An early Disney effort: primitive, crude, and funny
Alice on the Farm was one of a series of cartoons made between 1923 and 1926 by the very young Walt Disney and his early crew of animators. These films combined live action footage featuring a little girl and her friends as they'd interact with cartoon animals. (Any connection with Lewis Carroll's Alice is vague at best.) In the series entries from the first year or so, Disney's Alice was a blonde girl with long curly tresses who resembled Mary Pickford, and the films offered a generous amount of Our Gang-style kid comedy, but later, as Disney's animation staff grew more adept, the amount of animated footage increased while the live action material diminished. Meanwhile, the first Alice was replaced by a girl named Margie Gay who had a brunette bob. Margie appears only briefly in Alice on the Farm; no other actual humans are present, so there is a lot of animated material here to savor.
It's a cute comedy with lots of gags, but those accustomed to the Disney cartoons of the '30s will find the animation very primitive. Enjoyable, but crude in both execution and content. The plot is about as basic as it could be: Alice is abducted by the villain (who appears to be a bear) and rescued by the hero (a cat who closely resembles the top star of pre-Mickey animated cartoons, Felix). In some of Disney's earlier works, such as his "Laugh-o-Gram" Puss in Boots of 1922, his staff seemed to take a lot more care with the backgrounds and general draftsmanship than you'll find here. Much of the action in Alice on the Farm takes place before nearly blank white backdrops, which must have facilitated the mixture of animation with the footage of Margie Gay -- a weirdly mesmerizing effect, almost dream-like. On the other hand, character movement is smoother here than in Puss in Boots, and the gags are sharper and funnier, while also more violent and vulgar. Examples: the villain throws Alice into a sack, punches her, and giggles; the hero gets his tail lopped off at one point but simply swallows it and, presto, a new tail sprouts where the old one had been. Crude? Sure, but then, it's clear from the start that we're in Toon Town, where nothing is real: in the opening scene a cow lounges in a tree while chickens dance the Charleston. Sounds bizarre when described in words, and it is, but it all tumbles along in cartoon-y fashion, amusingly enough.
It's a long way from Fantasia, but Alice on the Farm, like the other entries in Disney's Alice series, is simple and sweet -- that is, allowing for the barnyard humor and the occasional punch.
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