Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
5 stars
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$14.99
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Overall Grade
5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
3 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Alice in Wonderland: 60th Anniversary Edition

Street Date:
February 1st, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
February 3rd, 2011
Movie Release Year:
1951
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
75 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Walt Disney had a long fascination with Lewis Carroll's Alice stories. The last film he produced before bankruptcy forced him to close up shop in Kansas City was the 1923 short 'Alice's Wonderland' about a little girl who interacted with animated characters. After moving to Hollywood, Walt found financing for and created a series of these live action/animated shorts known as the 'Alice Comedies', which brought him great success.

When considering moving into features, Walt first endeavored to adapt "Alice in Wonderland" using the same live action/animation format as his 'Alice Comedies', but when Paramount released their own 'Alice in Wonderland' (1933), the idea was shelved, though, not for long. Pre-production started and stopped a number of times as Walt tried to figured out how to move forward with the project. Finally, in the late '40s, work began on the iconic version that so many know today.

Disney's version takes elements from both Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There to create a delightful, nonsensical adventure. When Alice (voiced by Kathryn Beaumont, who would also play Wendy in Disney's 'Peter Pan') is first introduced, she's playing in a park with her kitten Dinah. Her sister is reading to her from a history book, but Alice has no interest. Telling Dinah she would prefer "a world where nothing is impossible".

Soon after, she sees a talking White Rabbit (Bill Thompson) run by, who is bemoaning his tardiness. Having never seen such a thing before, Alice impetuously chases after him. Before she can stop herself, she stumbles into that world she had wished for, where rules don't seem to apply. Everything from animals to flowers and even doorknobs has the ability to talk. Her size constantly fluctuates. One minute she's as big as a house and the next she's small enough to fit in a bottle. Although the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn) is identified as crazy by name, he's not much different from any of the other residents of Wonderland, which makes it difficult for Alice to know who to trust, especially when she wants to return home.

As usual, the skills of the Disney animators are very impressive. Their imaginations really seemed to unfettered as they brought the story to life with their outstanding artwork. The cast does a very good job as well in bringing the characters to life.

Disney's 'Alice in Wonderland' seems intended more for children. Rather than a traditional story, the film presents a collection of scenes that are barely connected. The original stories have been stripped of any deeper symbolism intended by Carroll. While it may not have the same power as the original text, the film is very enjoyable and provides a great entry point for children who want to further explore this world.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Disney's 'Alice in Wonderland – 60th Anniversary Edition' comes to high-definition on a BD-50 Region-Free Blu-ray. It is paired with a DVD and they're housed inside a standard blue keepcase. Before getting to the menu, there are trailers for the new 'Winnie the Pooh' movie and the 'Bambi' Blu-ray, as well as ads for Disney 3D and anti-smoking. Also available on the disc are ads for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Parks, 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2,' 'Tangled,' 'Dumbo,' 'Spooky Buddies,' and 'The Incredibles.'

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Disney is one of the best companies releasing Blu-rays today. This is another stellar disc. The video is presented with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer at aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and suffers no blemishes or artifacts.. For those who want to fill the empty sides on their screen, the DisneyView option is present again, which provides themed artwork that matches the scenes.

The source looks extremely clean for a 60-year-old film. The colors are brilliant, especially impressive when there's a great mix of them close together, such as the scene with the Momeraths and the Cards marching in formation. The bright yellow of Alice's hair and the blue of her dress shine, except when in a darkened area, and the Reds on display during the Queen of Hearts sequence are vibrant. Blacks are deep and inky, which contribute to a solid contrast.

When the animators include texture on objects and drew scenes with depth, those elements are apparent, though they aren't consistent throughout. Watercolors were used for the backgrounds on 'Snow White,' so the soft lines contribute to the appearance of depth. In contrast, 'Alice' used the same techniques on all objects, so everything has the same level of brightness and sharpness, diminishing distinction between the planes.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio is available in 5.1 DTS HD-MA mix and the original 2.0 Theatrical mix for the purists. The songs benefit most from the surround mix as the music and vocals immerse the viewer. The dialogue is clear and never hampered by the frequent chaos of the effects as a result of a well-balanced mix. The bass is apparent without being required to draw too much attention to itself. While items don't move around channels and the dynamic range isn’t required to be overly expansive, the 5.1 mix delivers a very satisfying experience for a 60-year-old film that barely reveals its age.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

After the Pencil Test, the rest of the material is listed as Classic DVD Bonus Features from an earlier release.

  • Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks (HD, 1 min) – After an introduction by Beaumont, we are left with 14 seconds of the test. A nice find, but way too short.
  • Reflections on Alice (SD, 13 minutes) – Covering the same material as Through the Keyhole, the is a brief look at Carroll as well as Disney's attempt to bring the story to the screen.
  • Operation Wonderland (HD, 11 minutes) – This b&w film takes the viewer inside the Disney lot for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 'Alice.'
  • "I'm Odd" Newly Discovered Cheshire Cat Song (SD, 4 minutes) – No longer "newly discovered", this song for the Cheshire Cat was cut from the film and was newly recorded for the previous DVD release.
  • "Thru the Mirror" (HD, 9 minutes) – Before Walt got to take Alice to Wonderland, Mickey Mouse passed through the looking glass in this Carroll-inspired short.
  • One Hour in Wonderland (SD, 59 minutes) – This is a wild one. Presented by Coca-Cola, this Christmas Day Disney special features Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy in "Clock Cleaners"; Pluto in "Bone Trouble"; and clips from 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' and 'Song of the South'. The connection to 'Alice' is the inclusion of the Mad Tea Party scene and the appearance of actress Kathryn Beaumont. Also appearing is Edgar Bergen with Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd.
  • An Alice Comedy: "Alice's Wonderland" (SD, 8 minutes) – The silent short I mentioned in the review is a great treat for fans of early animation and Disney fans.
  • Original Theatrical Trailers (SD, 4 minutes) – These are the original 1951 trailer and the 1974 re-release trailer.
  • Walt Disney Introductions (SD, 2 minutes) – Two more introductions by Walt, from 1954 and 1964, before the movie aired on television. If you've seen one, you've seen them all.
  • Fred Waring Show Excerpt (SD, 31 minutes) – The bandleader's TV show put the spotlight on 'Alice'. Walt is seen in a filmed clip presenting the caterpillar scene. Then Beaumont and Sterling Holloway (voice of the Cheshire Cat) act out a scene and take part in musical numbers taken from the movie.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 21 minutes) – There are four parts to this section. The Pig and Pepper scene was being developed for the 1939 version where Alice enters the Duchess' home and a baby transforms into a pig. From Wonderland To Neverland: The Evolution of a Song reveals how the song "Beyond the Laughing Sky" was cut from Alice and later changed to "The Second Star to the Right" in 'Peter Pan'. Alice Daydream in the Dark shows sketches from the scene where Alice daydreams about her own world. Six Original song demos can be heard. Some were for characters, like the Mock Turtle, who didn’t make the film.
  • Art Gallery (HD) – A slideshow filled with artwork from the movie.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Through the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland (HD, 76 min) – Lewis Carroll experts and Disney historians gather in this very well executed PiP feature to tell the story of the two men while offering information that matches the scenes on screen. There's great use of Disney archival footage and fascinating bits about what was cut from the film.
  • Painting The Red Roses Interactive Game - A puzzle game that requires getting all the Queen's roses painted her favorite color.
  • Disneyview - Michael Humphries provides the artwork to fill out the screen.
  • Walt Disney Color TV Introduction (1959) - Walt trims a Christmas tree and provides an introduction to the movie before it aired on television.
  • Reference Footage: Alice and The Doorknob (HD, 2 minutes) –Disney animators would film scenes with actors to help their drawing and this is a brief example.

Final Thoughts

Although there was great potential to do much more with Carroll's source material, Walt Disney created an entertaining trip to Wonderland for children and kids at heart. The film remains one of the most impressive adaptations. The presentation on Blu-ray is excellent, both from a technical standpoint and in its collection of Bonus Features. If consumers want high quality in their high definition products, the Disney Company continues to demonstrate they're a brand to trust. Highly Recommended!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
  • Region Free

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.33:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master 5.1
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English (SDH)
  • French
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Operation Wonderland (now in HD)
  • One Hour in Wonderland
  • Original theatrical trailers (1951 & 1974)
  • An Alice Comedy: Alice's Wonderland
  • Reflections on Alice
  • "I'm Odd": newly discovered Cheshire Cat song and intro
  • Thru the Mirror Mickey Mouse animated short (now in HD)

Exclusive HD Content

  • Through the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland
  • Painting the Roses Red game
  • Walt Disney Color TV introduction (1959)
  • Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob
  • Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks

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