Combined puppet animation and live action.
The adaptation is faithful to Lewis Carroll's novel "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," a thinly-veiled satire of 19th-century England. The Queen of Hearts is really Queen Victoria, the King is Prince Albert, the White Rabbit is the chancellor of Oxford, the Cheshire Cat is the dean of Oxford University's Christ College... and the Valet is Lewis Carroll himself!
The film starts with a live-action prologue, then enters Wonderland with puppets and Carol Marsh as Alice, the only live actor in the main story. Marsh acted most of the Wonderland scenes all alone on an empty set, with the puppets added later.
Production lasted from January 5 to September 11, 1948, although American puppeteer Lou Bunin is said to have worked on the film for five years. Most of the film was produced in France by Bunin.
To produce the film, 128 of Lou Bunin's Film Puppets were constructed.
Opening scenes were directed by Dallas Bower and filmed in Oxford, near the homes of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the inspiration for the Alice character); in fact, the actual Liddell garden was used. An attempt was made to follow the style of the famous John Tenniel illustrations of the Alice stories, with the puppets modeled after the original Tenniel drawings.
Bunin had technical and budgetary problems in the Wonderland sequence, which was tacked onto the live section later.
Disney tried to delay the release of Bunin's $1.5 million "Alice," fearing that this would hurt its own $3 million version. Backed mostly by British investors, Bunin soldiered on. Reportedly, Disney tied up the Technicolor Laboratory, forcing Bunin to fight for a finished print of his own picture.
In 1951, Disney and RKO sued distributor Souvaine Selective Pictures and local movie exhibitor Harry Brandt to restrain them from unveiling Bunin's "Alice." Said company president Henry Souvaine: "The time has arrived for a properly constituted court of law to determine the legality or illegality of Mr. Disney's efforts over many years to destroy Mr. Bunin's property." Disney charged that Bunin's competing Alice would cause "irreparable damage" to him and RKO. Souvaine Selective Pictures replied: "Actually, it is healthy for the industry to have two entirely different conceptions of a beloved classic appearing at approximately the same time.... We believe that the public is entitled to see either one or both. We doubt that the name 'Alice in Wonderland' is any better known now than it was before Mr. Disney began his expensive exploitation job."
Two versions of Bunin's film, one in English and one in French, were produced simultaneously. It was not until 1951 that the Bunin film was released in the United States, where it received few showings. It was overshadowed by the Disney version, released only a month earlier.
The film was not released in the United Kingdom until 1985 due to the possibly offensive caricature of Queen Victoria.
Alice Au Pays Des Merveilles Production Information
English Titles: "Alice In Wonderland" and "Lou Bunin's Alice In Wonderland."
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