For Reel

Alice in Wonderland (1951)
May 10, 2016, 7:02 pm
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Director(s): Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
3 Stars
Alice in WonderlandAlice in Wonderland offers almost none of what one would expect of a classical Disney film. Among other things, there is a lack of a firmly sympathetic protagonist (it would be impossible for an audience to identify with Alice as her offhand acceptance of her surroundings betrays one’s sense of wonder), a hugely impressionistic design scheme, and a structure that plays more like a “package” film than it does a narrative. For these reasons, it is not surprising that Walt Disney disowned the film, literally apologizing for what Lewis Carroll’s intricate work had turned into. And yet, if Alice in Wonderland is certainly among the most exhausting of the studio’s efforts, its very relentlessness does make for some oddball interest. That the film’s cult status is tied very much to drug culture feels almost inevitable—not only does the picture deal with the surreal, but it makes no attempt to ground the viewer into the world of the film. If other Disney entertainments wash over audiences with a sense of comfort, Alice in Wonderland has a more dizzying effect, alternating between grating (the Mad Hatter is as obnoxious as it gets) and slightly horrific (the Cheshire Cat still plays as a disturbing menace).

Song of the South (1946)
May 25, 2011, 4:59 am
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Director(s): Harve Foster & Wilfred Jackson

A misconception about Song of the South is that it is overtly racist. True, the young black boy is the butt of every joke, and Uncle Remus is often undermined by the white matriarch, but what is more offensive about the film is what is not said or shown. In this respect, it is hardly shocking – it, like many other classic movies, waxes nostalgic about slavery by neglecting to show the brutality of the era. The work of the slaves is only vaguely presented in passing – Uncle Remus seems to happily do odds and ends every now and then, and the scenes of mass labor are moreso musical interludes wherein the slaves sing a song to accompany the tone of the piece. Misguided and offensive? Absolutely. But it’s nothing of note if you’ve familiarized yourself with the presentation of African Americans throughout early Hollywood – in fact, many of Disney’s animated efforts (The Jungle Book, for example) convey racial stereotypes which one could argue are just as misguided.