Alice in Wonderland (1999)

When you stop being disturbed by the image of grown men dressed as rabbits, that’s when I think you have a real problem.

Fortunately, the 1999 NBC miniseries, Alice in Wonderland, features a white rabbit and other creatures created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Unfortunately, it also features Whoopi Goldberg as the Cheshire Cat. Everything about the Cheshire Cat is wrong. Only a small part of that blame can be laid at Whoopi’s feet, but she’s still a terrible choice.

It’s an amusing enough adaptation but it’s got more than a whiff of those awkward 80s made for tv production values about it, which is unfortunate because it was made in 1999. There’s more good than bad and the Emmy Awards it won included makeup and costumes (and the nomination for visual effects) that were certainly deserved.

It does contain one of my favorite version of the caucus race, but I may be partial to it because it takes place in a surreal library and the participants of the race remind me fondly of some of my more eccentric library colleagues. It’s a remarkably faithful version of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and I’m going to have nightmares about that March Hare.

This version stars Tina Majorino (Alice), Robbie Coltrane, Whoopi Goldberg (Cheshire Cat), Ben Kingsley (the Caterpillar), Christopher Lloyd, Pete Postlethwaite, Miranda Richardson, Martin Short (the Mad Hatter), Peter Ustinov, George Wendt and Gene Wilder.

The DVD we’re watching was released today with 5 minutes restored to it that were apparently cut in the previous release. We can’t judge whether this is an improvement or not because we’ve never seen it before. I can say that the March Hare’s teapot/pipe organ is exceptionally clever. You can see it at about 1:36 in this youtube clip, which has the embedding feature blocked so I can only link to it.

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