Saturday, March 6, 2010

Finding Alice; the Finished and Unfinished Tales

By now you may have felt the temptation to watch the latest version of "Alice In Wonderland" in its full 3D splendor, or you may have already watched it.

The "Alice" tales have been around ever since the 19th century. They were very exquisite and they still are, no to mention incredibly insane.

But let's face it; whether we like it or not you can't help the fact that both Wonderland and the Looking-Glass world are so full of oniric references despite the social and political criticism that are obviously known.

Alice takes a journey not to a fantastic world but to a dreamworld which sketches and distorts the darkest corners of her mind. Not that a seven-year old would be declared mentally ill because of the nature of these visions but almost everyone has had a bizarre experience when they go to sleep. It is here where we feel somewhat powerless if we don't know our inner selves too good and surrender to whatever comes our way.

While some movie directors have attempted to adapt "Alice" as it is, modeling their characters after the John Tenniel illustrations others have reinvented the concept and taken it to different levels using the same premise.

I'll not list all the adaptations out there but yes those that I consider commenting for its contribution to the Alice myth. So here we go down the rabbit hole...

- American Mc Gee's Alice (Videogame, Electronic Arts, 2000)

We get it. Alice is insane and now you can experience her madness and save her from herself. While they make us a huge favor to the author using the name Alice Liddell the rest of the plot involves her journey into recovery while being strapped to a bed. You won't want to attend this Mad Tea Party...

- Walt Disney's Alice In Wonderland (1951)(Film)

The heavy use of poetry and nursery rhymes could have been inspired Walt Disney to make a musical, colorful trip to Wonderland. Like Mr. Carroll, Mr. Disney was quite fond of Alice keeping in mind that the "Alice Comedies" were part of his earlier works, but it was until 1951 that this movie showed up after being revised again and again, including just Wonderland (apparently the Looking Glass world didn't seem appealing enough for Hollywood), the Queen of Hearts is all the queens put into one and a Cheshire Cat who sings the Jabberwocky song, (keeping in mind the purple kitty was never visited the Looking-Glass world to begin with)

Other than that it's a catchy adaptation, despite the bad reviews it got when it was first released mentioning the Alice stories were "americanized". Surrealism was still pretty hype back then and it is reflected in most of the scenes. Later on this would forever associate Alice with the psychedelic experiences, including the song "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.

- "Alice In Wonderland" (1903) (Film).

Wow, this little girl got pretty far for a low-budget silent film. The scene where Alice goes through the door is well reproduced. This version could have also been a reference for the 1951 "Alice". However this version remains more faithful because the underrated character of the Duchess appears, as well as Frog.

- "Alice In Wonderland" (1949)(Film)

I want to see this film so badly for one reason; Disney prevented this movie from being released in the U.S. and got away with it.

The French-based film mostly used stop-motion animation for its Wonderland characters and live action. Despite the huge efforts to bring this version into the spotlight it hardly had any success. Ironically at the same time it was released Disney's version flopped.

- "Alice in Wonderland" (or What’s a Nice Kid Like You Doing in a Place Like This?) (1966)(Film)

Well, this was a fresh new twist to bring Alice into the 60's era and this one-hour animated special did some very clever crossovers of Hanna-Barbera characters, as well as revamping old ones like the Mad Hatter (it was a girl!)

The movie was released with a catchy soundtrack featuring Sammy Davis Jr. and Scatman Crothers (a.k.a the cook from "The Shining")

- "Fushigi no Kuni no Alice" (1983-1984)(anime series)

For the first time Alice became an and an anime (Japanese animation). The girl portrayed as Alice retired her blonde hair and blue dress. Ironically, the storyline remains faithful to the original books, also rescuing interesting characters like the Jabberwocky unlike the Disney movie where he is reduced to a local legend. Though it's not full of that twisted aura we crave about Alice it's very suitable for kids, not to mention cute.

- "Alice In Wonderland" (1985)

Yikes! where do I begin? First of all Alice feels horribly alone in this musicalized version even around the presence of her older sister. The rest of the plot is familar (white rabbit, rabbit hole, eat me, drink me and all that good stuff...)

The good and the bad thing is that it draws a very visible line between Wonderland and the Looking-Glass world and for the same reason it was aired in two episodes on TV and it´s longer than expected.

The cast was beyond wild; Sammy Davis Jr. as the Caterpillar? This was technically the second time he was involved in an "Alice" movie. Ringo Starr as the Mock Turtle? It would have made more sense if he were the Warlus quoting the famous Beatles song. Pat Morita as the Horse? I bet old Mr. Carroll never saw that one coming.

But this is not the scariest's where Alice is face to face with the Jabberwocky all by herself on a big old house! Part of my many childhood traumas.

- "Alice" by Jan Svankmajer 1988

OMG! This is by far the absolutely most twisted and hard to digest version of Alice I've seen so far.

While the film is incredibly surreal you can't help the fact that the White Rabbit has worse mental issues than the Mad Hatter (eating his own stuffing?)

If you really want to go deeper into the rabbit hole you won't wanna miss this one.

- "The Looking-Glass Wars" (Novel Series)

An awesome retelling of the Alice. Frank Beddor takes Alice to an epic level renaming her Alyss and she is the princess of Wonderland fighting against Queen Redd. Hmm, I'm thinking this is a possible inspiration for Burton's "Alice In Wonderland" or a possible rip off?...

- "Alice" (2009)(TV Series)

This modern day adaptation of the craziest girl in literature featured a much older version of Alice. She´s all grown-up and is determined to find the love of her life, like most of do through the internet. She comes across Jack Chance, unknowing he is the son of the ever so evil Queen of Hearts and takes her into a painful journey into Wonderland, through a looking glass, not to mention that the White Rabbit is evil and that the March Hare is a homicidal maniac.

This new world however is controlled by extracting people´s emotions and reselling them on the Black Market (but I swear they´re not drugs)

Apparently the girl is not the original Alice but yes "The Alice of Legend", the one who is chosen to free the slaves of Wonderland with the Mad Hatter as her untrustworthy guide.

I don´t see how Alice was meant to be the reincarnation of Moses and lead her people into the promised land. Although the plot lacks at times originality it´s full of science-fiction, suspense and fair CGI effects (loved the Jabberwocky, just like the John Tenniel version)

- Gakuen Alice (manga and anime series)(2003)

Just when you think you had enough tea and unbirthday parties along comes "Alice Academy" (Gakuen Alice in japanese) with a surprisingly great contribution; it wasn´t just a clever little girl, it was a gift.

And these so-called "gifted" children are taken into a top secret institute to train their "alice" which is a supernatural power that can manifest in several disciplines. The story revolves around the close but not ambiguous relationship between Mika and Hotaru and their forthcoming adventures into the Academy.

Highlights: The currency they use within the school is measured in "rabbits" and they get paid the same way for being so outstanding!

- Rozen Maiden (manga and anime series, 2002)

Alice is a doll! No, literally. This is one of the sweetest at other times creepiest version I´ve seen mentioning Alice, even it´s protagonist Shinku vaguely reminds you of her.

Apparently for these living dolls their objective is to fight each other in order to become the Alice; the perfect doll.

Highlights: Rozen Maiden dolls move through dreamworlds while playing the Alice Game, so there is a Wonderland inside everyone.

- Eikyuu Alice Rondo (anime series)

Though it´s hard to digest as Mr. Carroll´s literature this fantastic version focuses more on magical girls fighting to collect the pages of what is presumed to be the lost book of Alice In Wonderland known as "The Eternal Alice". It makes some sense since it was rumored that there was a third book that remained unfinished in real life.

Highlights: Bunny girls.

- Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll (no release date)

There are no official trailers of this short film people. This is what Marilyn Manson was considering to be the most eerie, twisted, demented version of Alice you´ve ever seen, or you may not see.

The film doesn´t use the Alice books as a plot, it is said that is roughly inspired by the poem by Lewis Carroll "Phantasmagoria" featuring the actual author haunted by the spirit of Alice. The project is long overdue. Pity.

Highlights: Alice has an alter ego, hardly seen something like that.

I could go all night going from one rabbit hole into another, but this is the best stuff I gathered so far. For those of you who are die hard Alice fans these are some of many productions you can never miss.

I´m currently under production of my own version of Alice called "Mad". I´ll provide an individual blog soon.

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