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This was supposedly the short film that made Walt Disney famous. It was
screened on Disney Channel's "Late Night Vault" program and began with
an introduction. Apparently Alice, played by Virginia Davis (who would
play Alice in many other shorts later on), was the basis for other
Disney cartoons. She was the young actress that made Disney famous.
The movie begins with Alice visiting an animation studio where she is given samples of drawings and seems enthralled by them. Later that night while she is asleep she visits a land of animation in her dream and interacts with all kinds of cartoon animals and people.
"Alice's Wonderland" was the first of its kind and revolutionized the whole concept of film and animation as mediums. Its influence would be felt for years, through "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" to "Space Jam." In terms of entertainment this isn't the best - I'm giving it a seven out of ten based on a few factors, mainly I'm taking into consideration its effect and importance. Graded against today's animation it is, of course, very dated. But it had to all start somewhere.
I once commented on this short film without, regrettably, having even seen what I thought at the time was the whole film (just a couple of clips in a documentary on Disney's early career, which I thought were it). Seeing the whole short now on a rarity-Disney DVD collection is a nice revelation for what was to come for Disney, chiefly in his silent pictures. He made a bunch of these little Alice shorts, which ran in the silent film days in between and before features, all starring a plucky little 5 year old girl played by Virginia Davis. I'm not sure if this one is the best or most funny or successful of the shorts as I've yet to see most of them. But as a kind of pilot episode, one setting up the broad strokes of the series, it could've been a lot worse. As it is it's a kind of early technical marvel, a great pinpoint of the further innovations throughout the century, however crude or slow the process would be, in having animation with live actors. Here, Alice starts off by watching Disney himself drawing some 'funnies' or animated comics. It's infectious for her, and she dreams in a kind of Cartoonland dream where all sorts of little animals and other creatures give her goofy delights (you even see a few with hats as the welcoming committee at a train station). But once the lions break out of the Cartoonland zoo, ho-ho, wackiness ensues! This maybe isn't the greatest 'art', but it might be closer to that in its extremely absurd way. Ub Iwerks animation, with Disney's direction, is perfect for the mindset of a little girl or other kid, and it even features little bits of true hilarity, like when a Lion takes out his upper row of teeth and files then down. It's a silent film with little quirks and pips in the soundtrack, and not for one mili-second does it take itself seriously. For that alone it should be recognized; it's a really neat work of repeated, crude but nice little cartoons, with a plucky Davis in the part.
When Walt Disney was just starting out he worked for an advertising
agency in Kansas City drawing theatrical cartoon ads and experimented
with stop-action animation in his spare time. His first animation
venture "Laugh-O-Grams" was unsuccessful but its last gasp before going
out of business was an unfinished one-reel (12 minute) cartoon called
Max and Dave Fleischer had already introduced a cartoon series called "Out of the Inkwell" which superimposed animated figures on real film backgrounds (allowing a live actor to interact with a cartoon character). Walt borrowed this idea for the first segments of "Alice's Wonderland" and for the later segments he reversed it and superimposed a live actress (Virginia Davis) on an animated background. Virginia's mother let them shoot the live scenes in her house with Virginia's aunt playing Alice's mother.
The film begins with little Alice visiting an animation studio, where Walt and Ub Iwerks are working. They show her some scenes on their drawing boards and these turn into moving cartoons, which interact with live things in the studio. The best is a cartoon mouse (imagine that) poking a live cat until it moves. Although everything was silent in 1923 some music was later added to the production.
Back home from her day at the studio, the sleeping Alice dreams of taking a train to cartoon- land. She appears in live action superimposed on a cartoon background and interacts with a variety of cartoon animals. Finally, she jumps off a cliff and after falling for a while wakes up in her own bed.
Walt ran out of money before "Alice's Wonderland" could be finished and his company was disbanded. He moved out to Los Angeles and eventually sent what had been completed to an independent cartoon distributor in New York who contracted for a series of Alice cartoons.
Virginia Davis joined Walt in California and they began cranking out the series. Eventually there would be 56 Alice cartoons although Virginia was eventually replaced over a pay dispute.
"Alice's Wonderland" was probably never really completed. It appears that at some point they reassembled it to provide an ending (basically just a repeat of an earlier scene in a different context). It is also likely that the falling scene was originally intended for a rabbit hole entrance to Wonderland at the start of the dream sequence, but was moved to the end to substitute for the unfinished portion.
These silent cartoons are surprisingly entertaining. More importantly, Alice qualifies as Disney's first enduring character and the Alice series was his first successful venture.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
Contrary to popular belief, the Disney industry was not started with that famous mouse we all know and love. It was actually started by a little girl named Alice (portrayed by Virginia Davis). This was one of the earliest uses of live action and animation. I remember seeing this short on Vault Disney. I was interested in seeing some of Disney 's early shorts that he produced. I really did not care for this one. The Alice shorts had lasted for about four more years, with Disney constantly replacing young actresses for the role of Alice.
Of all of Walt Disney's earliest films, this is the coolest one I have
seen. That's because unlike most of these shorts, you actually get to
see Walt and his staff--including such famous animation folks as Ub
Iwerks, Rudolph Ising and Hugh Harmon--all three of which went off on
their own later to found cartoon studios. It's also amazingly charming
and well worth seeing--even if the last few seconds of the cartoon are
This is the first 'Alice' cartoon which starred the adorable Virginia Davis. It begins with young Virginia going to the studio and getting a tour led by Walt himself. I loved this portion because instead of a stuffy tour, lots of animated characters were running about--as if they were real! The integration of them into the real world was very stunning for 1923--and something we might take for granted today. Later that night, Alice dreams that she goes into the land of animated characters--highlighted by her being chased by lions! It's all very cute and exciting and actually holds up very well today. While I have seen some other Alice cartoons, this is the best I've seen so far and can't imagine them being much better.
By the way, Iwerks is billed as 'Ubbe Iwwerks'--and it's one of the few times his correctly spelled birth name is used. spelling for his name was used) Harmon and Ising
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