Alice may have avoided her unfortunate tumble down the rabbit hole had her mother not been such a bore. She’s reading to her in a tree from a book that doesn’t even have any pictures. Practically a textbook. No wonder Alice resoundly rejects it, and the boring, logical world that it espouses. She’s positively ripe for following a charismatic leader, or tardy hare, into a world of nonsense and nonconformity.
Alice, as it turns out, is a self-pitying, impetuous crybaby. She is such a little deviant, in fact, I wonder if 1951 audiences figured her for a commie. Now, as an adult, I can see her for the petulant spoiled brat that she is, but as I kid I was blinded by her pristine blue pinafore and her perfect blonde hair. I writhed with jealousy when my mother cast my youngest sister as Alice in our school’s entry in the Christmas parade one year. The theme was story books and our float was Wonderland-themed. My mother, god bless her overachieving soul, was determined to make a costume for each and every kid in the school who wanted to participate (not quite as terrible as it sounds: we had less than 100 students). There were caterpillars and psychedelic flowers, the white rabbit of course, and a mad hatter. And dozens of people trailed the float as either story books of a different ilk, or members of the Queen of Hearts’ playing card army. The Queen was played by the school’s tiniest, most taciturn teacher – a part she was born to play, but I don’t know how my mother proposed the idea without being threatened with her own beheading. Meanwhile, as the eldest daughter who routinely ‘took one for the team’, I walked in front of the float, just me and my childhood crush carrying our school’s banner. We were dressed as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I don’t remember which one I was, but pictures would prove clarifying as my little propeller hat identified me rather firmly. We lacked a proper costume from the neck down and were compelled to wear matching California Raisin costumes for uniformity, and perhaps just flat-out maximum humiliation. My mother must have WANTED me to hate my sister. She made it fairly impossible not to.
Anyway, if I sound bitter in this review, it’s because I am.
Drinking helps, which is fortunate, because Sean, Matt and I are in Disney World for the forseeable future, where we’ll have ample opportunity to meet Alice, should we want to. She hangs out by the teacups ride which is actually called the Mad Tea Party, and is often accompanied by a Mad Hatter at the very least. When I visited the park with my sister back in February (NOT the one who played Alice), she turned an alarming shade of green as her 4 year old son put an extra spin on our trip. But should we miss her in Magic Kingdom, she also hangs out in Epcot, in the U.K. pavilion, directly across from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in The Tea Caddy Gardens. Mary Poppins can often be seen strolling about with a parasol on her arm in the U.K. portion of the World Showcase. Other countries have their own princesses: Belle in France, Anna and Elsa in Norway, Mulan in China, Jasmine in Morocco. There are no princesses in the Canadian pavilion, just a bunch of poutine and some maple-flavoured popcorn (though I sort of think Duke Caboom should hang out there, revving his motorcycle).
The World Showcase is fun in many ways, not least of all because you can literally drink your way around it, with each country providing many samples of their finest hooch. There are margaritas in Mexico and prosecco in Italy and Oktoberfest beers in Germany. Because I’m ambitious, and mean, I intend to subject Sean to this booze tour, so I’ll take the opportunity to suggest you visit our Twitter feed at @AssholeMovies because there are 11 countries and countless opportunities to get your drink on, including an alcoholic popsicle stand, and a Frozen-themed blue lemonade spiked with moonshine. I predict Sean will need propping up by the time we hit Japan.
Anyway, please pardon my little digression. Back to the movie. I’m still rather astounded at how much they got away with, stuff that feels like pretty blatant drug references to me, counterculture stuff that seems out of place in a Disney movie, especially one with a little girl for a protagonist. I mean, she literally eats mushrooms.
The Cheshire Cat sounds awfully familiar – like Winnie The Pooh really, without much embellishment. I check IMDB and I’m right: Sterling Holloway voiced both. He was also Mr. Stork, in Dumbo, adult Flower in Bambi, Kaa the snake in Jungle Book, and Roquefort in The Aristocats. Disney’s casting certainly was incestuous. Sean and I ate at the Cheshire cafe last time we were in Disney, and we can certainly recommend the Cat Tail, and the Wonderland slushy. This time we’ll be dining WITH Winnie the Pooh (can you stand the excitement?) – and his pal Tigger too!
This movie actually takes from Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (fun fact: I once saw a Looking Glass play in Stratford starring a young Sarah Polley, then known as Canada’s sweetheart for roles in Ramona and Road to Avonlea). Alice is here voiced by Kathryn Beaumont, who also voiced Wendy in Peter Pan, and continued to do so until her retirement in 2005 (reminder: this movie came out in 1951!). You can still hear Beaumont narrating the Mad Tea Party ride to this day in Disneyland. That’s her here, providing a live action reference for Disney animators.
And somewhere in the Disney parks, I am currently the live action reference for a grown woman having far too much fun.
[In fact, I believe today we are attempting to ‘Drink Around the World’ in Epcot. Epcot’s World Showcase has 11 country pavillions and we’ll be grabbing a drink in each one. Sounds like potential disaster! Why not keep tabs on us via Twitter – @AssholeMovies, and be sure to play along on the Disney Bingo card.]