Posted by: Kyle M. | December 2, 2009

Sequelitis

-When You Mix a Cup of Carroll…part four-

We’ve already reviewed how Disney’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland altered and expanded upon the original work in numerous ways; it cut out certain scenes, extended others, et cetera. What remains to be touched upon is the incredibly interesting decision on the screenwriter’s part to synthesize the first book with key sequences of its sequel, Through the Looking Glass. This particular factoid often comes as a shock to most people, who had no idea that Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and the oyster devouring Walrus were not remotely present in the initial story. Who can blame them; Disney’s movie is the primary reason that Alice is still ingrained in popular culture, so it’s understandable that the general populace would have been duped.

This is perhaps the most intriguing of Disney’s modifications; for what purpose were these sequences added to the film? To pad the run-time? Highly unlikely; several moments from the book had already been omitted, so the director could have easily used those if he needed a longer product. Maybe he felt that these anecdotes were stronger than those he replaced? But why squander the opportunity to develop a fully fleshed-out portrayal of the sequel for such fleeting and ultimately unnecessary scenes?

Here’s a key moment of Disney’s artistic integrity overshadowing his natural desire for wealth; in fact, the rationale for the combination of the two pieces is blatantly obvious when one is to look at Disney’s track record.

Courtesy of Wikipedia and ultimatedisney.com, here’s a list of all the animated, feature-length, theatrically-released pictures directly produced by Disney studios…ever:

# Film Date of original release
1 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1 December 21, 1937 (premiere)
February 4, 1938 (wide release)
2 Pinocchio 1 February 7, 1940 (premiere)
February 9, 1940 (wide release)
3 Fantasia 1, 2, 3, 4, November 13, 1940 (premiere/roadshow)
January 29, 1941 (RKO roadshow)
January 8, 1942 (wide release)
4 Dumbo October 23, 1941
5 Bambi August 13, 1942 (limited)
August 21, 1942 (wide release)
6 Saludos Amigos 3, 4 August 24, 1942 (premiere)
February 6, 1943 (wide release)
7 The Three Caballeros 3, 4 December 21, 1944 (premiere)
February 3, 1945 (wide release)
8 Make Mine Music 3, 4 April 20, 1946 (premiere)
August 15, 1946 (wide release)
9 Fun and Fancy Free 3, 4 September 27, 1947
10 Melody Time 3, 4 May 27, 1948
11 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad 3 October 5, 1949
12 Cinderella February 15, 1950
13 Alice in Wonderland July 26, 1951 (limited)
July 28, 1951 (wide release)
14 Peter Pan February 5, 1953
15 Lady and the Tramp 5 June 16, 1955 (premiere)
June 22, 1955 (wide release)
16 Sleeping Beauty 6 January 29, 1959
17 One Hundred and One Dalmatians January 25, 1961
18 The Sword in the Stone December 25, 1963
19 The Jungle Book October 18, 1967
20 The Aristocats December 24, 1970
21 Robin Hood November 8, 1973
22 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 3 March 11, 1977
23 The Rescuers June 22, 1977
24 The Fox and the Hound 12 July 10, 1981
25 The Black Cauldron 6 July 24, 1985
26 The Great Mouse Detective July 2, 1986
27 Oliver & Company November 13, 1988 (premiere)
November 18, 1988
28 The Little Mermaid 7 November 15, 1989 (premiere)
November 17, 1989
29 The Rescuers Down Under 7 November 16, 1990
30 Beauty and the Beast 1, 7, 8 November 13, 1991 (limited)
November 22, 1991
31 Aladdin 7 November 11, 1992 (limited)
November 25, 1992 (wide release)
32 The Lion King 7, 8 June 15, 1994 (limited)
June 24, 1994 (wide release)
33 Pocahontas 7 June 16, 1995 (premiere)
June 23, 1995 (wide release)
34 The Hunchback of Notre Dame 7 June 19, 1996 (premiere)
June 21, 1996 (wide release)
35 Hercules 7 June 14, 1997 (premiere)
June 27, 1997 (wide release)
36 Mulan 7 June 5, 1998 (premiere)
June 19, 1998 (wide release)
37 Tarzan 7 June 18, 1999
38 Fantasia 2000 2, 3, 4, 8 December 17, 1999 (premiere)
January 1, 2000 (IMAX)
June 16, 2000 (wide release)
39 Dinosaur 9 May 13, 2000 (premiere)
May 19, 2000 (wide release)
40 The Emperor’s New Groove December 10, 2000 (premiere)
December 15, 2000 (wide release)
41 Atlantis: The Lost Empire June 3, 2001 (premiere)
June 8, 2001 (limited)
June 15, 2001 (wide release)
42 Lilo & Stitch June 16, 2002 (premiere)
June 21, 2002 (wide release)
43 Treasure Planet 8 November 17, 2002 (premiere)
November 27, 2002 (wide release)
44 Brother Bear October 20, 2003 (premiere)
October 24, 2003 (limited)
November 1, 2003 (wide release)
45 Home on the Range March 21, 2004 (premiere)
April 2, 2004 (wide release)

What strikes you as unique about this list in comparison to the repertoire of most film companies (aside from possessing a remarkable abundance of classics)? Namely, aside from one or two exceptions, there’s a distinct absence of sequels. Sure, most of the movies received follow-ups on DVD, but this treacherous practice was relegated exclusively to the DTV market (and recently put to an end by the god-like John Lassetter after sitting through the new Tinkerbelle flick)*. For all of Walt’s lifetime and beyond, the theatrical side of the company has largely stayed away from releasing sequels. While that choice isn’t especially astute from a financial perspective, it’s immensely honorable from a philosophical angle.

To put this all into the context of this movie: clearly Disney had no intentions of producing Through the Looking Glass as a standalone film, so the director simply wished to release a movie that provided what he perceived to be the best the Wonder-verse had to offer.

But what does this say about Carroll? Was he a ‘sell-out’ for publishing a sequel?

Not at all; while Through the Looking Glass certainly wasn’t necessary from a narrative or thematic standpoint, he obviously loved the character and putting her into situations…and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

* Almost turned me into a believer: http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2007/06/21/say-so-long-to-direct-to-video-sequels-disneytoon-studios-tunes-out-sharon-morrill.aspx

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Responses

  1. Its more like, once the director sees how much money the movie made, then they decide to make a new movie. That is why the second movie is never as good as the first.

  2. Your statement is true. Carroll is not a sell out. Like you said in you entry, he merely enjoyed putting Alice through crazy adventures.
    I also think he made a second story solely off of the success of the first. In many instances, authors and directors only make one movie without plans for a second. After the first movie does better than expectations, they (the authors and directors) rush to get a sequel out. This usually fails because the plot is rushed and it doesn’t feel like the original movie, but because the first movie did so well, the second one also does good (up until people realize it isn’t good).


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