Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Dark Side of 'Underland' - How much do Alice and Dorothy have in common?

A movie match-up instead of stacking savings strategies

Centsible, the savvy shopper's blog, is taking a break from deal hunting today and instead is finding connections in mega-blockbuster movies. Today we're not matching up shipping deals, retail coupons or sales tax savings. Instead, we're dishing insight on last weekend's blockbuster release, Alice In Wonderland. There was something a bit 'curious' (yet not obvious) about the 2010 film version of this classic tale. In fact, it took a few days to realize this story has been told before.

Not a "reimagination" of the Alice In Wonderland story

Buy advance tickets to Alice in Wonderland

The Alice In Wonderland of 2010 and The Wizard of Oz from 1939 have more than a few similarities. Both Alice and Dorothy are spirited girls in mundane situations. Dorothy is in Kansas in the middle of nowhere and Alice finds herself nearly engaged to a self-important dud of a man in Victorian England. One is blown away by a cyclone to somewhere over the rainbow, while the other falls down a rabbit hole when chasing a waistcoat-wearing white rabbit. Dorothy finds friendship in a brainless scarecrow and a cowardly lion. Alice gets support from a mad hatter and a Bandersnatch monster. Dorothy is after the wicked witch's broomstick while Alice steals the Red Queen's Vorpal Sword. At the end of it all, both ladies are given the option of remaining in their wonderlands or returning home, with the final choice being theirs.

A headstrong girl for a story's heroine is a formula appearing in many tales, but Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard Of Oz have more than just the main characters in common. Both Alice and Dorothy reacquaint themselves with personalities appearing in both their real and their fantasy worlds. Farmhands Zeke, Hickory and Hunk are reintroduced in Oz as the scarecrow, the tinman and the cowardly lion. Alice finds great similarities with Underland's Tweedledum & Tweedledee and twins Faith & Fiona (from her engagement party). Absolum the Caterpillar and Lord Ascot are both older & wise male characters who respect Alice's judgment. While Dorothy's Wicked Witch of the West simply is Miss Almira Gulch (her foe back in Kansas), Alice confronts the simple concept of being true to herself and not just performing others' expectations. More than a passing resemblance can be put on the Red & White Queens and The Wicked Witch of the West & Glinda the Good Witch. Almost everywhere you look in Wonderland you'll find a reminder of Oz.

Beautiful to watch but difficult to film

1951 Alice In Wonderland Cartoon

Each movie's filming conditions were difficult on both the actors and post-production teams. Alice in Wonderland made use of a green screen technique for its combination of live action and animation. Long filming hours using the green screen nauseated many cast members, with director Tim Burton even requiring lavender tinted glasses to counteract the effects of the green. The Wizard of Oz relied on technicolor for much of its visual brilliance. Technicolor requires the use of extreme lighting, often raising temperatures to over 100 degrees on the set. Baking heat with cumbersome costumes and sometimes toxic makeup plagued The Wizard's cast. Post-production efforts on both pieces were also time consuming, however The Wizard of Oz took a different path than Alice In Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland was filmed in 2D, with post-production teams applying the 3D effects after the scenes were shot. They continued with this plan through the end of production. MGM's art department began The Wizard of Oz using the arduous and lengthy post-process of manually 'stencil printing' sepia tones on each film frame to ease the transitions from black-and-white to technicolor. They later abandoned this practice to take the 'easy' route and paint the barn's interior sepia and dress Dorothy in sepia tones as she opened the barn door to the colorful Oz (with the whole scene filmed in color) during one of the film' most memorable scenes.

They both have their own unique "muchness"

This is not the first time the Wizard of Oz has been connected to other cultural phenomenons. Comparisons have already been made between the two stories themselves. Both involve a young heroine's adventures in an alter-world. Political interpretations were assigned to both Frank L. Baum's Wizard story and Lewis Carroll's Alice story: The Wizard of Oz is said to represent America's Great Depression and Alice In Wonderland has characters connected with English history in Bill the Lizard (Benjamin Disraeli) and the War of the Roses. The 'Dark Side of the Rainbow' names Pink Floyd's 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon as an alternate score for 1939's The Wizard of Oz film. What we haven't yet tried is looking for synchronicity between The Dark Side of the Moon and Alice in Wonderland 2010 (although we're sure someone eventually will). Despite all the similarities with The Wizard of Oz, the 2010 release of Alice In Wonderland stands on its own as an original work. It definitely doesn't follow the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass books or even Disney's 1951 cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland. The stunning visuals and special effects of 2010's Alice in Wonderland will guarantee its place next to last century's cinematographic masterpiece, The Wizard of Oz. Maybe the most compelling comparison between these two films is their possession of great 'muchness'.

Alice In Wonderland movie tickets online at Fandango for your purchase.

Buy advance tickets to Alice in Wonderland

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