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Alice in Wonderland Live Action vs Animated: We’re All Mad Here

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WARNING: This article will contain spoilers for both the live action and animated films. 

Intro

I realized during my animated Alice in Wonderland watch that while I thought I had seen the film, I must not have – there were so many scenes that I had absolutely no recollection of. In fact (even though I’m a fan of the weird and creepy Tim Burton films), I had not seen any film from the Alice in Wonderland franchise. I assumed that (like all the other films we’ve looked through) the animated Alice in Wonderland would simply be a more modernized retelling of the animated film. So, you can imagine my shock when I turned on the live-action Alice in Wonderland and found that it’s simply a continuation of the story. 

This fact makes my job in comparing the two films difficult, so this will be more of a film review (particularly on my thoughts about Alice’s character development).  

Alice’s Costume

Alice’s blue dress from both films. Images retrieved from Disney.

But first, let’s talk costumes. As you can see, the live-action film tried to emulate the iconic animated blue dress. All things considered, I think it was done fairly well – after all, the blue dress couldn’t be done perfectly because live action Alice wore her blue dress to a fancy party. I also like live action Alice’s “ugly” dress.

Alice’s “ugly” dress. Image retrieved from Disney.

See, in the animated film when Alice grows/shrinks her dress changes with her. However, live-action Alice’s clothes do not change with her, so she has to improvise with clothes. 

Plot

Alice in Wonderland plot. Images retrieved from Disney.

It is very interesting to me how similar the plot is even though this is a sequel. See, in both films these things take place in the same chronological order: Alice finds herself falling through a magical rabbit hole, she is in a room with a small door so she must shrink to fit but forgets her key so she has to grow then shrink again, then she runs into the Cheshire Cat who directs her to the hatter, she runs into the Mad Hatter and the March Hare and joins them for a tea party, then she needs to find the Red Queen, then the Red Queen tries to kill her so Alice needs to escape. 

The Red Queen

Red Queen. Images retrieved from Disney.

Speaking of the Red Queen… her design is very different. There are many references to the queen’s large head, with the White Queen (who is the Red Queen’s sister) speculating that there is a growth in the Red Queen’s head that makes her like cutting people’s heads off. Her character is the same, though, just made a bit darker (after all, the animated film was made for children).  

The White Queen

The White Queen. Image retrieved from Disney.

A new character, the White Queen, was also added to the film. The White Queen is a very obvious juxtaposition to the Red Queen. She doesn’t kill anything, but for some reason is entirely fine with having Alice slay a monster on her behalf (which very much confused me… Alice does not want to kill this creature, she just does so because the White Queen wants her to). 

The Mad Hatter’s Development

The Mad Hatter. Images retrieved from Disney.

With the White Queen comes a backstory for the Mad Hatter – as well as a lot of trauma. According to the Hatter, he comes from a long family of hatters who serve the royal family. He was present when a bunch of people were massacred by the Red Queen – and was abandoned by the White Queen. Seriously, this woman took an oath to do no harm to anything but is just leaving her people to be killed? 

The Hatter is part of the reason that Alice’s character develops into the person she needs to be for Wonderland. He frequently tells her that she lost her “muchness” and that she isn’t the “same Alice” she was when she was a child. He pushes her to regain her “muchness” (which does benefit her when she returns to her world) and when she does Hatter is Alice’s biggest cheerleader. When Alice is fighting the “evil” monster, Alice says “this is impossible.” Hatter just looks at her and says “only if you believe it is”. This gives Alice the courage to fight the beast – and win. 

Alice’s Character

This brings me to Alice’s character change from the animated film (when she was a child) to the live action film (when she was a young adult). Young Alice is stubborn, prone to temper tantrums, and overall just frustrated by anything that doesn’t make sense to her. I would say that none of these traits apply to live action Alice. Live action Alice is your stereotypical crazy person. In fact, I would say that her personality very closely resembles that of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter franchise. She doesn’t understand many things in the world, makes “funny” comments, and frequently repeats back things people have said to her, particularly her father. Honestly, I don’t see how young Alice could have developed to young adult Alice. Yes, Alice does lose her father, frequently hallucinates, and has dreams of Wonderland every night but I cannot imagine that Alice’s personality would take such a 180 degree turn. Even when Alice regains her “muchness” she isn’t acting like young Alice, but rather just becomes a more bold version of herself. 

Conclusion

This is not to say that the new film is a bad film. I actually quite like the dark turn on the classic, which has definitely been something audiences have been demanding in recent years (I first think of the Nutcracker film). However, I don’t like that it is supposed to be a sequel to the animated film because I simply feel that Alice is too different in character. 

What do you think? Have you seen the second live-action Alice in Wonderland film? (I haven’t, maybe that would change my perception!). Did anyone else get weirdly romantic vibes between Hatter and Alice? I will admit that I did and it made me very uncomfortable. 

That’s all for this article, folks! We’ve got one more to go then you are no longer expected to read through my Disney film reviews. 

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