In the past few days, I have been faced with inner conflict. No, it’s not very serious inner conflict, like telling someone if they have something in their teeth or not or shall you go to the post office on Monday or Tuesday? when you really don’t want to go at all. But my inner conflict is still thought-provoking and I have set out on an experiment to sort that out.
The conflict: How do I
feel about Alice in Wonderland?
I suppose this is the
moment where my mother would dramatically (but good naturedly) roll her eyes
and tell me that some people have real problems. And I agree whole-heartedly. But this is an issue I’ve been mulling over
day after day, sometimes in the car, but mostly when I am traveling along the
wooden-floored hallway of my family’s home in Savoy. Yes, this is a hallway problem.
Like countless numbers
of adults across the world, I grew up with and have very fond memories of
Disney movies, except perhaps one which always made me feel kind of…odd. Even now as I think about the 1951 animated
version of Alice in Wonderland, I get
an uncomfortable feeling, like something is stuck in my throat or there’s a
piece of dust in my eye or something crawling down my back.
I think we need to go
back to the beginning first, to where this conflict began.
Exactly a week ago
today, a very good friend of mine asked me if one evening during the week, I
would like to come visit her and watch Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland. Absolutely! I said. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was wonderful and I loved it immensely and
after the first time I saw it, I spent months after thinking of it, researching
it, and writing about it. I saw it in
theaters a total of four times. And that
Tuesday evening, we had a fantastic time re-watching the film, accompanied by
tall glasses of chocolate milkshakes and great big amounts of Goldfish.
And just like the very
first time, three years ago, I began to think about the film again and what I
liked so much about it. I wanted to
learn so much more about it and I decided…why not read the original books?
I don’t know exactly
how it happened, but I think it began with a Wikipedia article on The Mad
Hatter. I saw original illustrations of
him and read a synopsis about his role in the original books and it brought
roaring memories back of the 1951 film (along with that uncomfortable I-just-stepped-on-a-tack
I have not seen the
animated version of Alice in Wonderland
since I was a very young child and yet, I still have strange memories of
it. And suddenly faced with these
remembrances, I was forced to compare it to the Tim Burton version that I loved
so much. So, here we go.
What I recalled from
the 1951 film was darkness everywhere, Alice crying, the creatures being quite
sarcastic towards her, a mean, smoking caterpillar, and walrus babies being eaten. I never, ever had an urge to visit Wonderland
and that was that. I never envied Alice
in the least.
And then there is the 2010
film, so filled with themes of friendship, courage, and hope. Believing in oneself! That is the Wonderland
that I would love to visit. Everyone
welcomed Alice back (at least, they did when they learned she was the “right”
Alice), there was nothing foreboding about that land, except maybe the Red Queen and the terrible
Jabberwocky, but that was to be expected.
And of course, there’s
the Mad Hatter. The only similarities
that I could see between 1951 animated Mad Hatter and 2010 Mad Hatter played by
Johnny Depp was that they both were mad, they were hatters, and they attended
tea parties. The 1951 Mad Hatter was
short, with white hair and evil-looking eyebrows and he seemed almost kind of
rude to Alice, if I remember right. He
poured tea into his collar and it came out of his sleeve and he had a large,
ridiculous three-spout tea pot. And that "Unbirthday Song!" That has wedged itself somewhere into my subconscious and I was surprised to find I still knew the words to it.
The 2010 Mad Hatter is Alice’s dear friend
who believed in her unconditionally. He
is obviously a little crazy, but we are given a back story so that we
understand exactly why he is the way he is.
I suppose he is a tad schizophrenic in a way, but he is brave, sweet, and loyal. And he is played by the phenomenal Johnny Depp and perhaps this is where I’m
a bit biased, since it seems I can’t help but unconditionally love any
character that Johnny Depp plays. There
is just more to this Mad Hatter. The animated Mad Hatter creeped me out, while
Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter intrigued me.
And there it is, The
Inner Conflict. It dawned on me that Tim
Burton’s version suddenly seemed so incredibly different from the Disney movie
and Lewis Carroll’s original books that I almost decided not to read them. And yet…Tim Burton’s inspiration, as well as the
inspiration of the screenwriters, had to come from somewhere.
And so the experiment
begins! I ordered a copy of The Annotated Alice last night, which
includes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
and Through The Looking Glass, as
well as many notes and a treasure trove of background information.
I also ordered a book dealing with Alice
in Wonderland and philosophy. I find
now that I want to dig deeply into this world, that I’m excited to discover
something new and to make connections!
Who knows, maybe I can
shed that uncomfortable, itchy sensation I get when I think about the 1951 Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps I’ll be able to link The Mad
Hatters. What I hope is that I’ll be
able to find exactly what everyone else has found when they read the books: an
incredible world, child-like wonder, and a tale worth re-telling.