Alice in Wonderland (1951): Disney’s Oscar-Nominated Cartoon

“Alice in Wonderland,” Disney’s Oscar-nominated feature cartoon combines elements of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.”

I assume most readers are familiar with the basic plot.  While chasing after the White Rabbit, running and singing “I’m Late! I’m Late!,” Alice falls down the rabbit hole into the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland.

In the course of the enchanting tale, she grows and shrinks under the tutelage of a caterpillar, attends a “Very Merry Unbirthday” party in the garden of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, stands in awe as the Cheshire Cat spouts philosophy, listens in rapt attention as Tweedledum and Tweedledee relate the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter. she concludes her day with a croquet game at the home of the Red Queen.

The music and production design of Alice in Wonderland is eye-catching, but at the time, some critics (and viewers) thought the film was too short and too frantic for all the elements in Carroll’s original fable, and far too episodic to hang together as a unified feature film.  Others complained about a scene, in which Alice weeps, wishing to go home, as the viewers want her to stay there longer.

There have been many versions, old-fashioned, modern and postmodern, of Carroll’s perennial text.  Tim Burton made a commercially popular but artistically mediocre version, casting his favorite actor, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

The film was a big commercial flop, which disappointed Walt Disney.  The mogul explained the failure as a function of the characters being too weird and the heroine, as played by Kathryn Beaumont, coming across as unsympathetic.


Oscar Nominations: 1

Scoring of a Musical Picture: Oliver Wallace

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Scoring Oscar Award went to Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin for Minnelli’s musical, “An American in Paris,” which won Best Picture and many other awards.


Rating: G.

Running time: 75 Minutes.

Co-directed by  Wilfred Jackson and Clyde Geronimi

Released July 28, 1951.