I was a little worried when I went to watch the film version of Alice In Wonderland, because I just read the novel and Disney has a tendency to dumb down the material that they make into their films with goofball romantic nonsense and cutesy talking animals. While I did get more than the traditional share of talking animals with this film (as well as a variety of other inanimate objects), the film stayed more faithful to the original story than is generally expected from a Disney film. On the other hand, this WAS made in 1951, which makes me wonder what a more modern adaptation would look like.
I read Alice In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass for English 180 (Children's Literature) at the University of California, Davis, so needless to say, I read it with more of a literary appreciation than is generally applied to children's books. I was pleased to see so many of the characters from the second novel in this version of Alice In Wonderland (such as the Cheshire Cat, the talking flowers in the garden, and Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum), although I must admit that I was slightly disappointed to see that Through The Looking Glass has been assimilated into this version of Alice In Wonderland rather than adapted into its own film, which I think is an honor that it certainly deserves.
As far as being a full length feature (although rather short at roughly 75 minutes), however, I think that this movie does justice to both stories, converting them into a single story rather smoothly, and only leaving out things that will only really be missed by people who know the novels enough to be disappointed that certain things were not included. I, for example, would have loved to see the whole chess story in Through The Looking Glass included in the film (there certainly was time for it), where Alice travels through Wonderland on her quest to become a Queen herself, but I am more than happy with how this film turned out.
One of the only things that I noticed about this film that did not match up to the quality of the novels is that the books have so much more in them for adults than the movie does. There are so many tricks with language pulled in the books, such as in the conversations with Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum as well as several other characters, that it really makes you think about the English language as a game with which an endless variety of tricks can be played. In the film, this is hugely downplayed, even if only because it is done visually and the language tricks pass by so fast that kids are almost certain to miss them and even the most attentive of adults will have a hard time keeping up with them.
As a whole, however, Alice In Wonderland is so wildly entertaining that the loss of some of the literary substance does not detract from it as a terrific tale of adventure and discovery, certain to be enjoyed by people of all ages. I have heard plenty of rumors that Lewis Carroll was on any of a variety of drugs while he wrote the novels (and plenty of rumors that he wasn't on any drugs at all), but there are certainly some things in the books and in the movie that could have only been conjured up by the most, um, eccentric of imaginations. We may never know for sure, but at least we have some wonderful entertainment.
Read the books to your kids.