Posted by: Kyle M. | December 3, 2009

The Verdict Is…?

-When You Mix a Cup of Carroll…part 5-

At this point, I’d say it’s safe to state that I’ve gone over the major disparities and unique characteristics of both Disney and Carroll’s interpretations of Alice. It’s been a winding, often perplexing road, but I’ve managed to make several discoveries about both artists along the way.

Namely:

  • Walt valued strong, identifiable characters.
  • Walt wasn’t a fan of sequels if they put artistic integrity at risk.
  • Walt didn’t seek to make political statements with his story.
  • Walt wasn’t hesitant to cut scenes out of adaptations if they didn’t fit in with the story he was attempting to convey.
  • Carroll valued starting stories off with a “bang.”
  • Carroll might not have made political statements his prerogative, but he wasn’t afraid to inject them in his work.
  • Carroll had no problem with sequels, as he simply loved his characters.
  • Carroll held uncompromising views on the presentation of “mature” scenes (e.g. Hookah-smoking caterpillar).

So, in retrospect:

Which piece do I prefer?

Honestly (cue the fury of scorned Carroll fans)…Disney’s is the version I’m more or less leaning towards. It’s a very entertaining film; beautifully animated, competently voiced, wonderfully sung, and it does a decent job at blending dark concepts with child-like spectacle.

My miniscule (and personal!) qualm with Carroll’s book is such: ultimately, there’s two ways one can read the text. And that’s with or without annotations (In other words, analytically or just for the thrill of it). Reading the book without annotations is a bit too nonsensical for me; when absolutely nothing appears to be lucid for pages at a time…overkill can creep in. On the other hand, when I read it with annotations, it loses its remaining qualities and transforms into a history book. An undeniably interesting, intellectually stimulating history book? Sure; still, Disney’s version comes across as more well-rounded.

And let’s face it: Alice really isn’t that compelling of a main character. At least Disney attempted to rectify this issue.

Which artist do I find more interesting?

Now that’s a difficult question; Disney’s story is that of the budding artist becoming a world-renown phenomenon due to perseverance and creativity, where as Carroll’s views and personal life catch my interest more than Disney’s. In the end, I have to give the nod to Disney once again (Bear in mind that both decisions thus far have been close), as while Carroll the person is more fascinating, Disney’s philosophies on art tickle the intellect more so than Carroll’s. It takes a truly magnificent story-teller to display restraint; there’s very little of that in Carroll’s Alice (It almost has a “stream of consciousness” sort of feel, since by and large it was being made up on the spot).

And the most important question of all:

What has cross-examining both works taught me?

Besides informing me of tidbits about the men behind the pieces that are certainly worth musing, I’ve learned that two men can look at the same concept and arrive at two radically different conclusions…yet both can be just as wonderful. There’s no ‘one way’ to tell a story; for another example, if one is to listen to the audio commentary of Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, the director (Francis Ford Coppola) reveals that George Lucas (Of Star Wars fame and infamy) was originally slated to direct the picture (Based on a script by John Millius, and partially inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness…though a lesser known picture called Aguirre: The Wrath of God shares more in common with that story, so I’m not sure why it isn’t considered the ‘definitive’ Heart of Darkness film in-…I’m rambling, aren’t I?). Lucas intended to shoot the film hand-held style with a single helicopter and no-name actors (The complete antithesis to Coppola’s over budget and humongous epic). Was this a better or worse manner to tell the story?

No!

Any story can work in any medium and style, provided the particular artist’s up to the task. Disney and Carroll certainly were, and they’ve offered us two fantastic, whimsical tales; and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful to them.

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