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True fans will find a lot to like in latest adaptation of 'Alice'

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Disney's system of releasing animated features on DVD is frustrating, the way it removes titles from the market, only to re-release them in reconfigured editions a couple of years later. But because Disney was wise enough to hoard and preserve nearly every scrap of paper and celluloid its animators touched, each reissue -- for animation fans, at least -- is like opening a treasure box.
The latest upgrade is 1951's "Alice in Wonderland" (4 stars, $29.99). It replaces the original single disc transfer from 2000 with a two-DVD "Masterpiece Edition." It is not only a significant visual upgrade, rendering the brash, poppy, pre-psychedelic coloring even brighter, but also isolates elements of the soundtrack to compose a new 5.1 Surround mix. (Purists have the option of the original mono.)
Long considered a second-tier Disney, like "Peter Pan," the adaptation has grown in stature since it was re-released in the early '70s, and there's a wildness to this trippy adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic that wouldn't rear its head again in Burbank until 1992's "Aladdin." For true fans, the revelation here will be a sequence featuring the Cheshire Cat singing "I'm Odd," with visuals to prove it, and the Mickey Mouse short "Thru the Mirror" from way back in 1936.
Parents shouldn't fret: There's an hour or so of kids-oriented games, riddles and sing-alongs.