Alice In Wonderland Blu-ray Review

Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, first released in 1951, has been fully restored on Blu-ray in commemoration of its 60th anniversary (the un-anniversary edition was released on DVD last year). Although Alice has never come close to her Disney Classic sisters like Snow White and Cinderella, the film is still an absolute pleasure to watch thanks to the gorgeous animation and silly over-the-top characters. What Alice lacks in plot is more than compensated for with imagination. And now that imagination looks better than ever in HD!

The action all begins one day while Alice is trying to concentrate on her boring history lesson. A white rabbit wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch dashes past her. Of course, she must follow him into his rabbit hole. She falls down the hole and finds herself in Wonderland where she meets an astounding array of bizarre characters culminating with the Queen Of Hearts who wants to chop off her head!

Although each individual vignette in Alice In Wonderland is charming, the main flaw of the film is that they don’t flow together to make a cohesive whole. This is most likely because Disney tried to jam both of Lewis Carroll’s novels (Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There) into a very short 70 minutes. In contrast, my favorite version of Alice, the 1985 BBC production, is a whopping 187 minutes. I’m not suggesting that Disney should have made a 3+ hour film but I think an additional 20 to 30 minutes could have made a world of difference. As it stands, all of the necessary “madness” is on display and beautifully animated but it’s never really clear how any of the characters tie together or what exactly is going on in Wonderland. But given that the story is essentially “nonsense” to begin with, it doesn’t hurt the film enough to make me not enjoy it from start to finish.

One of my favorite scenes from Alice In Wonderland is Alice’s encounter with the caterpillar. He sits on his leaf, smoking a hookah, blowing vowels of all different colored smoke into the air. He asks “Who-oooo Rrrrrr Uuuuu” and the rainbow colored letters wrap around Alice. It’s highly imaginative moments like this that make the film completely worthwhile. Disney has taken the already inventive world of Lewis Carroll and taken it a step further. Wonderland is a living, breathing character in and of itself.

I can’t wrap up this review without commenting on the music because, since this is a Disney animated film, it is also a musical. Alice was actually nominated for an Oscar in the Best Score category. (It lost to An American In Paris starring Gene Kelly). And while the score itself and many of the songs are top notch; there are quite a few “clunkers” in there. I absolutely love “The Unbirthday Song” and “A-E-I-O-U (The Caterpillar Song) but for each of those there are two songs like “All in the Golden Afternoon” – not atrociously bad but not something that’s going to stick in your head. But overall, Disney’s animated Alice In Wonderland still delivers a fantastic film that can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike.

The transfer boasts an impressive 1080p MPEG4-AVC encode frame with the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. I am pleased to mention that no artifacts or noise is detected throughout the film. The colors are vibrant which gives it an instantaneous eye popping reaction for those that saw the film years ago, the blacks are inky and deep, contrast is strong, and sharpness depends much on the original content. The fine detail not only is impressive but also reveals much of the artistic work behind this classic film. The restoration done on Alice in Wonderland has revitalized a timeless classic and Disney deserves nothing but praise for a job well done.

The audio boasts a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that I must say is impressive and such a needed upgrade from the previous releases of the film. Disney remained true to the original audio track and at the same time it gave the audio a much-needed restoration. The dialogue is clean and clear. The fronts are heavy while the rears are used subtlety throughout the film. There are some scenes that pack punch, but film’s major triumphs is the music which hasn’t sounded this good before. Disney also provided a bonus for the fans; they have included a restored version of the films’ original mono track so you can hear Alice in Wonderland as many originally first heard it.

There are not as many features here as I would expect from Disney – especially given that this is a 60th anniversary edition. However, the Through the Keyhole feature is truly delightful. That alone makes the supplements worthwhile!

Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland – You can view the movie in this mode to get little extra tidbits of information about Lewis Carroll’s original works, Carroll himself, Disney and more! Have you ever wondered what it really means to be mad as a hatter? Or what exactly is a March Hare? You’ll find out here! Sadly, we do not find out how a raven is like a writing desk.

Disney View – I first discovered this feature while watching the latest release of Fantasia. Basically, new Disney art is added to the sides of the picture so that it takes up the entire screen. This is much better than black bars!

Painting the Roses Red Game – I generally dislike any interactive game that comes on a DVD or Blu-ray disc. This is no exception.

Walt Disney Color TV Introduction – Alice In Wonderland was featured on the Disneyland TV show in 1959. This is Walt’s introduction to that presentation.

Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob – This is some newly discovered footage of Alice talking to the Doorknob. It’s very cute and I recommend you check it out.

Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks – This is some interesting footage, drawn in pencil, of Alice shrinking. It’s interesting to see the rough animation and big fans of the film will enjoy it.

Operation Wonderland – This black and white film takes you behind the scenes in the making of Alice.

Thru The Mirror – Animated short of Mickey Mouse walking through the looking glass.

An Alice Comedy: Alice’s Wonderland – See Alice visit the studio for the first time in this silent short.

One Hour in Wonderland – This segment features many of Disney’s characters in different segments. Clips from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Song of the South also make an appearance.

Fred Waring Show Excerpt – The TV show brings the spotlight to Alice plus we get a clip of Walt presenting a scene of the movie.

Original Theatrical Trailers

Art Gallery

Deleted Scenes

Alice In Wonderland isn’t the best Disney animated film and it’s not the best version of “Alice In Wonderland” but it does have some moments of true brilliance and those moments looks better than ever on this Blu-ray. Technically speaking the Blu-ray features the same high standards and careful restoration job that other Disney classics have received. The video and audio transfers are exceptional and it packs a good set of supplements. I recommend this disc for everyone, most especially those with small children.