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Les Choristes

The French confection Les Choristes is now available on a skimpy, movie-only DVD —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is solid entertainment for kids, although it’s flawed as an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic books. For fans of the movie and their children, the new two-disc Masterpiece Edition DVD set is worth a look.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Disney's Alice is a good introduction to Lewis Carroll's books
Disney’s Alice is a good introduction to Lewis Carroll’s books

The story begins with Alice daydreaming in the countryside, when she spies a white rabbit with a waistcoat and watch, and follows him down very deep hole. From there, Alice changes size several times, and meets the psychotic Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire cat and many other odd creatures.

Alice doesn’t quite capture the surreal and sometimes dark spirit of the books. It does have some good moments, as when Alice meets the odd creatures of Tulgey Wood, including mome raths. But more often, the movie reverts to Disney cuteness, as in the garden of the talking flowers.

It would be impossible to expect Disney animators to cram both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There into a 75-minute movie. That the studio spent more than a decade developing this movie seems to indicate that the filmmakers had a hard time deciding which parts to include. Afficionados of the books may find the result to be too sanitized and jumbled, but kids won’t mind.

Special Features

The features on disc one are mostly intended for young children. There are two sing-along songs, in which the animated sequences are shown with the lyrics at the bottom of the screen. A game called Adventures in Wonderland is probably too simple for anyone over age seven. Virtual Wonderland Party has costumed actors and kids at a tea party a la Barney. A Mickey Mouse short, Thru the Mirror, rounds out disc one. The DVD also comes with a sheet of perforated cards to play a Wonderland version of Concentration.

Disc two is geared more toward adults. Many of the features focus on the promotion of the movie, including television introductions by Walt Disney and theatrical trailers. Two features give an interesting glimpse of the early days of television. There is a 30-minute excerpt from The Fred Waring Show, from 1951, in which actors, including some of the movie’s voices, act out scenes from the books. Disney’s first television show, One Hour in Wonderland, is shown in its entirety.

The rest of the extras give a look at the development and production of the movie. Operation Wonderland, a behind-the-scenes featurette, looks at the animation process, and shows human actors acting out scenes for the animators. The disc also contains songs that were written for the movie and later scrapped. Another extra has a gallery of preliminary sketches. It gives viewers an idea of some of the concepts and styles that were considered for the movie.

Picture and Sound

The movie is presented fullscreen, which is the original aspect ratio. It was digitally restored and remastered for this disc, and meets the high standards of Disney’s other DVD releases. The disc’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounded good, though it didn’t particularly stand out. Viewers also have the option of listening to the movie’s original mono soundtrack.

Conclusion

The producers of this DVD clearly tried to make this disc entertaining for all ages. Even though the movie doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the books, it could serve as a good introduction to them.