In case you hadn’t already heard, regardless of what many Carrollians may have thought of Disney’s Tim Burton/Linda Woolverton Alice in Wonderland 3D flick, the film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide, so of course a sequel is in the works–penned yet again by Ms. Woolverton. Apparently the sequel will be “inspired” by Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Given that Ms. Woolverton has already shown her version of Alice “empowering” herself by slaughtering the Jabberwock (and drinking its purple blood, in true warrior style) in the first movie, one wonders what acts of violence Alice will be called upon to perform in the sequel to prove that she’s an “empowered” woman, with that pesky Jabberwock already out of the way. Perhaps she’ll actually carve the mutton? Perhaps she’ll carve up everyone in the banquet hall while she’s at it, for good measure. Or maybe the Jabberwock’s female partner will make an enraged appearance for the finale? One wonders whether Helena Bonham Carter will be asked back to fulfill the obligatory “evil Red Queen” role; she certainly was a highlight of the first film. And given that the second book includes the character of “Hatta” we can almost certainly count on seeing the wacky countenance of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter again. It would certainly be nice to have Mia Wasikowska back in the lead role; she lent considerable grace to the first effort. Let’s hope that this time around, Ms. Woolverton will at least entertain the possibility that Alice can take charge of things without drawing blood. You know, the way Lewis Carroll’s original Alice did. We can dream, can’t we?
Star-studded photo from the White House 2009 Halloween Party
Mad Tea Parties and politics are in the news again, but this time thrown by the Democrats. President Obama’s 2009 Alice in Wonderland-themed “star-studded” Halloween party is central stage in a mini-scandal, coming to light because of details in a new book called “The Obamas” by Jodi Kantor of the New York Times. Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing criticizers of the President are claiming the party was secret and extravagant. The White House has responded that the party was for military families and not at all secret. From the Huffington Post article “Limbaugh: Media Helping Obamas Cover Up Secrets“:
“The Obamas,” by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, has already prompted a fierce response from the White House to its stories of infighting between Michelle Obama and her husband’s staff. But the media has latched onto another story in the book. Kantor alleges that the White House deliberately downplayed a lavish, Tim Burton-designed Halloween party held in 2009 so as not to appear out of touch with economically struggling voters.
Though they did not mention the details of the party in official briefings at the time, the White House has pushed back on this story as well, saying that the news of the party was mentioned in a Tennessee paper and on a Johnny Depp fan website.
Kantor writes (via the NY Post) that Burton made up the room “in his signature creepy-comic style… He had turned the room into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies… Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar. Burton’s own Mad Hatter, the actor Johnny Depp, presided over the scene in full costume, standing up on a table to welcome everyone in character.”
George Lucas, the book says, sent over the original Chewbacca costume for the occasion. Kantor also writes that the President and First Lady’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, and their friends were entertained with a magic show in the East Room.
Local children and military families were also invited.
Edward Staudenmayer (Rabbit) in Wonderland: A New Musical
Wonderland: A New Musical (formerly known as Wonderland: A New Musical Adventure) started previews today, March 21st, at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. It stars Janet Dacal, who created the role of the “modern-day Manhattan mom named Alice” in Tampa Bay, alongside former Miss America Kate Shindle as Mad Hatter. It will open officially April 17th, assuming multiple actors don’t break bones and it gets pushed back six months.
However, there’s some other Broadway buzz which might cast a bandersnatchian shadow over the proceedings. Disney, whose Broadway franchises include the hugely successful Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, has announced they will turn their Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland, the sixth highest grossing film of all time, into a Broadway Musical. And Tim Burton himself has agreed to help with the design. Linda Woolverton, who wrote the screenplay for the movie as well as the screenplay for The Lion King and the scripts for Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast and Aida, will be writing the script for this also.
If Wonderland: A New Musicalis a long-running hit (as composer Frank Wildhorn’s previous shows Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel have both been), could there be dueling Wonderlands on Broadway!?
Meanwhile, here’s a “sneak peek” of the new Wonderland: A New Musical, if you can’t afford the $49-$132 ticket price.
FoxNews.com reports that Antony House, in Plymouth, UK, has seen a “huge increase in visitors” since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie was released in March 2010. The mansion (pictured above) was used in filming the non-Underland parts of the film.
Antony House, near Plymouth in southern England, was lucky to attract more than 20,000 visitors a year before director Tim Burton chose the mansion as the setting for his adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s famous fantasy adventure.
Since “Alice in Wonderland” was released last year, more than 100,000 people have traveled to the quiet location that was previously most famous for its displays of flowers.
Emma Quan, of UK charity The National Trust, said that 2,000 people turned up on a single day during the Easter vacation.
“For us, 600 [people] is a very busy day. We had to have people at the top of the drive turning visitors away,” she said.
If Antony House wants to continue to capitalize on this windfall, they might want to fledge out their Carrollnalia. May we recommend adding some Live Flowers to their gardens?
I’m slightly daunted by the fact this Cheshire Cat pumpkin stencil is only rated “3/5 Intermediate” by Ultimate Pumpkin Stencils. Look at all those teeth! Upping the ante, the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter stencils (fair likenesses of Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp respectively) are rated “4/5 Challenging.” (Advanced pumpkin carvers seeking the giddy heights of “5/5 Ultimate” may have to turn to either a stencil of Conan the Barbarian lunging with sword, or Mr T point straight at you, as if to say “I want you to pity the fool”.)
A single stencil can be downloaded for $4.95 or you can purchase the full Alice in Wonderland trio for $9.95.
I have a feeling that LCSNA members might not need inspiration either from Tim Burton or from pre-cut stencils in carving their Alice-themed jack-o’-lanterns. Please send us your pictures of any Carrollian cucurbita creations, and we will delight in honoring them on this blog. Tenniel jack-o’-lanterns will receive an automatic “5/5 Ultimate” rating. Any individual who attempts a Jan Svankmajer jack-o’-lantern will be crowned Jack the Pumpkin King without contest.
Issue 48, Fall 2010, of Bitch Magazine, “The Make-Believe Issue,” includes “Alice in Adaptation-Land—How wanderer Alice became warrior Alice, and why.”
In the well-written article, Kristina Aikens makes the interesting point that the Carroll’s curious Alice is more of a feminist icon than Burton’s Alice that puts on armor, kills the Jabberwock, and seeks to colonize China.
A writer named Steve A Wiggins (“part-time Academic” & “failed priest” according to his bio) wonders on his blog Sects & Violence in the Ancient Worldabout screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s choice in naming the caterpillar the biblical name Absalom:
Supposing this to be nothing more than the reassignment of a fated biblical name associated with failed attempts at kingship, I simply let the reference pass. Until the chrysalis scene. There he was, Absalom hanging from a plant, just like David’s son swayed from a tree according to 2 Samuel. This mysterious scene in the battle of Ephraim Forest had captured my attention before when I wrote an article on Absalom, eventually published in the Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages.
According to the Wikipedia, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is now behind only two James Cameron films, the final Lord of the Rings movie, & another Disney Johnny Depp flick, as the highest grossing movie world-wide (of all time, partly adjusted for inflation.) They discuss the difficulties of calculating these figures meaningfully (inflation, ticket-price inflation, population and distribution, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)
In comparison, in their “List of Highest Grossing Films in the U.S. and Canada: Not Adjusted for Inflation”, Alice in Wonderland is merely 20th, just above Forrest Gump. It is still the highest grossing film of 2010. Not bad for a movie sort-of based on a Victorian-era children’s book with no linear narrative. And also, a bit of an Alice-redemption for the Disney Corporation, whose 1951 version received sour reviews and box office disappointment.
When Lewis Carroll published a few thousand copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, with no hype or buzz, it received some mixed reviews. That’s one of the few things Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has in common with Carroll’s original stories. The critics were out this week, and occasionally perceptive. As of this morning, the “top critics” that Rotten Tomatoes tracks average at about 59% (between rotten tomato and ripe tomato), with the general masses giving it about 53%. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, one of my favorite critics to disagree with, had some interesting insight into the Alice Paradox in movies:
Dark and sometimes grim, this isn’t your great-grandmother’s Alice or that of Uncle Walt, who was disappointed with the 1951 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland.” “Alice has no character,” said a writer who worked on that project. “She merely plays straight man to a cast of screwball comics.” Of course the character of Carroll’s original Alice is evident in each outrageous creation she dreams up in “Wonderland” and in the sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass,” which means that she’s a straight man to her own imagination. (She is Wonderland.) Here she mostly serves as a foil for the top biller Johnny Depp, who (yes, yes) plays the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Burton’s bright and leaden whimsies.
Her conclusion, however, is vague and baffling:
This isn’t an impossible story to translate to the screen, as the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer showed with “Alice” (1988), where the divide between reality and fantasy blurs as it does in dreams. It’s just hard to know why Mr. Burton, who doesn’t seem much interested in Alice, bothered.
The great Roger Ebert, at the Chicago Sun-Times, admits he didn’t care for the books growing up, which possibly explains some of his strange tangents:
This has never been a children’s story. There’s even a little sadism embedded in Carroll’s fantasy. It reminds me of uncles who tickle their nieces until they scream. “Alice” plays better as an adult hallucination, which is how Burton rather brilliantly interprets it until a pointless third act flies off the rails. It was a wise idea by Burton and his screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, to devise a reason that Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now a grown girl in her late teens, revisiting a Wonderland that remains much the same, as fantasy worlds must always do.
Burton shows us Wonderland as a perturbing place where the inhabitants exist for little apparent reason other than to be peculiar and obnoxious. Do they reproduce? Most species seem to have only one member, as if nature quit while she was ahead.
How could he not develop that shocking exposée? Who was the Duchess’s baby daddy? Is there a Mrs. Mock Turtle!? I wish Carroll was around to explain the laws of dream procreation.
One more quote, I’ll give Elizabeth Weizman of New York Daily News my highly coveted Saying Nothing Award:
“Frabjous” may be a word Carroll invented, but Burton knows just what it means, at least in his own mind. He’s clearly excited to invite us inside, and as long as you’re open to so much muchness, you’ll be very glad he did.
This parsing of critics possibly to be continued… In the meantime, I have several questions:
-How come no one has discussed the influence of Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth I from BBC’s “Blackadder II” (1986) on Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen?
-Why was the Dodgson-esque figure named Charles at the beginning Alice’s dead father? What?
-Did the bizarre Chinese trade-route plot-line at the finale, which was guided on by the blue butterfly (née Caterpillar), have anything to do with opium (i.e., the possible contents of the Caterpillar’s pipe)? I know it was 2am and I had a headache from two hours of drinking wine in an IMAX with 3D glasses, but I think I may be onto a possible explanation for the otherwise unexplainable China thing.
Paramount’s Alice in Wonderland (1933), directed by Norman Z. McLeod, has been mentioned a lot in the past few weeks, as the first big Hollywood all-star blow-out adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s books (with such stars as Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and W.C. Fields.) Slightly lost amongst the thousands of other Alices being released this month was the fact that this film, which was never released on VHS or DVD, is finally available (list price $19.99). Why is it being released as Universal Homes Entertainment? Our source from inside Paramount answers that question:
Back in 1957, Paramount sold most (but not all) of its pre-1948 film library to Universal for some quick cash (at the time, Paramount was ailing, financially). Thus, a number of Paramount films are now distributed by Universal, under their corporate and home video label [...] Paramount no longer owns the rights to these films.
Also released on DVD on March 2nd is the SyFy miniseries Alice (list price $19.99), which originally aired last December. Jonathan Miller’s 1966 adaptation was issued on DVD (featuring John Gielgud, Peter Cook, Peter Sellers; list price $14.98). I noticed that Amazon has a deal selling all three for $38.97, the price of which won’t even get a family of three into the IMAX to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D.
There’s more: Hallmark’s “overblown” 1999 television special of Alice in Wonderland (with Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Short and Christopher Lloyd) is being reissued on DVD (list price, $19.99) along with its companion Through the Looking Glass (with Geoffrey Palmer and Ian Holm; list price only $9.98!)
Now, several tie-ins to the Disney movie were also released March 2nd: several hot new video games for Nintendo Wii(list price $39.99), Nintendo DS (list price $29.99), and a Disney Interactive computer game for PC ($19.99). The movie soundtrack by Danny Elfman was released on March 2nd (list price $18.98). And merchandise, merchandise, merchandise, too much to mention here.
Did you know Alice stories can also be purchased in a book form? Many editions of this “book” were released in conjunction with the big movie premiere, but the only book rolled out on March 2nd (to keep true to the theme of this post), was one called “The Real Alice in Wonderland: A Role Model for the Ages” by C.M. Rubin and Gabriela Rubin (list price, $29.95), from AuthorHouse. A day after it was released, it appears to already be out of stock. From the product description:
In 2006, award-winning author C.M. Rubin and her daughter, Gabriella Rubin (who are related to the Liddell family), began an incredible journey to create the ultimate book about the original Alice in Wonderland’s life. Their grand pictorial, biographic vision for the book involved collecting photographs spanning two centuries, reaching out to many celebrated Alice in Wonderland artists (including Vik Muniz, Annie Liebovitz, Mark Steele, Lizzy Rockwell, Helen Oxenbury, Frances Broomfield, Jeanne Argent, David Cooper, Bruce Fuller, Tatiana Ianovskaia, Jewel, and Tom Otterness), and connecting with museums, libraries and schools around the world. The Real Alice in Wonderland book is told using never before seen pictures along with prominent voices from Alice’s lifetime and from the present day. C.M. Rubin and her daughter Gabriella explore the theme of inspiration. Behind every great person there is the person who inspires and believes in him or her. The person who motivates them to realize their dreams. This magnificent cross-atlantic epic will fascinate you — it will make you think again: what does it mean to inspire?
The Real Alice In Wonderland book is dedicated to all those who inspire the minds and souls of human beings.
However, don’t miss Simply Read Books edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, no longer out of print, with Iassen Ghiuselev’s unique and beautiful illustrations, reissued in hardcover on March 1st (list price, $24.95).