p. 136 p. 137 p. 138

The video release in November 1984 of Walt Disneys Alice in Wonderland (1951) prompts a reappraisal of the film, particularly in the context of the ‘lost years of Disney, for no feature between Bambi (1942) and Cinderella (1950) has had wide redistribution, and only one or two are now becoming available on video. Yet the Disney studios produced nine features in those eight years: Saludos Amigos (1943), admittedly only 43 minutes long and so hardly qualifying as a feature—still, it was released as such; Victory Through Air Power (1943); The Three Caballeros (1945); Make Mine Music (1946); Song of the South (1946); Fun & Fancy Free (1947); Melody Time and So Dear to My Heart (1948) and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad (1949). Most of these are compilations,

extracts of which have been seen on Disney Tv programmes, but they should be remembered as features and taken as a whole, because they affected the later work, and in particular Alice. Yet the films from these ‘lost years are largely forgotten because of our over-exposure to the studios perennial reissue of the standard classics like Snow White, Dumbo, Bambi, etc, revived every seven years or so to meet a new generation of filmgoers. Richard Schickel in his readable but distorted biography Walt Disney (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968) mentions neither The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad nor So Dear to My Heart.

All this is by way of introduction to an explanation for the apparent originality of Alice; originality, that is, of form and content. For the film owes much to those lost years; not only, like them, did it go down badly with both critics and public, but Disney was never again to make another film like it. Apparently alone and distinct, it actually comes at the end of a line of experimentation. Disney himself was cautious about the film before it opened. Writing to the London office before its world premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre on 26 July 1951, he said, ‘Alice is just about ready to be wrapped up and I think it is about as good as can be done with it. I think it is going to be an exciting show. While it does have the tempo of a three-ring circus, it still has plenty of entertainment and it should satisfy everyone except a certain handful who can never be satisfied.

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