As a kid, these names likely mean nothing to you, although you're sure to recognize a few faces under all the fur and makeup. The real appeal here is how cool everything looks. The Disney cartoon version is colorful, sure, but there's no sense of how bizarre Wonderland really is-- when Alice grows to the size of the house, or she meets a giant hookah-smoking caterpillar, it's all still just lines on paper. In this move, it is all tangibly real, from the mad tea party to the Queen of Hearts' croquet game, which makes it all extra awesome.
Of course, there's a flipside to this, since that means that when the terrible duchess and her equally-malicious cook are sniping at each other, throwing dishes, and poisoning a helpless baby with pepper, then that's real too. Even realer is when Alice tries to save the squalling baby and it turns into a squealing pig in her arms! Or when Carol Channing as the White Queen howls in pain that her finger is bleeding before it happens and then rasps that she is feeling "muuuuuuch beeeeeeettterrrr" before transforming into a sheep.
Still, a lot of cool things happen too, and by the end, things seem to be going pretty well for Alice: after her many adventures in Wonderland, she makes it to the castle, where all her friends are holding a feast in her honor, and she is declared a queen. Hooray! Wearing a crown and clutching a scepter, Alice is the happiest little girl in the world as the Red and White Queens reveal a giant present, all wrapped in red ribbon, and just for her. She opens it, and then--
Horrors upon horrors!
It is a giant, flying, fire-breathing Jaberwocky! What kind of sick, twisted gift is that? The screams of the dinner guests continue for a full five minutes. And even when Alice escapes, the Jabberwocky follows her home!
Hey guys, let's just... turn the VCR off for now. It might overheat, or something. And that Jabberwocky might give my little sister nightmares or something. I mean, I'm not scared, but, you know, she could be. OK?
Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Alice in Wonderland. Dir. Harry Harris. Perf. Natalie Gregory, Red Buttons, Carol Channing. Columbia Pictures Television, 1985.
Alice in Wonderland DVD
(Watch the terrifying Jabberwocky attack on YouTube here)
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