Alice in Wonderland (1951)
It's about drugs. Fight me
Hey, y’all. This is post-production Jen. I used a new method to record this week’s episode, and suffice it to say, I won’t be using it again. The method resulted in dropping a couple of sounds over a two-minute span. It didn’t remove whole words or syllables, just a /t/ sound here and there. My editor, Anastasia is pretty freaking amazing, but she can’t create something out of nothing, and there’s not enough time to re-record, so I want to apologize for the bumps in the road. If you have issues understanding anything, remember that you can head to oofmychildhood.com for a transcript with the whole words or pop onto my YouTube channel for a captioned video. Thanks again for listening. Now, on with the show.
A That’s Not Canon productions podcast
Hi there, and welcome back to Oof! Right in the Childhood, a podcast where I watch and comment on the Disney animated feature films from a modern perspective. This week, we’re talking about 1951's Alice in Wonderland, it’s about drugs. Fight me.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in 1832 in Daresbury, England. He attended Oxford and received highest honours on his Mathematics exams. Due to his exceptional grades and honours, he was given a lectureship at Christ Church College. He held that position for 26 years, and continued to serve at various positions at Oxford until his death.
In 1856, Charles would meet someone who would change his life. Henry Liddell, the new Vice Chancellor of Oxford arrived on campus with his three daughters, Lorina, Edith, and Alice. Charles struck up a friendship with the family and soon joined them on family boating trips down the Thames.
It was on one of these trips in 1862 where Charles would regale the girls with the tale of a girl named Alice who stumbled down a rabbit hole and into another world full of absurdities. Alice Liddell loved the story so much she begged him to write it down.
In November of 1864, Charles presented Alice with a handwritten, hand-illustrated manuscript titled “Alice Under Ground.” This is especially impressive when you know that the Liddell family had cut off ties with Dodgson in 1863 after he’d proposed to Alice — when she was eleven. I usually try to keep my “Oof! Right in the childhood,” moments to the synopsis, but y’all, that might be it.
Anyway, immediately after gifting the original manuscript to Alice, Charles began expanding it from its original 15,500 words to its current 27,500 words. He published it under the pen name Lewis Carroll in 1865. The book was an instant success, to the point that Queen Victoria read the book and personally requested that Carroll dedicate his next book to her.
He agreed, and true to his word, in 1867, An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations, was dedicated to Her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria.
Since its publication, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has never been out of print. It’s also been translated into 200 different languages, but it’s currently banned in China because the government doesn’t allow works that portray animals speaking to humans.
Walt Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland, much like his version of Cinderella, starts in the 1920s. As I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, Walt got his start at a Kansas City animation studio called Laugh-O-Gram. In 1923, Laugh-O-Gram produced a series of short, silent films that featured a live action girl interacting with cartoon scenes, but before it could be released, Laugh-O-Gram went bankrupt. Walt took the footage with him and used it to pitch the Disney Brothers studio to potential investors in Los Angeles. Alice’s Wonderland became one of the first films released by the Disney Brothers, and we’re all going to collectively pretend that Walt Disney didn’t profit off of the failure of the first company he ever worked for.
In fact, when Walt started thinking of full-length movies, he first considered making Alice’s Wonderland into a full length live action animated movie, but ended up with Snow White instead. He purchased the rights to Alice in Wonderland in 1938, but after three years of work, he wasn’t happy with how the film was playing out. And then that whole World War II, animator’s strike, studio almost going bankrupt, package films thing happened, and Alice got pushed to the wayside.
By 1945, the project had been revived, and Disney was considering who to cast for the live action role. You heard that right. As recently as 1945, Walt had determined that this was still going to be a live action animated movie. It wasn’t until a year later that the team determined they’d need to make Alice a fully animated movie.
The final budget of the movie came in at $3 million, or $30 million today. It was released in July of 1951, and brought in $2.4 million in its box office, or $24 million today. The film was met with derision from Carroll fans who felt that it lacked the joy and heart of the original.
The modern view of Alice changed in the 1970s when those who weren’t as familiar with the original or those who were willing to evaluate the cartoon on its own terms saw the movie. Currently, it’s considered a generally good movie, holding an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I want to take a moment to thank my supporters on Patreon. Supporters on Patreon help me cover hosting fees and upgrade my equipment while being able to choose to promote small businesses. There are a few changes this month. As of now, all supporters, starting at the Whistle While I Work level, or $1 a month, get an ad free versions of every episode one day early. Fairy Godmothers like Jason and Mixie at the $5 level still get a bonus episode on the first of every month. This month, I explore Mary Poppins in depth. From Walt badgering a woman for the rights she didn’t want to give to possible rape culture moments, Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way, so come over to hear everything you didn’t want to know about Mary Poppins. If you'd like to become a patron, you can search the show over at Patreon, or you can follow the link in the show notes or on my website.
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A That's Not Canon Productions podcast.
You can tell immediately that the animation quality has gone up exponentially from the Wartime Era.
I'm going to say straight away that reading the driest history text without any explanations is not the way to teach history. I wanted to figure out if this was actually a textbook, but it does seem that this bit about William the Conqueror was written in the original by Carroll.
“Once more from the beginning,” oh heavens no.
I love this explanation of Alice that, in her world, it’s always opposite day. Then she just wanders off and her sister doesn’t even notice. Great job, sis.
I forgot that Alice sang. According to Disney Grown Up, one of the many fantastic podcasts on the That’s Not Canon network, the actress who voiced Alice was actually 12 years old, and there were more songs for her, but she couldn’t pull them off, so they were cut. I mean, that’s fair.
"It's just a rabbit with a waistcoat — and a watch!" Why is the watch the confusing part? And she wants to know what he could be late for, but she doesn’t care that he’s singing in English.
She follows him into the rabbit hole saying, “We shouldn’t be doing this.” Thanks for clarifying, Alice.
Women in the Victorian Era wore large skirts to allow them to have parachutes when falling from large distances. She quips that she won’t care about falling down the stairs after this. I have questions.
In my opinion, the rabbit hole scene is one of the best animated scenes ever. I love all the little details they put into the fall. Again, according to Disney Grown Up, the talking doorknob is the only character in this movie that wasn’t in the original.
This bottle tastes like cherry tart, custard, turkey dinner, and oh, I already forgot all of them. It's like one of those sticks of gum from Willy Wonka.
"Oh I do wish I hadn't cried so much." Same Alice. Same.
Bird on rock telling people to run in a caucus race to dry off as the tide covers them in water. He says, "See, I'm dry already." Typical politics.
Alice chases the rabbit into the woods, and is immediately stalked by two creepy guys. They proceed to attempt her to stay in the area of the forest against her will. For some reason, when I remember this scene, I think they’re adult-sized which makes it about ten times as creepy. They are bald, though.
We shall now entice Alice to stay by singing a song about a really depressing story. The Walrus & The Carpenter! Isn't there a bit in Dogma about this being about religion?
The calendar behind Mother Oyster flashes the R in March because you’re only supposed to eat oysters in months that have an R in them. She knows what’s up.
Disembodied oyster feet.
The Walrus tricks the Carpenter into having no oysters then commits mass murder. Excellent.
The Tweedles are still refusing to let Alice to leave their company. She sneaks off though. Smart Alice.
She finds the White Rabbit and he mistakes her for Mary Ann. All White girls look the same, I suppose.
Dude keeps cookies that make you huge in a little silver dish. They literally say "Try me." And then he calls her a monster? Do drugs work differently on rabbits?
Bill the Lizard is an early version of Bert from Mary Poppins. Terrible accent and all.
"I know how to fix this problem! We'll set your house on fire!"
Then the Dodo proceeds to throw all of the Rabbit’s heirlooms onto the fire. Again, Dodo is the ultimate example of a politician.
The main problem I always had with this movie was that she keeps chasing this rabbit because she wants to know what he's late for. But why does she care? There are so many more interesting things to look at in this world than a silly rabbit with a watch.
Alice follows the Rabbit into a meadow full of puns and talking flowers who bicker about which of them they’re going to sing about.
Your genus is Homo, Alice. If you'd just listened in one of your boring science lessons.
The lesson here is that flowers are jerks.
And now for the hashish smoking caterpillar on mushrooms obsessed with vowels.
How does Alice know what to recite here?
The Caterpillar calls her back just to tell her not to be mad. Not a good plan.
The very angry caterpillar.
None of the residents of this universe knows why anything looks like. This bird is screaming serpent at someone who has more than 0 legs.
The Cheshire Cat appears after singing some of the Jabberwocky poem, in case you mistakenly thought it got left out.
I love the Cheshire cat.
Are both the rabbit and cat voiced by Winnie the Pooh?
IMDB — yes, the cat is Winnie the Pooh. The White Rabbit is Mr. Smee and the king from Sleeping Beauty.
The Cheshire Cat is the most logical creature yet. When asked which direction to go, he asks Alice where she wants to end up. That’s actually a pretty good question. Until he suggests that they go talk to the Mad Hatter.
Again from the Disney Grown Up podcast, the Mad Hatter was the first “celebrity” casting in a role. Ed Wynn was one of the most famous clowns at the time, so Disney cast him as the Mad Hatter. For this scene, they kind of just sat Ed and the other actors around a table and let him ad-lib pretty much anything he wanted. The problem came with the mustard in the watch scene. Walt said, “That’s perfect, leave that,” and left the sound engineers to figure out how to remove a ton of background noise. Good luck, y’all!
Ed also appears in Mary Poppins which is my bonus episode on Patreon this month, so if you want to more about Ed floating on the ceiling, tune over to that.
Unbirthdays are actually one of the best ideas.
"You can always take more than nothing." The Mad Hatter is actually pretty smart. I like him.
It's at this point that I tell you that as a child, I didn't know "mad" was another word for "crazy," and he didn't seem angry, and I was confused.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk,” was a joke by Lewis Carroll. He never intended it to have an answer and spent pretty much his entire life being annoyed by people asking what the answer was.
These people fixing a watch with butter, tea, and jam gives me anxiety.
"That rabbit, who cares where he's going anyway?" Well, Alice, why did you care in the first place?
She stumbles into a forest so creepy, I’d prefer to have the Tweedles following me.
I forgot about the mome raths. They startled me.
The whole, "stay where you are so people can find you," advice always seemed really bad to me. If people don't know where you went missing, how does that help?
Cheshire cat is the Glenda of this world. "I gave you a really difficult set of tasks when I could've opened a tree to a place the whole time."
We’ve now come into the part of the movie almost everyone remembers. We’re painting the roses red so we don’t have to die.
After Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, I've determined that the royalty from the Game of Thrones was completely inspired by the royalty of Disney cartoons. They're all the worst.
Except the king. The king is the best royalty of Disney for quite some time.
Coincidentally, the Queen is also the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. So that actress had range.
Where are the diamonds in the cards? Perhaps in this world, there’s also a Wicked Witch, I mean Queen of Diamonds?
We’ll play croquet with hedgehogs, flamingos, and blatant cheating! Alice’s flamingo mallet is trying to kill her. Literally. Then the Cheshire cat tries. And just like other monarchs, she blames Alice for something she possibly couldn’t have done.
Then she gets a sham trial and another unbirthday party and panicking over a disappearing cat. So, to escape justice, Alice takes more drugs. Except they wear off like immediately. She shouldn’t have taken both sides. She should know which mushroom does which. C’mon Alice. Get it together.
'Twas all a dream. A drug addled dream of some sort. People gave children like Alice heroine to "calm her."
The end! Because why not?
The thing is that there are almost as many theories about what Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is actually about as there are bizarre characters in it. Some theories say that it’s about childbirth because Alice goes down a long tunnel then grows in a small space. Some people think it was that pesky pedophilia trying to say that there had to be a way to keep Alice “small” as long as possible. And some say it was all a mathematical joke making fun of those who had mathematical theories that didn’t agree with Euclidean geometry. But to me, it’s about drugs. Alice eats and drinks things, they change her perception of her body and the world around her. It’s simple.
But I want to know your opinion. What’s Alice in Wonderland about? Tell me on my social media. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter under the username oofmychildhood.
This episode’s cover art was created by Iqura Qudoos. I link to her Instagram in the show notes, my website, and on social media.
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My theme music was composed and played by Shawn Rudolph of Let Music Be. For more information on that studio, you can visit their website at letmusic.be or check the show notes for an easy link
You can find transcripts for each episode on my website, and if you check out my YouTube Channel, I have captioned video versions of each episode as they’re published. I do my best to provide YouTube videos and transcripts at the same time as each podcast episode is released, but if this one isn’t up yet, you can always check on my website for an update and a link to the appropriate video.
Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you come back each week to discuss Disney through modern eyes. And while you’re at it, if you’re enjoying yourself, please let your friends know about me. I’d also appreciate a rating and review wherever you’re listening to the show. This podcast is written and recorded me. This episode was edited by Anastasia Saff. I release a new episode every Monday through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and many, many other podcatchers.
So, until next time, keep the magic alive.