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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Children > Fantasy > Literature > Comedy > Alice in Wonderland – 60th Anniversary Edition (1951/Disney Blu-ray)

Alice in Wonderland – 60th Anniversary Edition (1951/Disney Blu-ray)


Picture: A     Sound: A-     Extras: B     Film: B+



There are those classic tales that will never go away. Alice in Wonderland is a tale that has fascinated the psyche of readers since its conception over 145 years ago.  The tale once again gained recognition after Walt Disney recreated the odd adventure for theatrical audiences, but this time in animation form.  The 1951 film took some liberties with Lewis Carroll’s original vision, but stuck to the general framework and even added elements from Through the Looking Glass.


The film (artistically) is Disney at its finest.  Alice in Wonderland was created using a variety of animation techniques that had never been done before, with Walt himself supervising the project for its entirety.  Walt Disney had been obsessed with Carroll’s Alice tales since his early days in Hollywood (and before) and was determined to make his dream come true.  So after years of scrapped ideas, in 1951 Alice in Wonderland came to life.  Disney made no secret that his Alice film would not be an “exact reading” of the Lewis Carroll classic, but would embrace the elements that he felt were what made it so memorable.  So Disney’s Alice in Wonderland went after the odd, whimsical, archetypal essentials; while adding the Disney brand of comedy, art, and music.


The film borrowed much of its style from Modern artists of the time.  The Modernist approach was spearheaded by background artist Mary Blair and whereas the title characters had a more conservative, “Disney-esc” style the backdrop was complicatedly and brilliantly modern.  Once again Disney borrowed elements of Carroll’s classic tale and illustrations (originally created by Sir John Tenniel) for inspiration, but leaned toward whimsy to bring the tale to life.  In the end, audiences were treated to a masterfully created viewing experience with memorable characters and even more stunning atmospheres.


Now, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland certainly does not hold the intricacies of Lewis Carroll’s original telling, but just as Disney had intended it does hold true to creating a memorably off center tale.  The film was not a flop, but it wasn’t a hit either; in fact it angered literary scholars and Brits alike, as they felt Disney had bastardized a classic.  Disney knew his target audience (kids and families) would appreciate the film’s slick wit, art, humor, and music; so he was not insulted by all the mud slinging.  The film would later gain a greater, more appreciative audience in the 1960’s as the film’s Modernist/psychedelic vibe was more embraced.  So if nothing else we can call the Disney crew (as always) ahead of their time.


Though not a ‘Disney Diamond Edition’ Blu-ray the film sure feels like it with wonderful picture, sound and extras.  The picture is presented in a 1.33 X 1, 1080p AVC encoded MPEG-4 transfer that impresses from beginning to end.  The clarity is stunning as the hand drawn art comes alive and the colors leap off the screen.  The grit and grain that was overly apparent in the former DVD releases is all gone here and viewers are treated to a presentation that is consistently clean and clear.  The primary colors are brilliant and the inky blacks frame the film nicely.  The sound is presented in a new 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that gets it all right.  The film’s music comes to life as it surrounds the viewer and the dialogue is spotless as it clearly projects.  There are a few moments that seem unnatural for the film that was originally a 2.0 mix (also available here if you wish), but mostly the 5.1 DTS track is an upgrade that breathes new life into the classic film.


An interesting note is that since the 1.33 X 1 presentation does not fill out the entire screen, Disney has added the option to have filler artwork inserted on the sides, if the viewer wishes.


Most of the extras (outside of the pencil test) are ported over from a previous release.  There are some exclusive HD extras, but most are either short or worthless.  This is with the exception of the “Through the Keyhole” featurette that has both Disney and Lewis Carroll experts dissecting the film (Picture in Picture style) in an entertaining and informative manner; ending up as the best bonus feature.  The extras include the following:


Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks

Reflections on Alice

Operation Wonderland

“I’m Odd” Newly discovered Cheshire Cat Song

Thru the Mirror

One Hour in Wonderland

An Alice Comedy “Alice’s Wonderland”

Walt Disney Introductions

Original Theatrical Trailers

Fred Waring Show Excerpt

Deleted Scenes

Art Gallery


Through the Keyhole: A Companions Guide to Wonderland (HD)

Painting the Red Roses Interactive Game (HD)

Walt Disney Color TV Introduction (HD)

Disney View (HD)

Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob (HD)


I highly recommend this film and even more now that it has arrived on Disney Blu-ray.  Disney knows how to do Blu-ray right and Alice in Wonderland is just one more amazing example.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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