Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Alice Effect, Not The Oz Effect

All right, I recently decided to take a look at the work that Oz has been compared to (and paired up with) most often. Lewis Carroll's Alice books.

I know Lewis Carroll was a pen name of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but for the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to him by the pseudonym.

It seems that many characters in Wonderland and the land through the looking-glass were actually based on Carroll's friends and people he knew. (Click here for some examples.)

Also, take into consideration that Alice's adventures both end up being dreams. Does this sound familiar at all to a popular adaptation of Oz?

Yes... The MGM movie. It is noted that the 1925 silent comedy version also featured Dorothy's farmhand friends becoming her classic Oz friends. However, this was done in a literal sense. (Well, not quite, as the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion were just the farmhands in costumes.)

It is also noted that when making the MGM Oz movie, that the makeup artists were very careful to make sure that the costumes and makeup did not conceal the stars. Why? Well, back in 1933, Paramount was going under. They put an all-star cast in a lavish fantasy film that ultimately flopped. (The studio was saved by two other films made that year.) The reason? No one recognized the stars in costume. The movie? An adaptation of Alice. So, yes, it does seem that somewhere at MGM, Carroll's tale was kept in mind.

So, is it at all possible that MGM's famous "foreshadowing" and "it was just a dream" story motifs took from the popular British tale? I'd say yes! In fact, later adaptations of Alice extended and altered the period of time before the White Rabbit's appearance with foreshadowing. In 1949, an adaptation on film had a prologue with Lewis Carroll himself at Christchurch, the deans (including Mr. Liddell, the real Alice's father) and their disapproval of him, a visit from the King and Queen, and other characters. To escape, Carroll takes the Liddell sisters boating and tells them the Alice story. The same actors voice the Wonderland characters, who were achieved with puppets. (This device proves ineffective as the voices weren't very distinct.)

The "foreshadowing" was in another Alice film exactly 50 years later in Robert Halmi's adaptation of Carroll's tale. (It was, incidentally, directed by Nick Willing, and he and Halmi later served the same roles in 2007's Tin Man.) In this one, Alice is afraid of performing for a tea party, the guests (as well as some of her toys and books) all appear in Wonderland as characters they strongly resemble.

Very amusing is that several Alice fans criticized the 1999 movie for doing a Wizard of Oz spin on the story. However, it does seem as if the story copied itself.

The only flaw in my whole theory is that the people who Carroll based his characters on do not appear in the story (except for some characters renamed in the introductory poem "A Golden Afternoon"), but it does not seem that it wasn't common knowledge at the time. And who's to say that the writers of the MGM movie were not familiar with Alice?

So, anyways, when a film revolves around a dream or delirium sequence where characters are "foreshadowed," it may be the Alice effect, not the Oz effect.


PJ said...

Hey Jared, I stumbled across something today that I'm sure will spark your interest, at last: a Wizard of Oz RPG:

The game is called Riz-zoawd and is being developed in Japan for the Nintendo DS, and given the company's localization track record
I'd say it's possible it could come to America. The game is obviously movie-inspired but it still looks charming in its own way:

General information and screenshots:
Official Website (though a bit outdated)

Jared said...

Actually, I've heard of this... all over.

Right now it MIGHT be released to the US, and if it was, I don't have a DS. That's why I haven't blogged about it.

naruto said...

hello Jared ! I learnt in march 2007, you had the oz kids on VHS. I'm really a big big fan of this series. I know this is absolutely not the place where you talk about the Oz kids but I'm not very talented in informatic and I didn't know where to send you a personnal mail ! so, do you know where I could find this series !(excuse me, if I'm not talking very well english, I'm french !!!!)

Jared said...

naruto, I got the Oz Kids series from a combination of used sellers at Amazon and eBay. My e-mail can be found in my complete profile, but I'll go ahead and state that it's