About two months ago, I ruined all Alice stories for me forever. I read this magnificently written book, Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin. Why would reading this book forever ruin all Alice in Wonderland type stories? Because the book, while fictional, is based on letters and first-hand accounts of the relationship between Mr. Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, and Alice Liddel, the little girl whom both Alice titles refer to.
According to these accounts, Alice’s relationship with Mr. Dodgson was not appropriate. Nothing happened—this was Victorian England, after all—but regardless, it is still disputed if he proposed. In any case, Alice Liddel was forever colored as ‘ruined’, despite her chastity. She most likely fell in love with Prince Leopold, who most likely loved her back, as each named one of their children after the other. Because of Alice’s relationship with Lewis Carroll, Queen Victoria would not give her blessing for Alice to be married to Prince Leopold. He died quite young, as he was a hemophiliac, while she married another and lost two of her sons during World War I. Not nearly a happily ever after for either of them.
And now, both the beloved children’s classic and Walt’s re-imagining of Alice’s adventures are tainted for me with the knowledge of the lives not quite fully lived and the abandoned love between Alice and Leopold. Curse myself and my love for historical fiction.
Anway. The movie version. Very funny, very pretty, and the perfect voice actress for Alice. Walt was so enchanted by her voice—not quite British, not quite American, but enough of each to appeal to both audiences—that he also had her play Wendy Darling in Peter Pan. The styling of the famous Mary Blair is clear and present, and it makes the film lovely. It was lovely, and had I not been distracted by the dark story behind the real Alice, I would have loved it. It made me laugh, it made James laugh (which, let’s be honest, is much more difficult than making me laugh). I thought the Red Queen was terrifying and I really wanted to put her in a time out (well, she was acting childish). My only complaint was that I knew precisely when Alice was about to wake up, thus I didn’t feel the suspense at all.
The influence of artist Mary Blair—who first joined Disney in the early 40’s and was one of the artists on the South American trip—is very clear and very beautiful. She has a certain way of using color that is very stylized and clear. The constant presence of music, and the way it’s used, is also excellent. If I hadn’t read that dang book, I would have loved it.What’s most exciting to me is what Walt’s Alice represents to me. I’ve gone down my own rabbit hole, watching these 50 films. And Alice—she’s number 25. My halfway-point. As a reward (to myself for getting here and you for accompanying me) the following video is the one that inspired this whole project: the Disney 50 animated films countdown. Enjoy—I know I am.