7/10 ****/5 ~ Hip "Alice in Wonderland" animated musical parody.
Despite the widely held opinion that the material is unfilmable, Lewis Carroll's fantasy/nonsense classics Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871) have frequently been dramatized for films and television. While few of these productions have successfully translated Carroll's verbal and intellectual experimentation into cinema, several are of superior quality and hold an under-appreciated place in the history of the fantastic film.
Alice's Adventures in Videoland have been uneven in quality; there has been a tendency toward parody and experimentation, and several fine productions have been broadcast.
Walt Disney's animated feature Alice in Wonderland (1951) has been criticized as unfaithful and disrespectful to the Carroll classic. Even less for the purist is Hanna-Barbera's prime-time television special Alice in Wonderland or What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1966). This hour-long animated musical is a good-natured burlesque whose colorful visuals, wacky script by comic Bill Dana (aka "Jose Jiminez"), and pleasant, tuneful score by Charles Strouse (of "Annie," "Applause" and "Bye Bye Birdie") result in a happy light entertainment.
Alice, a typical mid-1960's suburban American teenager (in hip-boots and mini-skirt), bumps her head while doing a book report on "Alice in Wonderland". She thereafter chases her dog, Fluff, into her TV set, falling into an astonishingly vulgar Wonderland.
Highlights include a guest appearance by cartoon characters Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble as a two-headed Caterpillar, doing the vaudeville-style "They'll Never Split Us Apart"; a Mad Tea Party with the Mad Hatter's wife, Hedda Hatter (voiced by Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper); Bill Dana's diminutive White Knight; Zsa Zsa Gabor's Queen of Hearts ("Off viss zerr heads, dahlink"); and a zany croquet game which degenerates into a frantic amalgam including football, cricket, surfing and Monopoly.
Most memorable is Sammy Davis, Jr.'s performance (as the beatnik Cheshire Cat) of the terrific theme song, "What's a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?", which was a hit novelty single in 1966.
The show is a superior example of the Hanna-Barbera studio's limited animation (not to mention limited imagination) during the heyday of "Yogi Bear", "The Jetsons" and "Jonny Quest", and as such is recommended to all cartoon fans and to those students of Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books who can take a little irreverent spoofing of the classic icon.
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