Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Alice in Wonderland (1951) at the El Capitan Theatre

Almost exactly three years ago I saw LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955) at Disney's gorgeous El Capitan Theatre, my very first experience seeing a film there.

It's hard to believe it's already been three years since that screening, and tonight I saw my tenth Disney film at the El Capitan, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951).

ALICE IN WONDERLAND, like PETER PAN (1953), is particularly special to me. The sounds of Kathryn Beaumont's voice and the music evoke very early childhood memories, and I also strongly associate the music with Disneyland.

The orchestration of "All in a Golden Afternoon," in particular, simply says "Disney" to me whenever I hear it, and the audience seemed to feel that way as well, as there was a smattering of applause at the conclusion of that number. I also especially love "The Un-Birthday Song," "March of the Cards," and the title song, all of which make me think of happy times in Fantasyland.

The movie, of course, is a loose collection of sketches as Alice goes on a wild rabbit chase and meets the famous characters of Wonderland, including the White Rabbit (Bill Thompson), the Caterpillar (Richard Haydn), the Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway), the Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn), and the Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton). The voice actors are perfection, particularly Holloway (who later voiced Winnie-the-Pooh) and Haydn ("!").

I love the film's pretty look, heavily influenced by Mary Blair's designs. In the wrong hands, the film could have been ugly (i.e., the 2010 Tim Burton version) or scared the small fry, but Blair's stylings are colorful and pleasing to the eye, and Alice's lack of fear, even when falling down the rabbit hole, sets the movie's tone.

Alice becomes frustrated when she's too big, and in the end she wants to go home, but for the most part Alice is curious and determined, which keeps the film upbeat despite her bizarre experiences. And when she's really ready to go home...why there it is, right through the keyhole. The film runs a perfectly timed 75 minutes, with Alice waking up from her nap at just the right moment.

I especially love Alice's adorable cat Dinah, whose name -- along with the heroine of my favorite novel -- inspired my own cat's name when I adopted her four years ago. One of my favorite moments is early in the film when Alice is carrying Dinah and Dinah bats at a butterfly -- it's a perfect bit of animation.

I enjoy all of the film except for the story of the Walrus (Pat O'Malley) -- I find it creepy when the baby oysters disappear!

Many other great voice actors and singers worked on the movie, including Jerry Colonna, Heather Angel (Mrs. Darling in PETER PAN), Queenie Leonard, Doris Lloyd, Pinto Colvig, the Mellomen (including Bill Lee and Thurl Ravenscroft), Marni Nixon, and Norma Zimmer.

The Throwback Thursday screenings sometimes have a little "something extra"; prior to tonight's movie there was a special featurette with Kathryn Beaumont addressing the audience to introduce a song sung by the Cheshire Cat which was deleted from the finished film.

Seen at the left, a book I really need to get, ALICE as illustrated by Mary Blair. Recommended Mary Blair books in my collection: MAGIC COLOR FLAIR: THE ART OF MARY BLAIR, THE ART AND FLAIR OF MARY BLAIR, which was updated last year, and A MARY BLAIR TREASURY OF GOLDEN BOOKS, which was a wonderful Christmas gift I received last year. There's more on Blair, including photos of some of Blair's original ALICE IN WONDERLAND artwork, in my posts Disneyland: The Colors of Mary Blair and The Mary Blair Centennial.

The El Capitan's next Throwback Thursday screening will be on April 9, 2015. As I've mentioned before, it's a great deal with a movie, popcorn, soda, and a raffle ticket for $10, not to mention a fantastic pre-movie organ concert. (Rob Richards played a special set of the ALICE score tonight which was simply wonderful.) The El Capitan also validates parking for the Hollywood and Highland Center across the street, which is $2 with validation.

The next Throwback Thursday will feature either 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954), ROBIN HOOD (1973), or POCAHONTAS (1995). The El Capitan takes votes on its Facebook page, and attendees at tonight's screening could also vote by placing unclaimed raffle tickets in one of three boxes. I voted for POCAHONTAS, which I've never seen, but I'd also be interested in going to ROBIN HOOD, which was one of my oldest daughter's favorite movies when she was young.

Previously: Tonight's Movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Cinderella (1950) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Peter Pan (1953) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mulan (1998) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: The Little Mermaid (1989) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mary Poppins (1964) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Sleeping Beauty (1959) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Swiss Family Robinson (1960) at the El Capitan Theatre; plus Tonight's Movie: The Jungle Book (1967) at the TCM Classic Film Festival.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The "look" of "Alice in Wonderland" is almost hypnotic in its beauty.

My autistic son is a great mimic, and two of his best voices are Jerry Colonna and Kathryn Beaumont! When he was young and would speak like Alice/Wendy out in public it would greatly embarrass his older sister. "He can do Hans Conried. Why doesn't he do that now?"

7:26 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a great story, Caftan Woman. :)

It really is gorgeous!

Best wishes,

12:59 AM  
Blogger Torgo25 said...

Alice is my all-time favorite Disney heroine. She’s so charming and adorable, and Kathryn Beaumont portrayed her perfectly. Also, her bloomers (long frilly underwear) are very cute, and I just love the way her dress poofs up like a parachute. I love the part where she flips over as she waves goodbye to Dinah. And “In a World of My Own” is a very beautiful song I could listen to all day.

10:19 PM  

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