell

Milestones

The first "Alice" short.

DVD

United States
Disney's Alice Comedies : Volume 1
Alice in Wonderland: The Masterpiece Edition
Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s

Blu-Ray

Alice In Wonderland (Two-Disc 60th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Technical Specification

Color Type: Black & White
Animation Type: Combination live-action and standard animation
Sound Mix: Silent
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Comments

  • Also known as "Alice in Slumberland."
  • One of the cartoon scenes features a group of animated mice. Some interpreters have seen precursors of the character that was to become Mickey Mouse in this scene.
  • Some of the interaction between the live action and animation was so tricky that Alice's movements were at times composed of animated still photos, a process that was continued at times throughout the series.
  • Although the mix and interaction of live actors and animation was successful in this series, the concept didn't really meet its complete thematic or technical fulfillment until almost 70 year later with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : With the Laugh-O-Gram studio struggling mightily, and debt piling up, Walt took the money he made from Tommy Tucker’s Tooth and invested it into a short that he could take around to distributors to try and get a new contract. It was an original Walt idea, but it would take all the efforts of his studio to pull it off.

At the time, there was a famous series of cartoons called Out of the Inkwell, where a cartoon would hop off the drawing board and interact with live action footage of human beings. Walt’s idea was to reverse it and have the live action person enter a cartoon world. He recruited a local child, Virginia Davis, to star as Alice, who would enter the cartoon world.

Walt turned to his fellow animators to make this happen. This was really the beginning of his producing career, relying on others to make his vision come true. This short is truly the beginning of the modern day Walt Disney Company, so it bears some careful scrutiny.

The short begins with the titular Alice making her way to a cartoon studio. Not really sure how or why she decided to do this, but it happens anyway. Virginia Davis is a charming girl, and you can tell how sweet she is just by looking at her.

Alice knocks and introduces herself to Walt, who agrees to show her around the studio. The first thing he shows her is what he was working on, which is an animation of the dog from the previous Laugh-O-Grams running around a dog house.

Then, they tour around the studio, encountering some different characters, like a band of cats, similar to our friend who had appeared in all of the fairy tales.

They also encounter a mouse that is desperately trying to get rid of the cat that has parked itself near the drawing board that the mouse is on.

Looks familiar, huh? You wonder if this is the precursor to Mickey, if that idea was already taking shape in Walt’s head. There are other vignettes in the office, like a boxing dog and cat, but what’s truly interesting is Walt’s role as the host. If you remember the Disneyland TV show, it would come as no surprise to you, but this is over 30 years before that first show aired. Walt here is seemingly the master of ceremonies of this magical studio where the drawings interact with the animators to create these magical cartoons. It’s an amazing glimpse into the future of Walt Disney that is beginning to take form in this short. For that alone, this is worth a watch.

Once Alice returns home from the studio, she goes to bed and immediately begins to dream of the wonders that she saw in the animation studio. Her dream puts her on a train headed to Cartoonland, where a welcoming committee of cartoons from the studio are waiting to greet her.

Alice arrives in the cartoon world in a mundane way from today’s perspective, but seeing her climb out of the train and walk in front of all these characters must have been very exciting for audiences in 1923, when this short finally made it to theatres.

The cartoons hold a parade for Alice, after which they share some dancing and overall fun and frivolity. This is probably the weakest part of the short, as there’s about 3 minutes taken up with very little story and not a lot of gags. It’s not that it’s bad, but there is nothing there moving the story forward or making you laugh.

Finally, the end of the short comes when a group of lions break out and start chasing Alice around, finally forcing her to jump off a cliff.

And then…it just ends. Why? Because during the making of the film, Laugh-O-Gram Films went bankrupt. The company ran out of money, and Walt had to leave the film unfinished. It’s probably not a bad thing. The short is much more interesting for its historical significance than anything else.

Compared to the Laugh-O-Gram fairy tales, Alice’s Wonderland is not a great example of linear storytelling or fine art. It is an example of great artistic innovation, and trying to push the boundaries, which Walt is known for doing in his work. But on the whole, not as entertaining as others Walt produced. This short is a great piece of American history, though, because after the bankruptcy, Walt took a copy of this film to Los Angeles, and used it to secure a new contract and found the Disney Brothers Studio, which we now know as the Walt Disney Company.


From Ryan : I remember seeing this cartoon on the Disney Channel as part of Vault Disney. It is an important milestone in Disney's career, but in my opinion it is kind of boring. I am not too interested in the silent era, but I was just interested in seeing the "Alice Comedies" on Vault Disney when I saw an advertisement for them. Disney was hosting a week-long special where Vault Disney would begin with an "Alice" short everyday starting October 16 (?) of 1998. You can still find them on Vault Disney, but they are only shown as time-fillers. It's odd that Disney shows them as late time-fillers, but not on the "Ink and Paint Club."
From Jerry Edwards : Alice, played by Virginia Davis, visits a cartoon studio, saying "I would like to watch you draw some funnies". Ubbe Iwerks, Rudolph Ising, Hugh Harman, and Carman Maxwell are created on the title page of the short. Walt Disney has her sit down in his chair and watch a cat and dog fight it out in a dog house. He then shows her an animated cat band and two cats dancing on a live action drawing table. With live animators working in the background, an animated mouse first pokes a live cat with a sword and then with his tail. While animators cheer them on, a cat and dog box - with the dog knocking out the cat. Later that night, after her Mom has tucked her in, Alice dreams of being welcomed to Cartoonland. After a parade in her honor, Alice does a dance as a cat band plays. A lion eats the bars of a zoo cage and four lions escape. They corner Alice, with one of them using a file to sharpen his teeth. The lions chase Alice into a hollow tree. After a fight, Alice chases them out of the tree. The lions then chase Alice into a cave and back out of the cave. A rabbit and Alice jump into a rabbit hole and the lions jump in after them. Alice and the lions pop up out of the ground. The lions then chase Alice to the edge of a cliff. Alice jumps and is shown falling. Note: The ending is missing in which Alice wakes up and realizes it has just been a bad dream.
From J. D. Weil : "Alice's Wonderland" was the first of the "Alice" comedies and the last of the Laugh-Gram Studios productions. Never theatrically released under it original title, it may have been released under its alternative title "Alice In Slumberland" on Sept. 29, 1926 according to my reference book.
From Gijs Grob : This is the pilot film for the Alice cartoons, made in Kansas city. Alice (the four year old Virginia Davis) drops by the studio and tells Walt Disney she likes to watch him drawing some funnies. Walt Disney (without moustache) is already the kind entertainer of children here, and he takes her to a sheet of paper on where a cat chases a dog out of a dog house. The rest of the studio is also populated by animators (Iwerks, Harman, Ising and Maxwell all appear in this cartoon) and toons alike. The whole crew 's watching a boxing match between a dog and a cat, for example.

That night Alice dreams she arrives in cartoonland by train. She's welcomed by animals and she performs a little dance for them. Unfortunately four lions break out of Cartoonland Zoo and they chase her into a tree, into a cave, into a rabbit hole and finally, to a cliff. She falls off the cliff, and then she awakes.

This cartoon is very entertaining. The idea of a girl in a cartoon (the inverse of the idea of Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell) works wonderfully, and the cartoon is lively. It already contains lots of music and dance, and a very rubbery animated train, besides the normal stiff animation you find in most cartoons of the twenties. The animation of the train looks forward to the flexible animation style that would later make Iwerks and Disney famous.


From Billy Joe : This is the pilot film for Walt Disney's Alice Comedies which ran from 1924-1927. It was never released theatrically. I like the primitive animation in this short (especially when the live cat was watching an animated mice trying to fight it with his sword). When Alice wakes up from her nightmare, her mother enters the bedroom to comfort her. That was actually Virginia Davis's aunt acting as Alice's mother.

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