Sunday, July 15, 2012

Alice in Wonderland

Bibliographic Information: Zabuck, R.  (Producer), & Burton, T.  (Director).  (2010).  Alice in wonderland [Motion Picture].  USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

Plot Summary: On the day of a forced engagement to an awkward nobleman, 19 year old Alice follows a rabbit through the garden only to fall into a magical hole. Reaching the bottom of the hole Alice is confronted with several characters who wonder whether or not she is the "Real Alice." Not understanding why the creatures of the land keep questioning whether or not she is the "Real Alice," Alice continues on frequently reminding herself that it is all merely a "dream." Alice finds that this new land, "Underland," reminds her of nightmares she had as a child and begins to question whether or not she has ever been there before. Meeting a series of characters, including: the caterpillar, the Cheshire cat, the mad hatter, and many others, Alice is immediately swept up in the fray learning that her true destiny lies in her defeat of the wrongful queen only if she is able to muster the courage, or "muchness," necessary of a hero. 

Inspired by Lewis Caroll's, Through the Looking Glass, this computer graphic styled movie captures the strangeness of an upside down land in search of a hero.

Critical Evaluation: A reoccurring theme in Alice in Wonderland is the question of identity as the creatures of underland question whether or not Alice is the "Real Alice." Alice's identity is pivotal in the film and represents the role of the hero as the creatures search for someone to free them from the Red Queen's tyranny. Alice's identity changes drastically from the girl being forced to become engaged to a boorish lord to the girl that triumphs for the people of Underland. This change in identity can only be described as a claiming of her "muchness" a term that the Mad Hatter uses for the spirit and fiery determination that he once knew in the "Real Alice."

As Alice begins to understand, care for, and love the creatures around her- her identity begins to shift. Although Alice has always been the "Real Alice," she is only able to become her truest self when she asserts herself and faces the scariness of the task before her:

"From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I’ve been told what I must do and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I’ve been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice but this is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here… I make the path!”

Alice is then able to take this new found "muchness" into her real life, becoming her own hero in the face of forced marriage. 

Alice in Wonderland: Alice Returns to Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland Official Site

Reader’s Annotation:
Finding her "muchness," Alice becomes the hero of both "underland" and her own life. 

Information About the Director: Born August 25, 1958 in Burbank, CA, Timothy William Burton  (Tim Burton) started off as a quiet outsider slowly developing his talent for art (Burton: Bio, 2012). Burton went on to enroll in California Institute of the Arts, a Disney school geared towards developing animators, and began his career as an animator (Burton: Bio, 2012). Burton was also a huge fan of Vincent Price, a fact that has greatly influenced him throughout his career (Burton: Bio, 2012). Burton then went on to start a career as an animator for Disney, working on Fox and the Hound Burton: Bio, 2012). Finding that he did not enjoy the repetitious nature of being an animator, Burton was sound moved up to the position of conceptual artist (Burton: Bio, 2012). Burton soon made a series of short films that were never released due to being marked "innapropriate for children" (Burton: Bio, 2012). One of these films came to the attention of Pee-wee who then asked Burton to direct his movie which was later Pee-wee's Big Adventure (Burton: Bio, 2012). Through a series of connection and referrals, Burton then received the idea of Beetlejuice (1988) three years later. The success of Beettlejuice then led to several other high profile and lucrative movies.

A look at Burton's films:  Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010),
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) (Burton: Movies, 2012).

The Official Tim Burton Site

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical

Curriculum Ties: Could be used in section on fantasy, identity, and heroes.

Booktalking Ideas:

1). What is "muchness"?
2). What similarities can be seen between "Underland" and Alice's real world?

Reading Level/Interest Age: PG, 19 year old main character attracts older audience of 15+.

Challenge Issues: Does contain violent scenes. I would use the following items to defend this movie if it was challenged:

1) Refer to Library Bill of Rights, see items: I, II, and III (
2) Refer to San Diego Public Library collection policy - (  Original site: The American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read/View Statement (
3) Refer to California School Library Association (CSLA), Model School Library Standards - September 2010 ( PDF: (
4) Refer t0 American Association for School, Librarians Standards for the 21st Century Learner (
5) Contact Office of Intellectual Freedom for any further support, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223 or
6) Refer to legitimate book reviews, such as: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book and others; found on either Academic Search Premier, Follett's TITLEWAVE, or

Why did you include this movie in the titles you selected?:
This movie is based off of a classic book and could be part of an excellent section on comparing past and current interpretations of fantasy lands. This movie also includes a strong female hero, Alice, who is ultimately able to dictate the direction of her own life. Teens will also be able to relate to many of the struggles of identity and indecision that Alice faces in her own life.

Reference Page:

 Burton, T.  (2012).  Bio.  Retrieved July 15, 2012 from

Burton, T.  (2012).  Movies.  Retrieved July 15, 2012 from

cover art:

Disney.  (2010).  Alice in wonderland.  Retrieved July 14, 2012 from

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