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Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Alice in Wonderland (1951) - 60th Anniversary Edition (Combo Pack)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    Alice in Wonderland (1951): 60th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by Clyde Geronimi et al 

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 1951
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1   1080p   AVC codec  
    Running Time: 75 minutes
    Rating: G
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French 

    Region:  A-B-C
    MSRP:  $ 39.99


    Release Date: February 1, 2011

     Review Date: January 21, 2011



    The Film

    4.5/5


    If Fantasia represented Walt Disney’s biggest disappointment in terms of audience acceptance and box-office response, his 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland couldn’t be far behind. Coming after the twin 1950 triumphs of Cinderella and Treasure Island, Disney must have been devastated by the lackluster critical response and tepid box-office results of Alice (which didn’t even rank among the top twenty films in grosses for 1951) especially since it was a project he had been nurturing for almost twenty years. Unlike most of his other animated classics, Disney permitted Alice to be shown on his weekly television show (first in 1954) and didn’t reissue it to theaters until 1974 where it met with much greater success. While the movie still today doesn’t seem to have the classic status afforded to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Bambi, it plays beautifully and contains such dazzling animation and such outrageous, unbridled imagination that it’s virtually in a class by itself in the Disney canon. The world would be a far poorer place if Alice in Wonderland wasn’t a part of it.


    A daydreamer of uncommon imagination, Alice (Kathryn Beaumont) chases a white rabbit (Bill Thompson) down a hole and drops into a curious place where she meets a succession of wonderfully weird and imminently eccentric creatures: twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee (J. Pat O’Malley), a garden of talking flowers (among them, Doris Lloyd, Queenie Leonard), a hookah-smoking Caterpillar (Richard Haydn), the continually smiling Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway), the equally insane Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn) and March Hare (Jerry Colonna), and the agitated Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton) with a fondness for lopping off heads. While Alice enjoys the unique world of wonderland for a brief time, she quickly longs for a more rational and sane place called home but has no idea how to get back to it.


    The Cheshire Cat informs Alice early in their meeting that “Everyone’s a little mad here,” and that might well have been the problem that the public had with the movie: with insanity at every turn and Alice thwarted constantly from making any headway in understanding what’s happening around her, the cockeyed mood and constant mayhem may have just been too relentless for audiences of the day. Today’s viewing public seems much more open to the wacky and bizarre and has no trouble with the kind of episodic story which Alice in Wonderland definitely sported. Without a through narrative line to hook the audience, they are blasted into a new sequence of events every few minutes, bombarded from all sides with every manner of fantastic and peculiar surreal imagery and apart from Alice, not allowed to form attachments with any of a large cast of characters. For some, the movie lacks the warmth and depth of feeling that could be found so prominently in Disney classics like Dumbo or Pinocchio, and that’s possibly the reason it didn't catch on originally. Still, for sheer fun and as a study in dreamlike (some might say nightmarish) fiction, Alice in Wonderland is in a class by itself.


    And the movie’s famous set pieces resound in one’s memories decades after first experiencing them: the Caterpillar’s smoky words wittily aimed at Alice and possessing a life of their own, the crazy tea party that contains the movie’s most bubbly number “The Unbirthday Song,” the hypnotic Cheshire Cat fading in and out as the spirit moves him, the eye-popping design of the entire film that reaches its zenith in the Queen of Hearts sequence with its white roses dripping with blood red paint and a croquet match unlike no other. The wonderful song score for the movie (the most songs ever contained in a Disney animated feature) didn’t produce any hits in its initial release, but in retrospect, it’s filled with lovely ballads: the title song, “Very Good Advice,” “In a World of My Own,” and “All in the Golden Afternoon” along with jauntier items like “T’was Brillig,” “I'm Late,” “Painting the Roses Red,” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” The voice cast is also spectacular with such rich and character-filled actors as Sterling Holloway, Richard Haydn, Bill Thompson, Verna Felton, Ed Wynn, and Jerry Colonna. And while not possessing the most lustrous singing voice in films, Kathryn Beaumont is a spirited and superlative Alice, the one voice of reason amid the acres of contiguous insanity.



    Video Quality

    5/5


    The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is faithfully reproduced in 1080p using the AVC codec. Color is dazzlingly brilliant throughout this kaleidoscopic feature with possibly the most vivid reds you will ever see in any movie. Lines are solid, and there is no banding or any other type of artifact to spoil the pristine picture quality presented here. The film has been divided into 27 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4/5


    The disc offers both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 enhanced theater mix as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix of the original soundtrack. The lossy mono mix sounds a trifle shallow and lacking in much if any bass, but purists will no doubt be glad to have it represented here even if it’s not in a lossless format. The DTS-MA HD 5.1 mix is surprisingly effective with Oliver Wallace’s Oscar-nominated score filtered through the fronts and wrapping into the rears with excellent presence (sound effects, however, have not been removed from the center channel). While the dialogue track in the center channel is occasionally thin, it’s well recorded for the most part and not at all affected by the passage of decades with no problems evident with hiss or any other age-related artifacts.



    Special Features

    5/5


    “Through the Keyhole: A Companion’s Guide to Wonderland” is an excellently (if somewhat overcrowded) produced interactive commentary mode which runs the film in a succession of PiP windows while commentators on the life of Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll, the Disney studio, and the film itself give insightful details about all of these entities. This mode is introduced by star Kathryn Beaumont.


    DisneyView once again provides art panels to cover the black pillarbox bars on the sides of the image should the viewer decide to use them.


    Painting the Roses Red game is a family participation game in which players attempt to paint white roses on a tree with red paint with the fewest possible moves. You accrue points along the way with the largest point-getter winning.


    A 1959 introduction to a TV broadcast of the film features Walt Disney’s comments leading into the movie’s first scene. It’s in 1080p and his comments are identical to a later 1964 introduction to a televised edition of the movie also presented elsewhere on this disc.


    “Alice and the Doorknob” is the live action reference footage Kathryn Beaumont shot for Disney animators. The present-day Kathryn introduces the 1 ¼-minute clip. It’s in 1080p. The viewer may also turn on Beaumont commentary for the brief snippet.


    Kathryn Beaumont also introduces a pencil test for Alice shrinking which runs for 1 minute in 1080p.


    “Reflections on Alice begins the porting section of featurettes from the previous release of the movie on DVD. This runs in 480p for 13 ½ minutes and features Disney artists and Kathryn Beaumont reminiscing about the production of the movie.


    “Operation Wonderland” is a vintage featurette where James Melton visits Walt at the studio and is introduced to Alice in Wonderland via live action reference shooting, rough animation, and the finished product (shown in black and white). It runs 11 minutes but is now presented in 1080p.


    “I’m Odd” is a song originally written for the Cheshire Cat and presented here with an introduction by Kathryn Beaumont. This runs 4 minutes in 480i.


    “Through the Mirror” is the 1936 Mickey Mouse cartoon based on the Carroll book and now presented in 1080p (looking beautiful) running 8 ¾ minutes.


    “One Hour in Wonderland” is a 1950 Christmas special sponsored by Coca-Cola and featuring Edger Bergen and his dummies, Kathryn Beaumont, and Bobby Driscoll presenting some plum clips from Disney shorts and musical moments from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Song of the South, and Alice in Wonderland’s tea party sequence. It runs 59 ½ minutes in 480i.


    “Alice’s Wonderland” is one of Disney’s silent Alice comedies which runs 8 minutes in 480i.


    The original theatrical trailers from 1951 (2 minutes) and 1974 (1 ¾ minutes) are presented in 480i.


    Walt Disney’s introductions to the TV presentations of Alice in Wonderland are presented as filmed in 1954 and 1964. Both 480i clips run 1 ¼ minutes.


    A 1951 edition of The Fred Waring Show presents selections from the song score of the movie as sung by his own chorus as well as guest stars Kathryn Beaumont and Sterling Holloway. It runs 31 minutes.


    Four entries of deleted materials all presented in 480i are available for selection:


    • A storyboard sequence for “Pig and Pepper” runs 3 ¼ minutes.
    • “From Wonderland to Neverland” features the song “Beyond the Laughing Sky” written for Alice but later incorporated into Peter Pan as “The Second Star to the Right,” It’s introduced by Kathryn Beaumont for 6 ¾ minutes.
    • A storyboard sequence for “Alice Daydreams in the Park” runs 2 minutes.
    • Song demos for six deleted tunes may be chosen. They are “Beward the Jabberwock,” “Everyone Has a Useness,” “So They Say,” “Beautiful Soup,” “Dream Caravan,” and “If You’ll Believe in Me.”

    The step through art gallery contains eighty-one illustrations which can be viewed in various sizes.


    The second disc in the set if the DVD copy of the film.


    The disc offers 1080p trailers for Bambi, Winnie the Pooh, Tangled, The Incredibles, Spooky Buddies, and Disney 3D Blu-ray releases.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    Disney may not consider Alice in Wonderland one of its premiere titles, but I certainly do: a rollicking, tuneful, and splendid animated rendition of the Lewis Carroll classic with the Blu-ray disc offering a marvelous collection of bonus material that extends the richness and brilliance contained in this very special movie. Highly recommended!




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    I was thinking of passing on this since I got the previous DVD, but it's pretty irresistible and sounds like a winner. thanks for the review.
     
  3. Brisby

    Brisby Well-Known Member

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    Here's hoping we'll get the usual $10 coupon from Disney.
     
  4. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Well-Known Member

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    A few dissapointments here.


    On most of thier major animated classics, Disney Vid have commisined speciaols from 30 min or longer about themaking of the film. Oddly, they have never done this for Alice or dumbo. Why?


    The laser disc boxed set had almost TWO HOURS of song demos for Alice. These could easilyfit on a blu ray somewhere. Again, they are not available here.
     
  5. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    The interactve video commentary pretty much accomplishes this (along with giving detailed information about the life of Lewis Carroll). It's certainly the most thorough extra Alice has ever had in any video incarnation.


    Based on the quality of six of the seven tunes they chose for the Blu-ray, I'm not sure I'd want to hear any more. They're not very good. I did like "Beyond the Laughing Sky," but I like it better as "The Second Star to the Right."


    And I was so happy Disney didn't choose to put any of the vintage material as a BD-Live supplement only. Another major positive compared to the Fantasia release.
     
  6. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    I'm so happy to hear they've skipped the BD-Live nonsense bullshit on this one. The sooner that practice is dropped, the better. (Okay, I'm a bit of a dreamer.) This sounds great, overall. I'm in.


    As something of a completist when it comes to certain segments of my collection, Disney classics being one of these, I always appreciate hearing from Joe Caps or anyone else whenever there are items not ported over from both LDs and earlier DVD releases. Even if, as Matt says, you might not care to get through a lot of those song demos, I feel that since the material is already in hand, it should be there -- especially when such an incredible amount of content can fit on BDs. Just another reason why the collection will always have a certain amount of duplication, and why the core of the LD collection is here to stay.
     
  7. Craig Beam

    Craig Beam Well-Known Member

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    MINE. And Bambi one month later? ALSO MINE.
     
  8. Jason_V

    Jason_V Well-Known Member

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    I've never been a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, but I am a sucker for everything Disney and need to have a complete BD collection. Hoping for a coupon...even without one, the price should be cheap enough for me. Thanks for the review, Matt.
     
  9. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Well-Known Member

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    The colors on the current DVD were proclaimed to be a bit off by some readers here, perhaps not as vibrant as they should be; has this issue been remedied on the Blu-ray?
     
  10. Christian Preischl

    Christian Preischl Well-Known Member

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    Watched this last night, and just like "Beauty and the Beast" it also has that annoying "Recommended Feature" pop-up, that shows up at the beginning of the end credits. Who signs off on crap like that?
     
  11. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Oh, how I wish I could say: "You have got to be f**king kidding me."
     
  12. robbbb1138

    robbbb1138 Well-Known Member

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    I remember seeing that in the theater back in '51.
     
  13. Adam Gregorich

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    Some video clips from the film and special features:


    Here is the Blu-ray trailer:



    Pencil Test (From Bonus Features)




    Real Life Events (From Bonus Features)




    Very Merry Un-Birthday (Film Clip)




    Cheshire Cat (Film Clip)




    Alice and the Queen (Film Clip)
     
  14. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Well-Known Member

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    Actually, it's the other way 'round, apparently -- the Blu-ray has been recolored, according to Hollywood animation restoration expert Stephen Worth's post in the Robert H. Harris thread on this disc, and the colors on the Masterpiece edition DVD match the old animation cels much more closely. Just great.
     
  15. David Norman

    David Norman Premium
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    Thanks Matt for the review.

    While the Mr Harris and Worth duke it out over the details of how historically accurate this is -- in 2011 Disney has confirmed a $10 off coupon like usual

    at the Disney Movie Rewards site. It's not active yet, but the Coupon screen has been put up and it should be printing money sometime in the next 12-24hours.

    Whether you agree with the changes or not, at least it;s cheaper than full price.


    http://www.disneymovierewards.go.com/promotions/special-offers/alice-upgrade


    Sign into your account and enter UPC of one of the DVD or VHS releases then follow the figurative rabbit to the coupon printer site.


    UPC's that should work
    786936232601
    717951000439
    786936801811
    786936126679



    I may try an LD release UPC just for fun -- oh well codes not recognized for the LD's, but there are about 12 codes that will work.

    012257036060

    786936613964


    So far, Best Buy has the best B&M price at $19.99, but you can always pricematch at Target or WM if you wish no matter what their actual price is.
     
  16. Jason_V

    Jason_V Well-Known Member

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    Thanks David. That's what I've been waiting for. I will give Alice another chance, possibly next weekend.
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Thanks David, for the heads up.








    Crawdaddy
     
  18. gomezfan69

    gomezfan69 Well-Known Member

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    When I follow the link it says "This offer has expired" and then redirects me to the special offers page.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I think the link hasn't been activated yet for that coupon which will probably happen in the next day or so.
     
  20. David Norman

    David Norman Premium
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    That's Disney speak for "Ain't ready yet" Don't ask me why use the word expired, but if you look somewhere on the page it says the coupon is good until 2/7/2011. I'm not

    sure why some folks are freaking out on other boards (as usual) about the coupon not being available yet since you can't officially buy it until Tuesday anyway.


    This at least confirms that the coupon will come and the price ($10 instead of $8 like some) so you can decide if you wish to buy B&M or order online somewhere.


    Based on past timeframes it should be active sometime today, but I guess they could wait until Monday though the number of induced strokes will be on Disney's conscience

    if they do that.
     

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